A Michigan man and his wife had just eaten lunch Tuesday afternoon and were on their way to pick up their children from the first day of school when they were cut off by a speeding pickup truck.
Police said 43-year-old Derek Flemming got out of his SUV at the next stoplight, approached the Dodge pickup, and asked the driver: “What’s your problem?”
The other driver then rolled down his window and shot Flemming in the face, killing him, police said.
Police took 69-year-old Martin Zale into custody after the shooting, and prosecutors waited two days to charge him with open murder, two counts of felony firearms, and discharge of a weapon from a vehicle.
Michigan law does not require prosecutors to choose between first- or second-degree murder, even at trial, and a jury may determine the appropriate charge based on the evidence.
“I fully support the right of individuals to keep and possess firearms, but it’s when they misuse those weapons that it becomes a problem,” said Livingston County Prosecutor William Vailliencourt.
The prosecutor said he was confident Zale, who has a concealed carry permit, was not acting in self-defense when he shot Flemming once in the face with a handgun.
“You can’t shoot someone because you’re not happy with them,” Vailliencourt said.
Flemming was not carrying any weapons, investigators said, and witnesses said he did not make any verbal threats.
The landscape contractor’s family hired a private investigator to examine Zale’s background while the prosecutor decided whether to charge the older man.
Amy Flemming said Zale was “screaming down a side street” in his pickup, and she and her husband believed he would crash into their Ford Escape as he tailgated their SUV.
She said the pickup cut them off turning onto another road, and Derek Flemming moved into the right lane to allow him to pass.
Zale then pulled in front of their SUV and slammed on the brakes, Amy Flemming told police.
Her husband intended to confront Zale about his driving when they stopped, she said.
The couple’s daughter turned 6 years old Thursday, and they also have a 7-year-old son.
The children “are asking where their father is,” the family’s attorney said.
Watch the prosecutor discuss the charges in this video posted online by the Lansing State Journal: