SALT LAKE CITY — Five men who police say were targets of a road rage-fueled shooting last month have filed a $25 million lawsuit against the alleged gunman.
The five men, including one whose legs were paralyzed in the shooting, were on their way to work at a construction site the morning of Jan. 25. Jesse David Luker became frustrated that they were driving at exactly the speed limit in a carpool lane on southbound I-15 in Lehi, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in 3rd District Court.
Luker, 31, is already facing criminal charges, including three counts of attempted murder, a second-degree felony, in Provo’s 4th District Court. He has not yet entered any pleas.
Attorney Ron Kramer said the punitive damages his clients are seeking send a message to Luker and others that the conduct will lead to serious financial consequences, not just the possibility of prison time.
“We filed this civil lawsuit to loudly declare that conduct like this is unacceptable,” Kramer said in a statement. “We live in a society of laws and there is no place in it for Wild West gunslinging on the interstate.”
Kramer contends that pictures of the bullet-riddled truck show the shooter wasn’t intending to simply take out their tires, but rather was trying to seriously injure or kill the driver and his passengers.
The men suing Luker are the driver Edgar Escamilla and his passengers, George Acosta Ruiz, Paul Bernardino, Eduardo Hernandez and Jose Antonio Vazquez. They’re alleging battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.
The truck carrying the five changed lanes after noticing Luker was tailgating, then returned to the carpool lane. But Luker “was in full-blown road rage by this time,” the lawsuit alleges, and followed them again before swerving and missing their truck as it veered to the right.
They hit the brakes and changed into the right lane, the suit says.
“Although the vehicles did not collide, (Escamilla) quickly realized this was not the best choice,” and again “attempted to just get out of defendant’s way and moved one lane over to the right to the No. 1 lane.”
Luker rolled down his window, brandished a revolver and began shooting, the lawsuit says.
He fired at their truck at least seven times, striking the driver in the buttocks, hitting a passenger near his spinal cord, causing partial paralysis, and firing a bullet that grazed the beanie hat of another passenger, according to the lawsuit.
Luker swerved again toward the other truck, which changed lanes just in time, causing Luker’s own truck to spin out and strike the median. The injured men then headed to American Fork Hospital for treatment, the lawsuit says.
A hearing in the case has not yet been set.