BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Troopers seek to determine what led to what was initially reported as a deadly road-rage crash on the Beachline.
An attorney argues that video clears a driver initially accused of causing it.
Investigators had been searching for a red car bearing an Endless Summer specialty license plate and a Hammock Hippy bumper sticker. Troopers said the driver of the red car came forward Tuesday morning.
The Florida Highway Patrol said Victor Mead, the man's attorney, produced video evidence that the red Chevy Malibu didn't come into contact with Jeffrey Brookshire's blue Ford Mustang, leaving investigators and relatives puzzled by what caused Brookshire to crash.
In the video, the drivers of the Chevy Malibu and Ford Mustang are seen passing one another several times and the driver of the Ford Mustang appears to pump his brakes as the driver of the Chevy Malibu is close behind.
Witnesses said both drivers were engaged in road rage before the crash.
"Now this guy, he’s telling him to come on over to this exit coming up, it appears," Mead said, describing the Ford Mustang's driver waving to his client. "Pull over, like, they want to go confront one another."
But the moment in question that had troopers looking for the Chevy Malibu's driver differed from witness accounts.
"He slid over and went across the median and got T-boned," Mead said. "You didn't see the car moving or anything like that, so we know he didn't come into any contact with the Mustang."
Troopers agreed and said in a news release Tuesday that they have cleared the driver of involvement in the crash.
Witness statements saying that the Chevy Malibu had heavy front-end damage is another piece of conflicting evidence that helped Mead's client, he said.
The driver took pictures of his car soon after the crash, once he realized troopers were searching for him. Mead said there wasn't a scratch on the front of the Chevy Malibu.
"People put a lot of stock in eyewitness testimony, and I think this is a good example that shows eyewitness testimony can be very unreliable," Mead said. "It can be wrong."
Mead said it’s unclear if his client saw the Ford Mustang crash, and even if he did, he wasn't required to stop.
"If you're a witness to an accident, (you) don’t have a duty to stay," Mead said. "They may have a moral obligation to stay. They don’t have a legal obligation."
Audrey Kuntzler, Brookshire's fiancée, said she wants to know precisely what happened.
"He's with God. I know he's with God. He's in a better place. I know that," she said of Brookshire. "But he shouldn't be dead yet. He shouldn't be dead yet."
Kuntzler said she met Brookshire five years ago while visiting friends in Florida. She said he was planning to move into her Georgia home this month.
"He was the man I've been waiting for all my life," she said. "I thought he was the one I've been waiting on."
Kuntzler said the two were supposed to drive to Georgia together two weeks ago.
"He had car trouble," she said. "If he hadn't had car trouble in that Mustang, he'd be here."
Before the driver of the Chevy Malibu spoke to troopers, Amber Roach, Brookshire's stepdaughter, said she wished that anyone who might have caused the crash that killed the man who had raised her since she was 4 years old would "grow a conscience."
"It's just not fair," she said. "I feel really hurt and really betrayed that they don't have a conscience, that you killed my dad."
Brookshire's friend, 26-year-old Shannon Fisher, was also in the vehicle and remains in critical condition.
FHP said it’s still unclear what happened before the video.
Troopers said witnesses were consistent in saying they noticed the two cars brake-checking and cutting off one another before the crash.
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