A Florence man is facing a felony criminal endangerment charge following an alleged road rage incident that left a light pole blocking a portion of U.S. Highway 93.
John Scott Murrell, 60, appeared Thursday in Ravalli County Justice Court on the felony charge and misdemeanor counts of reckless driving and improper passing in a no-passing zone.
The incident allegedly occurred on Wednesday, April 28 after a man attempted to pass Murrell in the right lane, according to the charging affidavit.
At the time, Murrell was traveling southbound in the left lane on U.S. Highway 93 from Missoula County toward Ravalli County.
The alleged victim and other witnesses said when he attempted to pass Murrell in the right lane, Murrell swerved his vehicle into the right lane and the other driver had to swerve into the ditch to avoid a collision.
When the man attempted to pass a second time, the same thing happened. At that point, according to the affidavit, Murrell lost control of his vehicle and struck a light pole. The crash caused the light pole to fall over and block the right lane of Highway 93. It also caused damage to the passenger side of Murrell’s vehicle.
A couple of drivers who witnessed the interaction attempted to move their vehicles to block Murrell “so he could calm down and try to get him to back off the victim,” the affidavit said.
Once inside Ravalli County, Murrell passed all the vehicles using the center turn lane of Highway 93.
The Montana Highway Patrol trooper that investigated the incident heard the same version of events from three witnesses.
Murrell told the trooper that he was driving behind the alleged victim. Murrell said the man was in the left lane and he tried motioning to him to move over so he could pass. At that point, Murrell said the man gave him the finger, which he returned.
Murrell said two vehicles slowed down in front of him so he used the center lane to pass them. He claimed the alleged victim then passed him, cut him off and braked hard enough to cause the victim’s car to slide sideways, which caused Murrell to swerve and crash into the light pole.
The trooper noted that none of the witnesses reported overtaking Murrell’s vehicle. There were no marks on the roadway that supported Murrell’s statement that the other driver cut him off and slid his vehicle sideways.
Acting Justice of the Peace Michael Reardon set bond at $5,000.