HOWELL (WWJ/AP) - Records show a man accused in a fatal road rage shooting and the victim in the case had both been involved in prior road rage incidents.
Sixty-nine-year-old Martin Zale, who is charged with open murder in the Sept. 2 fatal shooting, was involved in a non-fatal road rage incident in 2008, The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus reported.
According to the report, Zale was following another driver very "close," prompting the other driver to tap his brakes in an attempt to get Zale to back off. The driver told police that Zale followed him into a McDonald's parking lot and when he got out of his car, a "verbal altercation started." At some point, Zale struck the man on the left side of the head "with a closed right fist," according to the report. Zale then left the scene.
According to 16th District Court records, Zale is wanted on an outstanding warrant for assault and battery for that Nov. 7, 2008, incident.
Meanwhile, 43-year-old Derek Flemming was a victim in a 2013 road rage incident in which he was shoved. He also had a history with law enforcement for allegedly making threats to shoot anyone who came on his property.
According to the report, Flemming was driving with his wife when another driver turned in front of him, apparently cutting him off. Flemming told police he honked his horn, which caused the other driver to suddenly break, almost causing Flemming to rear-end the vehicle. Flemming told police the other driver eventually "boxed him in," so he got out of his car and confronted the other driver, according to the report. A physical altercation ensured, which resulted in the other driver pushing Flemming, who landed on the pavement and hit his head, according to the report. No charges were filed.
Both incidents are eerily similar to what happened the day Flemming was killed.
Flemming's widow, Amy, has told police that her husband was shot in the head after getting out of his vehicle to ask why Zale was driving aggressively. Witnesses told investigators that Flemming wasn't armed when he approached and didn't make verbal threats. The shooting happened in Genoa Township, about 45 miles west-northwest of Detroit.
Mort Meisner, who spoke on behalf of Flemming's widow, said past incidents did not warrant the man's death.
"None of that has anything to do with the fact Derek Flemming and Amy, who were going to pick up their children, were being tailgated by a guy and menaced and harassed. Derek asked the guy what his problem was, and the answer was a bullet in the head," Meisner told the newspaper.
Prosecutor William Vailliencourt and defense attorney Melissa Pearce have declined to say how past incidents would affect the case. Pearce has said she will argue at the trial that Zale acted in self-defense.
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