South Carolina man will serve time in prison for ‘road rage’ incident, judge rules
A Rock Hill man will serve time in a South Carolina prison after he shot another man during what lawyers described in court as a 2020 case of road rage on Interstate 77.
The victim was returning from his mother’s funeral in December 2020 when he was shot in the face in York County near Fort Mill, the victim and prosecutors said earlier this month in court.
There is no formal criminal offense category in South Carolina defined as road rage. But the incident was a real-life example of the dangers presented by road rage on York County’s busiest road, law enforcement and prosecutors said.
Isiah O. Ezechukwu, 35, pleaded guilty to assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, according to court testimony and court records.
Judge Dan Hall sentenced Ezechukwu to 15 years in the S.C. Department of Corrections. The maximum sentence for a conviction on the charge is 20 years, court officials said. Prosecutors had asked Hall for the maximum penalty.
Ezechukwu pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature in a plea agreement. He initially had been charged with attempted murder, prosecutors said in court.
The defendant and victim did not know each other, Woods said.
“This is a very serious case,” Hall said.
Charles Jost, 53, said in court he was in a vehicle with his wife. Jost described his injuries -- loss of vision, hospitalization, and medical treatment he has needed. Jost’s wife, who was in the vehicle at the time, told Hall she remains scared to travel.
“Two years later and I am still scared,” Dorothy Jost.
Lawyers call the incident ‘road rage’
The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant Solicitors Hannah Woods and Chris Epting after York County Sheriff’s Office deputies investigated in 2020 and charged Ezechukwu.
Sheriff’s Detective Devin Askew said in court the shooting incident was danger in a public place.
“We believe this stems from a road rage incident,” Woods said. “It’s scary. It could have been anyone. This was terrifying. They (the victims) were just driving on I-77.”
Ezechukwu apologized in court.
“I apologize to the victim and his family,” Ezechukwu said.
Ezechukwu’s lawyer, Monier Abusaft, also called the shooting a “road rage” incident. Abusaft asked the court for mercy after Ezechukwu pleaded guilty.
“Isiah is standing here today taking responsibility for his wrongful actions,” Abusaft said. “There’s a reason we call it ‘road rage.’”
Ezechukwu received credit for 860 days he already has been in jail.
What is road rage?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines road rage as when a driver “commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property; an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operator or passengers of another motor vehicle,” according to the Web site safemotorist.com.
I-77 in northern York County is the main commuter stretch for drivers between Rock Hill and Charlotte and the main commercial/passenger route between Charlotte and Columbia, according to a series of articles published by The Herald.
In that series on commuters traveling between Rock Hill and Charlotte, officials urged drivers to avoid confrontation on highways that can escalate to road rage.
There are no statistics to show exactly how many incidents of road rage have happened.
In an unrelated case, in 2021 a Lancaster man was sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter because of a highway incident where a motorcycle driver died in York County on U.S. 21. That motorcyclist died in a crash that prosecutors said in court was a case of the defendant’s road rage.