A 40-year-old Redwood City man on Monday evening, Aug. 6, used pepper spray in response to a road-rage and tailgating incident in Woodside, thereby enabling the arrest of a Palo Alto man alleged to be his assailant, said Lt. Ken Jones of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office arrested Patrick Michael Burleson, 21, on charges of assault, false imprisonment, vandalism and following a vehicle too closely, Lt. Jones said. Mr. Burleson is out of jail on a $25,000 bond.
The incident, as Lt. Jones related it, began on Sand Hill Road west of Interstate 280 shortly before 5 p.m. when John Tharp, heading west with his wife Alice in their Acura coupe, noticed a Dodge pickup truck tailgating them. The truck was "real high off the ground," Lt. Jones said.
Mr. Tharp pulled over and stopped, but the truck, with Mr. Burleson driving and a male passenger inside, pulled up and stopped behind him, Lt. Jones said. Mr. Burleson reportedly left his truck, walked over to Mr. Tharp's car and began making hostile comments, finally kicking the vehicle on the passenger side.
Mr. Tharp drove away and stopped further along on Sand Hill Road to get out and assess the damage to his car, Lt. Jones said. Meanwhile, Mr. Burleson drove up and stopped just ahead of Mr. Tharp's car.
Fearful for his safety and that of his wife, Mr. Tharp drove on and turned right on Portola Road and parked in a driveway near the intersection with Mountain Home Road, Lt. Jones said.
Mr. Tharp, who wasn't carrying a cell phone, got out of his car and asked two pedestrians to call 911 but they reportedly refused, saying they didn't want to get involved, Lt. Jones said.
Mr. Burleson pulled up and got out of his truck. He began shouting, bumping his chest into Mr. Tharp's chest, and challenging him to a fight, Lt. Jones said. When Mr. Tharp tried to get back into his vehicle, Mr. Burleson reportedly blocked the door with his body.
At this point, Mr. Tharp pulled out pepper spray from a fanny pack and sprayed Mr. Burleson, Lt. Jones said. Mr. Burleson, stumbling and shouting, punched out the Acura's rear window before falling to the ground.
"His hand was all cut up," Lt. Jones said.
Mr. Burleson's passenger, who had been watching events unfold, then got out of the truck and began shouting at and approaching Mr. Tharp, who responded by spraying him as well.
A passing motorist had called 911 to report a traffic accident. The call went through the California Highway Patrol to the Sheriff's Office and deputies arrived at about 5:05 p.m.
Deputies treated the men for their pepper spray injuries and arrested Mr. Burleson. No other charges or arrests were made.
Asked what triggered the tailgating, Lt. Jones could only speculate. "Road rage sometimes happens," he said. "They followed right on his bumper. They were just looking for trouble, I guess."