WINCHESTER — Dashboard camera video has vindicated a man falsely accused in a road rage incident.
Driver John David Ault II had his case dropped Tuesday in Frederick County General District Court after video showed that Ault was not the aggressor in a March 7 confrontation on Brucetown Road. Ault had been charged with unlawful wounding and brandishing a firearm.
Lonnie Ray Hitchcock said Ault nearly hit him as Hitchcock was preparing to make a turn, according to a criminal complaint written by Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Christopher Heustis. Hitchcock said he got out of his pickup truck and Ault got out of the Ford Escape he was driving, yelled at Hitchcock and showed him the pistol he was carrying.
Hitchcock said Ault got back in the Escape and drove toward him. Hitchcock said his right leg was hit by the Escape and he “rolled on the ground three or four times” as he dodged the vehicle. Hitchcock photographed the Escape’s license plate, and Ault was arrested a short time later.
But dashboard video from driver Katherine Bailey, who was traveling behind Ault and Hitchcock, shows Hitchcock was the aggressor in the incident. The video shows Ault behind Hitchcock when he attempts to pass Hitchcock and a slow-moving vehicle in front of Hitchcock. Hitchcock first blocks Ault from passing him and then allows him to get by on the two-lane road.
Hitchcock then accelerates and passes the other vehicle and Ault at a high speed in the other lane. He then slows down and stops in the road forcing Ault to stop.
The video then shows the 57-year-old Hitchcock outside his pickup and standing by the driver’s side door of the Escape. Ault is still in his vehicle.
“I’m shaking like a leaf right now,” Bailey said in a 911 call made shortly after the confrontation. “He [Hitchcock] was in the wrong. It was horrible.”
Attorney Scott Kazem, who represents Ault, said the video was turned over to him by the Frederick County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office as part of the discovery process. Kazem provided a copy of the video to The Star.
Ault — a 26-year-old information technology specialist and Martinsburg, W.Va., resident — was driving with his girlfriend, Alyssa Dudash, when the confrontation occurred. He said Tuesday that they feared for their safety after Hitchcock came close to hitting them with his pickup, forcing them to stop in the road.
“I was pretty [shaken] after he almost hit us twice now at this point. I had to lock up the brakes up twice,” Ault said. “I tried to back up and get away from him. And when I tried to get around him, he jumped out in the road in front of us.”
Ault, an ex-Marine, has a concealed carry permit. He said he took out his pistol and held it in his lap when Hitchcock approached his vehicle.
“He pointed at it and said, ‘If you think that gun scares me then you’re dead wrong. So maybe you want to talk about this,’” Ault said. “I just looked at him and said, ‘Nope.’ I did not want to talk about it at all. I was just trying to disengage.”
Ault said after he left the scene, Hitchcock followed him before stopping at a church. Ault said Dudash, who was carrying a puppy in her lap during the incident, was in shock afterward. “I had to pry the dog out of her hands after we got to my parents’ house,” he said.
Hitchcock, of the 100 block of Sojurner Lane in Clear Brook, has since been charged with making a false statement to police. He is due in court at 1 p.m. Dec. 4.
In a Tuesday interview, Hitchcock said he was driving home after dropping off bags of garbage at a nearby dump. Hitchcock said he realized that one of the bags had fallen out of his pickup onto the road on the way to the dump and he stopped to retrieve it. Hitchcock said the confrontation was a misunderstanding.
“As I stopped and got out of the car, he’s hollering at me again and I went back there and said, ‘What’s your problem?’” Hitchcock said. “I just passed him and then I stopped in the road. His thoughts probably [were] ‘What the heck are you doing?’ I’m sure he couldn’t see the bag of trash. It was in front of me.”
Bailey said in an interview that she’s been using the camera for about two years. Bailey, who bought it to have evidence if she was ever in a crash, said she was pleased it exonerated Ault.
“This could happen to anybody,” Bailey said. “I’m glad I could help him out.”
— Contact Evan Goodenow at email@example.com