Not-so-innocent prank crosses the line

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By Stephen Knapp

Driving south on Barkley Road about 9:30 on a Saturday night, John wasn’t expecting any trouble, but trouble is exactly what he got. Truth be told, he feels lucky he didn’t get more trouble than he could handle.

“I’d just been to the King Soopers, and I was heading home,” recalls John, who asked that his last name not be used. “I remember this small white car approaching me from the other direction, and as it passed by there was this loud bang — really loud.”

Startled and shaken, he pulled to the shoulder and stopped.

“My first thought was that maybe some teenagers in the woods had thrown something at the car, but I looked for debris on the road and couldn’t find anything. There were no rocks, no bottles, nothing. Then it dawned on me that it was the white car.”

Hoping to get a license plate number, he turned around and headed back toward Aspen Park, but it was too dark and he was too late. He last glimpsed the vehicle’s taillights as it sped away south on U.S. 285. Then he went home, where he got his first good look at the damage.

“I said, ‘That was no rock.’ The next morning I called the police.”

In fact, the injury to his Jeep Wrangler doesn’t appear especially severe at first blush. Look a little closer, though, and his concern seems more than justified. Something — it will probably never be known exactly what — struck the hood hard on the driver’s side, leaving a sizable dent, then glanced off into a re-enforced steel angle beneath the windshield frame, striking the thick metal plate with enough force to punch a 2-inch crater. Finally, the article itself — or fragments of it — carved a 6-inch fan of deep scratches across the left-front quarter-panel.

“I thought maybe somebody leaned out and hit it with a pipe or something, but the deputy said it was probably some kind of projectile. He said it could be a shotgun shell loaded with concrete, like they use to scare off bears.”

Whatever it was, it came within inches of striking the windshield and, considering the punishment it delivered on stout metal, that would have spelled big trouble for John.

“This type of thing shouldn’t happen in any community, but definitely not in this community,” he says. “What if it was a mother and her children? Or an older person? They could have been so startled they crashed their car. Car accidents aren’t really personal, but this wasn’t an accident. Someone deliberately set out to cause damage and possibly seriously hurt somebody.”

Lacking any real suspect information or useful physical evidence, the investigating officer had little choice but to record the incident and close the case.

“We figured the damage here is probably under $1,000, which makes it a misdemeanor,” John explains. “The deputy said this kind of thing happens fairly often, but most people never report it because, even if they caught them, the punishment wouldn’t be very severe. Most people just fix the damage and get on with their lives.”

And, of course, that’s just what John plans to do. But he won’t forget what happened, and he’ll live in hopes that the next area motorist who runs into his attackers come away no worse off than he did.

“They crossed the threshold between a prank and something really dangerous. They crossed the line into criminal assault.”