Posted: Jul 19, 2013 1:13 PM by Laura Wilson (Kalispell)
Updated: Jul 19, 2013 1:13 PM
KALISPELL - Three Flathead Valley men have been charged in connection with the brutal beating of a Ferndale man earlier this month.
Ryan Horn, 18, and Gaige Mower, 20, each face up to 20 years in prison while Andrew Nelson, 19, could be sentenced to 40 years for their involvement in the attack on Antonio Valencia.
All three men turned themselves in earlier this week on warrants issued for their arrest.
"Warrants were issued for aggravated assaults on all three individuals, and one of them was also charged with assault with a weapon," explained Flathead County Undersheriff Dave Lieb.
The felony charges all stem from a "brake check." While traveling on U.S. Highway 93, Valencia tapped his brakes to try to get the vehicle behind him to stop following so closely.
But that's all it took to send three young men into a fit of rage.
The three men continued following Valencia, throwing various items at his car while driving at high speeds.
Fearing for his safety, Valencia pulled into the Ferndale Market gas station, where he knew there would be both cameras and witnesses.
But as soon as Valencia got out of his car, the three men attacked him - with one of them beating him several times with a golf club.
The gas station security camera footage, combined with a witness's cell phone video, helped to identify the three men and their vehicle, but authorities recommend a different tactic for those being targeted by an aggressor on the road.
"Cameras are a great idea to protect yourself, but it would have been a much better decision to simply call 911. He would have had a camera in the form of a police cruiser, most likely, to protect him at that point and time. If you're in fear of your life or about the safety of yourself or other people, just call 911," advised Trooper Jim Sanderson of the Montana Highway Patrol.
Valencia suffered a fractured vertebra in his neck, among other injuries, but was released the same day from the hospital.
Authorities hope this incident will act as a vivid reminder to drivers to stay safe and calm on the road.
When it comes to road rage, their message is simple: it's just not worth it.
"There are very loose concealed-carry laws in this state. There are a large number of handguns in the vehicles out there - you have to keep that in mind," Sanderson told us. "When you take action against that person, it's often just going to escalate their mental situation and turn into something inappropriate."
An arraignment date has not been set yet for any of the three men.