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Local Editorials

Our View: Charges were needed in Richmond road rage gun-pointing incident

One driver left his vehicle after saying he was being honked at in traffic. Driver Brian Schimian then sat in his vehicle, pulled out a gun and pointed it directly at driver Bart Surroz, who was recording the incident, and told Surroz, “Get in your car,” multiple times.

It all happened Tuesday evening in downtown Richmond. Two video recordings of the incident were posted online, but not until after the Richmond Police Department arrived at the scene and spoke with both parties, and then both parties were told no further action would occur.

That course changed after public uproar Wednesday and two misdemeanor charges were filed against Schimian on Thursday. A third charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is expected to be added.

Pulling out a gun in a road rage incident like what happened Tuesday simply is not OK.

And police need to make that clear.

This isn’t the Wild West. And Schimian was not in danger.

Surroz never should have left his vehicle in traffic; certainly, it only escalated the situation. Road rage incidents are increasingly common, and all drivers should do their best to follow the simple rules of the road taught in driver’s education: to stay calm and drive carefully and defensively.

There’s nothing to gain from driving aggressively.

But Schimian had no business taking out a gun and pointing it at a fellow motorist. It all happened downtown, near businesses, with plenty of bystanders. And Richmond police should have made that clear from the start.

“They go over there and talk with him and get his dash cam and view his dash cam,” Surroz said of the police response. “They say that the guy felt threatened for his life and that he was well within his rights to pull that gun.”

“The police have already investigated this altercation,” Schimian’s wife, Cassandra Schimian, told the Northwest Herald. “And he was not at fault. The other car driver was.”

On Wednesday, Richmond police Sgt. Jennifer Fillicaro said the incident was under investigation and that the department had been “receiving calls all morning. We’re working hard to be able to get information out to the public.” Fillicaro also said that the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office is looking into the matter, which led to the charges. Surroz posted on Facebook on Wednesday night that he was called back to the Richmond Police Department and spoke with both an officer and Richmond Police Chief Ciro Cetrangolo.

“I feel much better now learning that they are investigating the situation and it’s not just a closed case,” Surroz wrote.

Illinois does not have a “Stand Your Ground” law, and the driver who pulled a gun, based on video evidence, could not have reasonably believed that his life was at stake.

Road rage incidents are widespread, and the public needs to do a better job de-escalating those situations rather than contributing to them. Getting mad behind the wheel rarely leads to a good outcome.

Carrying a weapon is not only a right, but also a responsibility, and people who make the choice to carry a weapon must be judicious. That may not have been the case here, and it now will be up to the court to decide. We can all be thankful that Schimian did not squeeze the trigger.

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