HOUSTON — Road rage shootings and crashes have become all too common in the Houston area where traffic, tempers and guns can be a deadly combination. All too often, the victims are innocent children.
At least a dozen Houston-area kids have been hurt or injured in road rage cases over the last six months. Countless others have lost parents, aunts and uncles or siblings.
Houston police say they're devoting more manpower to help spot aggressive drivers and stop them before it's too late. But in a city the size of Houston, that's like finding a needle in a haystack.
Editor's note: The video above originally aired on Feb. 11
Feb. 8, 2022
In the most recent case, 9-year-old Ashanti Grant was watching cartoons in the backseat of her family's SUV when someone shot her the night of Feb. 8. It happened around 9 p.m. along Highway 59, somewhere between the Sam Houston Tollway and the Fondren exit.
Ashanti's uncle, who was in the vehicle, said his brother let the driver pass but the next thing they knew, bullets were shattering their windows.
“He was just shooting a lot,” Kevin said. “You know, you see this stuff on the news... you never think it will happen to you.”
The shooter is still out there, and there's a $30,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
“Her young life has been altered forever by a cowardly act – and I underscore that – by a criminal driving our streets who acted with a callous disregard for human life," Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a news conference.
Ashanti's grandmothers told KHOU 11 that she's doing better but still in a medically-induced coma with swelling in her brain They are praying for a miracle and a full recovery.
Dec. 17, 2021
A week before Christmas, a 17-year-old girl was shot on I-45 near West Road during what Harris County Sheriff’s Office investigators said was a case of road rage in north Harris County.
The victim's boyfriend said he got into a dispute with the driver of a black Toyota Forerunner over lanes, and the driver opened fire on his vehicle.
HCSO Sgt. Jeff Thomas said she'd been shot twice, and there were multiple bullet holes in the car. She was rushed to a hospital and underwent surgery and survived.
The gunman got away.
Investigators said they found a gun in the boyfriend's vehicle but didn't know at the time if he had returned fire.
Oct. 31, 2021
A man was shot multiple times, and a 1-year-old child was grazed by a bullet on Halloween night in north Houston.
Houston Police said the victims were on the North Freeway near the 610 Loop when the driver got into an altercation with someone in a passing vehicle. That driver fired several shots into the victims' vehicle, hitting the man four times in front of a car full of children.
The man and baby survived and no other children were injured.
The shooter exited the freeway near the Heights and disappeared.
RELATED: 1-year-old grazed, man shot multiple times in road rage shooting in north Houston, police say
Oct. 6, 2021
Harris County Sheriff's Office investigators said a road rage shooting led to a head-on crash that injured two children in the 400 block of West Richey Road, near Ella Boulevard.
A driver, who was unconscious after they were shot twice and critically wounded, crashed head-on into another vehicle. A child in the shooting victim's vehicle suffered a broken leg, but it could have been even worse. Investigators say a bullet missed that child by about an inch.
The other injured child was in the vehicle that the shooting victim crashed into. They were taken to an area hospital with unknown injuries.
August 23, 2021
Two children were injured in a road rage shooting in the Heights area, according to Houston police.
The shooting happened in the eastbound lanes of the 610 North Loop near Shepherd around 7 p.m.
Police say the children's mother was driving when the shooting suspect tried to merge into the victims' lane. The suspect slowed down, pulled up beside them, and fired multiple shots into the car.
A 9-year-old girl was hit by a "bullet or shrapnel." A 6-month-old boy was cut by glass.
A witness described the gunman as a Black man with tattoos on his face and red streaks in his hair. Police say the shooter was driving a red two-door Acura with paper plates.
August 20, 2021
A 29-year-old father, identified as Tyler Wayne Young, was shot to death in front of his two young sons along I-10 East near Holland Street.
Young's two young boys, ages 8 and 6, were able to steer the SUV off the freeway while their dad was slumped over in the driver's seat, according to the Houston Police Department. They ran to a nearby strip center for help.
“The vehicle is believed to be a white, newer model, Toyota Rav4 or Ford Escape, with dark-tinted windows that may belong to the suspect,” police said.
August 6, 2021
One of the most high-profile road rage victims in recent memory was 17-year-old David Castro who was shot last July after leaving an Astros game with his dad.
Gerald Wayne Williams, 34, was arrested on Aug. 6 on a capital murder charge.
According to court documents, David's father Paul had a verbal altercation with the suspect who then started following them through the downtown area.
As Castro made a U-turn at the East Freeway near Wayside, the gunman fired several gunshots into the back of their truck, striking David.
Williams was on the run for nearly a month before his arrest and is currently out on bond.
David Castro would have turned 18 years old last Monday. Paul Castro said he spent the day with more than 100 of David's friends and family members as they celebrated his life.
What's being done?
Houston Police say their Safe Roadways Initiative launched last summer is producing results.
"When you compare July when we launched this to December, there’s been a 9 percent decrease in calls for service,” said Cmdr. Reece Hardy.
The multi-agency effort has increased law enforcement presence during peak hours on Houston's busiest highways. Their target -- aggressive drivers.
Numbers from July to December showed:
- 3,300 traffic stops were made
- 6,400 citations issued
- More than 600 arrests
What you can do
Experts say the majority of cases happen during the evening rush hour between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. People are in a hurry to get home and traffic jams can make anyone cranky.
“At the end of their day, they’re tired. You know, they may have had a bad day at work,” HPD Commander Michael Collins said. “And again, the smallest thing can set them off.”
If you encounter an aggressive driver, experts say don’t respond.
“Don’t get drawn into it. Understand your surroundings, plan ahead because a lot of times road rage can stem just from frustration from the traffic in and out," HPD Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite told KHOU after last summer's spike in deadly road rage cases.
More tips to avoid road rage
- Avoid eye contact
- Don't respond to aggression with aggression
- Avoid offensive hand gestures
- If they’re tailgating, don’t make them angrier by braking
- Let them pass
- Be patient and tolerant with others
- Don’t honk your horn
Most angry drivers will back off if you stay calm.
“They’ll look at you, and they may make an obscene last gesture. They may pull around your car, but nothing else happens,” said Tony Leal, retired Chief of the Texas Rangers. “When you try to outrun them, they come after you. But if you slow down, let them go around, they think they won. Let them think they won, and go on about your day.”
If that doesn’t work and you’re on a highway, take the next exit. Try to lose them and if they still follow you, then call 911.