I-90 road rage case involving shots fired reduced to misdemeanor assault

By: 
Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, November 14, 2019
Article Image Alt Text

A Billings man who had been charged with four felony crimes in connection with a road rage with a rifle incident on I-90 last year has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in the case.

Jason Edward Ludwick, 46, appeared in Stillwater County Justice Court last week and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in connection with the Nov. 24, 2018 incident.

Ludwick was given a 1-year deferred imposition of sentence, ordered to pay $585 in fines and fees, ordered to pay $1,230 in restitution and given a 180-day suspended jail sentence. If Ludwick meets all the court’s conditions, he can petition to have the misdemeanor crime cleared from his record in one year.

The restitution is to be paid to the Crime Victims Compensation Fund to cover some type of counseling for one of the victims. That victim testified at the sentencing hearing in Justice Court last week.

Ludwick was originally charged — and pleaded not guilty to — three felony counts of assault with a weapon and one felony count of criminal endangerment.

When asked by the News why the charge was amended, Deputy Stillwater County Attorney Tom English wrote the following:

"Ludwick is a veteran of Iraq suffering from PTSD. The circumstances of the event triggered a protective response aggravated by the PTSD. The driver of the other vehicle involved in the road rage exhibited aggressive behavior toward Mr. Ludwick’s wife. In fact, this caused the judge to comment that if that driver was before him he would also sentence him to anger management. Given the circumstances of the event and the defendant’s background, the plea adequately addressed the criminal conduct."

THE CASE

At 4:20 p.m. on Nov. 24, Still-water County Sheriff’s Deputy Garrett Williams was sent to the eastbound lane of I-90, mile marker 418, when dispatch received reports of a pickup truck with someone “shooting out the window at vehicles,” according to court documents.

Deputy Williams drove east on Highway 10 to intercept the pickup near Park City, and noticed several vehicles on I-90 “bunched up.” Two of those “bunched up” vehicles were trucks with flatbed trailers. Behind those was Ludwick’s truck.

When Deputy Williams reached Park City, he saw Ludwick’s truck parked at the gas station and Ludwick motioning at him, “in an attempt to gain his attention, and then held his hands up near the shoulder area,” according to court documents.

Deputy Williams then performed a high-risk stop and had Ludwick face down on the ground when other officers arrived on scene.

Deputies determined that Ludwick had been the passenger at the time of the reported incident and his wife was the driver.

His wife told deputies that she had tried to pass two trucks going up the west hill, but they would not let her pass, according to court documents.

The wife said she began flashing her lights at the trucks, which was met by one of the trucks flashing its lights back at her and then hitting the brakes. The wife said she sped up and tried to pass one truck, “and then yeah, of course Jason took his rifle out and shot it to scare them so we could get around,” according to court documents.

When asked if her husband had shot at the other truck, the wife said no, adding, “Not to do anything to them, it was just like, really people come on, all we’re doing is going home,” according to court documents.

The wife also said she called dispatch to report the trucks would not let her pass and that she had pulled off the interstate at Park City when she saw law enforcement on the parallel frontage road.

Ludwick told a similar version of events, and said the two trucks appeared to have been racing. He also told deputies that after he and his wife had passed the trucks, one of the trucks sped ahead and “jerked” over in front of them, and the second truck passed again also, pinning the Ludwicks behind them.

“Ludwick referenced road rage and stated ‘stupidly grabbed my rifle, pointed it out the window, put a round in it, pointed it out the window” and fired a shot, according to court documents.

WITNESS ACCOUNTS

A total of five witnesses were interviewed on scene.

Two witnesses were in one vehicle, travelling behind the three trucks involved. Both of those witnesses said they saw what appeared to be the two trucks blocking Ludwick’s truck from passing. They also reported seeing the passenger of the pickup truck holding his hand out the window, which was followed by a sudden flash and an audible gunshot. Both witnesses said the weapon appeared to be pointed up in the air, according to court documents.

The drivers of the two pickup trucks — Timothy McKenzie and Jacob Smith — had been travelling ahead of Ludwick and told deputies they had been racing just west of Columbus when one noticed a truck on the rumble strips “high beaming him,” according to court documents.

McKenzie told deputies that near the Columbus exit, Ludwick’s truck passed him in the driving lane and switched lanes “so aggressively that if he had not hit his brakes, he would have T–boned” Ludwick.

When McKenzie caught up with Ludwick, he “threw his hands up in the air and shrugged his shoulders” and passed him.

McKenzie said at that point, he intentionally switched lanes when Ludwick did to keep him behind him.

When the driver of the second truck, Jacob Smith, passed Ludwick’s truck, Smith said he saw Ludwick reach into the rear seat and pull out a rifle, according to court documents. Smith sped up to warn McKenzie, saying, “they have a gun!” according to court documents.

Smith then heard a gunshot and told deputies it appeared as if Ludwick was shooting towards the side of the container on his truck. Smith also said he was fearful that he was going to be shot, according to court documents.

McKenzie and Smith had been in phone communication before and during the incident.

Riding as a passenger in McKenzie’s truck was Kaitlyn McCann. McCann called 911 and laid back in her seat because “she was afraid she was going to be shot,” according to court documents.

Smith also reported hearing a gunshot and called 911. Smith and McKenzie then slowed their vehicles down to 65 mph in order to keep Ludwick behind them, as they were fearful of their safety and felt Ludwick was shooting at them or their vehicles, according to court documents.

Smith also told deputies that when Ludwick cut in front of McKenzie, the container on McKenzie’s flatbed lifted off the trailer until the chains caught it, according to court documents.

Category: