Veterans

Army veteran charged with shooting at vehicle during Georgia road rage incident

An Army veteran is in custody after he was accused of emptying his 9mm pistol at another vehicle during a road rage incident in a Georgia parking lot.

Columbus police said Joe Harvey, 52, fired at least nine times in the parking lot of Dick's Sporting Goods about 11:30 a.m. Thursday, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported. No one was hurt.

Aiming at a Chevy Trailblazer driven by Velisha Hearlson, whose 15-year-old daughter was in the passenger seat, Harvey's first five bullets hit the hood of his pickup before the next four struck the Trailblazer's hood, police said.

The former soldier then pulled into a parking space, set the gun on his dashboard, called 911 and waited for police. He faces multiple charges, including two counts of aggravated assault. He's being held without bond.

At a preliminary hearing Friday in Columbus Recorder’s Court, Officer Michael Clements testified that Harvey and Hearlson both were going east when Hearlson moved into Harvey’s lane, and he felt she cut him off. He followed as she turned into the store’s parking lot.

Clements said the two drivers exchanged profane insults before Harvey brandished his pistol, and then loaded it as Hearlson revved her engine. With the two vehicles just 10 to 15 feet apart, he stepped onto the running board outside his door and started shooting, Clements said.

After surrendering, Harvey admitted firing the gun, the officer said.

Defense attorney Ralston Jarrett, in arguing for bond, said Harvey served 32 years in the Army and likely qualifies to have his case moved to Veterans Court, which deals with mental health issues resulting from military service. Harvey has no felony record, and could surrender all his firearms if released, Jarrett said.

Prosecutor Nicholas Hud asked Judge Julius Hunter to order Harvey held without bond, arguing that if someone turning in front of him so triggered Harvey that he emptied a pistol in a public parking lot, then he remained a danger to others, should a similar confrontation occur. Hunter agreed.

Jarrett told the newspaper later that Harvey retired in 2018 with “severe PTSD” as a consequence of serving in Desert Storm and other combat operations. His treatment for the condition was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“He’s seen some things as a vet, as many have,” Jarrett said.

Standing outside court with her daughter, Hearlson, 39, did not think Harvey’s PTSD excused his conduct.

“I think he doesn’t need to be on the road, and he definitely don’t need to own a gun,” she said.

She said Harvey made eye contact with her daughter as his bullets hit their car, each shot advancing toward her, a memory she’s unlikely to forget.

“My child might have PTSD now from what he done to her,” she said.

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