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Houston Man Claims Self-Defense in Road Rage Death

According to KHOU 11 News, 28-year-old Jonathan Darling claimed he acted in self-defense during an altercation that left a man dead following a traffic collision that occurred in the 8800 block of the Gulf freeway on March 5.

Per Darling, the bumper of his vehicle collided with the bumper of another vehicle as each driver attempted to merge into the same lane.  Darling indicated that after the minor traffic collision, the driver of the other vehicle, 42-year-old Tate Welton approached and threatened him, stating "I'm going to mess you up. You messed up my day. I'm going to be late for work. We're going to fight."

Darling asserts that he attempted to get away from Welton and that he told his wife to call 911. However, Darling was unable to escape and Welton struck his face and head. According to Darling, Welton even went after his (Darling's) wife and kids, who were still seated in their SUV.

During the course of the fight, Darling was knocked to the ground and Welton continued to punch him. Darling managed to get Welton in a headlock as the two struggled.

"The more he tried to get up, I held a little bit tighter", said Darling.  Fearing that Welton would be even more enraged if he were to break free, Darling held Welton in a headlock until police arrived on scene. When police separated the two, Welton was not breathing. He was transported to a nearby hospital where he later died.

Welton's family indicated that he too, was a quiet family man and they did not understand how such a thing could have happened. Perhaps Darling summed the incident up best when he told a reporter, "It was pointless."

Without question, everyone has the right to defend themselves and their family with a reasonable degree of force. In some cases the use of deadly force is not only warranted but required to prevent the attacker from causing great bodily injury or death. Perhaps Darling indeed acted in self-defense. It remains to be seen whether his actions will be deemed "self-defense" or if he will be charged in Welton's death.

Of course, Welton isn't able to tell his side of the story. Darling's account of the incident may be spot on. If so, his actions would seem justifiable. After all, he indicated that he tried to back away from Welton and even told his wife to summon the police. Welton initiated the confrontation and was winning. It's easy to see how Darling would have been in fear for not only himself but for his family as well.

While I can't speculate as to what happened in this case, as a police officer, I have dealt with my share of "road rage" incidents. In my experience, the vast majority of these situations could have been diffused had one of the involved parties kept their cool.

My humble advice is that if you find yourself in a situation such as the one described by Darling, fight like hell to protect yourself and your loved ones. Short of that, take a deep breath and consider what the situation could deteriorate to if you were to succumb to your anger.

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