Mary Esther man charged in 'road rage' shooting on Highway 98 on Okaloosa Island
A Mary Esther man has been arrested in connection to a road rage incident on Highway 98 on Okaloosa Island Sunday afternoon that sent a Mississippi man to a hospital.
Mario Aguirre Lopez, 41, was taken into custody in the parking lot of a Fort Walton Beach car dealership for allegedly shooting another driver in the roadway, according to a press release from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.
The victim, a 38-year-old man from Byhalia, Mississippi, is undergoing treatment at an area hospital for a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Lopez was charged with aggravated battery causing great bodily harm.
Lopez is a sergeant with the Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), a public affairs officer for the 7th Group confirmed Monday. The 7th Group is aware of the incident and cooperating with local law enforcement in connection with the investigation.
The incident was reportedly witnessed by several people at the scene and in part by an Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office deputy who was outside of his vehicle conducting an unrelated traffic stop about 250 feet east of the incident location.
The deputy heard the gunshot and saw a white truck in the westbound lanes speed away as a man outside another white truck fell to the ground. Witnesses reportedly said the two vehicles had been passing and aggressively “brake checking” each other as they drove across Okaloosa Island.
Lopez is believed to have come to a complete stop in front of the victim’s vehicle after using a grassy median to pass him near Miracle Strip Parkway, according to an arrest report from OCSO.
The victim reportedly exited his vehicle and approached the driver’s side door of Lopez’s vehicle with both arms raised and outstretched. Lopez then allegedly opened the driver's side door and used a semi-automatic Glock 43X pistol to fire a single shot at the victim.
Lopez reportedly fled the scene at a high rate of speed and a witness followed him while on the phone with 911. The witness followed the suspect’s vehicle until officers with the Fort Walton Beach Police Department intercepted the vehicle in a parking lot.
The semi-automatic firearm was reportedly in plain view in the passenger side front door pocket of Lopez’s vehicle, though he denied any involvement in the incident, according to OCSO officials.
A single spent bronze 9mm shell casing was found near the victim’s vehicle during processing of the crime scene on Miracle Strip Parkway.
According to the report, one missing round in the magazine matched the casing found at the crime scene. Surveillance footage from a nearby business and body camera footage from the OCSO deputy also reportedly corroborated witnesses' descriptions of the events.