OKALOOSA ISLAND, Fla., March 22, 2021–A road rage encounter on U.S. 98 across Okaloosa Island turned violent midday Sunday when one of the individuals involved was shot.
Mario Aguirre Lopez, 41, is charged with aggravated battery causing great bodily harm.
Witnesses said two pickup trucks had been passing and aggressively “brake checking” each other as they drove west across Okaloosa Island around 12:30 p.m., according to an Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office news release.
At one point, as the victim was driving his pickup in the inside lane of Hwy 98 near the Emerald Coast Conference Center, Lopez passed him on the left, traveled through the grassy median, crossed in front of him and slammed on his brakes, stopping his truck and causing the victim to also stop, according to the arrest report.
The victim got out of his truck, and as he approached Lopez’s truck on the left, Lopez opened his door, fired off a single round and sped off.
There were several witnesses to the incident, as well as an Okaloosa Count Sheriff’s deputy who was conducting an unrelated traffic stop about 250 feet east of the incident location, according to the report. He heard the shot from Lopez’s handgun.
Body camera footage from the deputy showed Lopez’s truck pass the victim’s pickup on the median, and showed the victim approach Lopez. However, the deputy looked away before the gunshot, according to the report.
The camera audio picked up the sound of the gunshot and the footage captured the victim falling to the ground, immediately followed by Lopez fleeing the scene.
Surveillance footage from nearby businesses also captured the incident.
Fort Walton Beach Police a short time later intercepted Lopez in a Fort Walton Beach car dealership parking lot after a witness to the shooting followed the suspect’s white Ram pickup truck westbound on Hwy 98 and called 911 with information.
Lopez’s wife was a passenger in the truck, according to the report.
Both Lopez and his wife denied involvement in the incident and stated they were driving home from Destin; however, the ammunition in a loaded Glock handgun found in his truck with one missing round in the magazine matched the casing found at the crime scene, containing the imprint “WMA 14” and a NATO head stamp as well as a red primer seal, according to the release.
Both Lopez and his wife were taken into custody after which Lopez stated he wife had nothing to do with the incident, according to the report.
The 38-year-old victim from Byhalia, Miss., is undergoing treatment at an area hospital for a gunshot wound to the abdomen.
Lopez is an active-duty soldier assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin Air Force Base.