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An act of
'road rage'

Somerville man jailed after
allegedly firing into vehicle

By Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com 340-2438

PRICEVILLE — Priceville Patrolman Jason Wilbanks termed a traffic incident Thursday that culminated in one driver firing into another's vehicle "road rage."

Wilbanks arrested Robert Wayne Nipper, 21, of Somerville and charged him with shooting into an occupied vehicle.

An officer at the Morgan County Jail said officials released Nipper at about 12:30 p.m. Friday on $10,000 bond.

Wilbanks said a Somerville firefighter traveling north behind the two vehicles called him on his cell phone at 6:20 p.m. and told him he had just witnessed a shooting. The patrolman said another witness called 911.

Wilbanks said that according to witnesses, Nipper, traveling in a black Honda, and the other driver, Jack Lee Smith, 44, of Decatur, driving a green Chevy Blazer, had words when they stopped at the red light at Alabama 67 and Deere Road at Pilot Travel Center.

Wilbanks said that as the vehicles pulled away, Nipper, witnesses said, stuck his hand out the window and fired into the Blazer that had moved slightly ahead of him. Nipper then turned right onto Deere Road.

"That's what it was, road rage," said Wilbanks. "They don't even know each other."

Wilbanks said he kept the firefighter on the phone as (the firefighter) followed the suspect, who then turned right onto River Road. Wilbanks said he stopped the vehicle at Bethel Road and Robinson Street and recovered a .40-caliber Glock pistol.

Wilbanks said Smith didn't realize Nipper had shot at him until he got home.

"By the time he called 911, I had the suspect in custody," he said.

Wilbanks said the bullet entered the right quarter-panel of the Blazer and struck a 2-foot by 4-foot plastic container behind the passenger seat, changing the bullet's trajectory.

"We recovered the bullet inside the container," Wilbanks said. "If it had not been for that box, we might be working a murder."

Wilbanks said details leading to the shooting that both men gave matched.

He said Nipper pulled out in front of Smith from Berry Road onto Alabama 67 in Somerville.

"It wasn't the type of pullout that almost led to an accident," Wilbanks said. "They then proceeded north."

Wilbanks said the incident escalated after the drivers reached Skidmore Road, where the highway expands into four lanes.

"They began passing each other, back and forth, and Nipper claimed Smith was tailgating," the patrolman said. "A verbal altercation began when they stopped at the red light. They rolled down their windows and shouted at each other."

Wilbanks said Smith was in the left lane as he pulled away from the red light and that Nipper pulled his gun and fired before turning onto Deere Road.

Wilbanks said Smith told him he was going to church Sunday and thanked God for letting him live.

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