Darla Renee Jackson, a driver who ran over 20-year Navy veteran and motorcycle rider Zacharias Buob in a road rage incident in May, was charged with murder on Monday. What can we riders learn from this tragedy?
You may remember a road rage incident that occurred here in San Diego back in may, where a car driver, 25 year-old Darla Jackson, pursued motorcycle rider Zacharias Buob after a hostile exchange and collided with him on the freeway. Buob was killed, and the driver Jackson, was arrested.
Today, Jackson was officially charged with second-degree murder, and many consider it to be a victory for riders and advocates of motorcycle safety.
The Circumstances of the Case
According to witness testimony presented in court, the incident began on the afternoon of May 28, when Jackson, who was driving a Nissan Altima, aggressively passed Buob, riding a Ducati Panigale, in the fast lane on the 5 freeway.
That angered Buob, who shook his head and made obscene gestures toward Jackson, who responded by swerving her car toward Buob, causing him to flinch. Buob reacted to that by kicking her passenger side car door, then crossed three lanes of traffic to get away. But Jackson followed him in pursuit, reaching speeds of over 90 mph. Buob was eventually forced to slow down because of traffic, which is when Jackson collided with Buob, running him over. Buob died in the hospital.
Jackson’s defense attorney attempted to get the charges reduced to manslaughter or less, arguing that Buob’s death was merely a tragic accident that happened while Jackson was trying to get his license plate number.
The defense strategy was plausible, and might have even worked – if it weren’t for Jackson’s apparently violent past behind the wheel that came out in court.
Jackson’s Incriminating Past
As is often the case in events like these, this wasn’t the first time Jackson had been aggressive behind the wheel.
After news of the fatal crash broke, an ex-boyfriend of Jackson’s actually called authorities to notify them that Jackson had done similar things in the past, including swerving her car towards his on the freeway on multiple occasions.
In addition, Jackson has had restraining orders filed against her by two different men in the past; one stated that she threatened to run him over with her car after an argument, and actually pursued him with her vehicle in a parking lot until he hid behind other vehicles, eventually jumping over a fence to get away!
Jackson reportedly has no criminal record, but she was driving with a suspended license at the time of the incident.
Why Murder and Not Manslaughter?
The controversial part about cases like this is often what charges are filed when someone injures or kills a motorcycle rider in a road rage incident. They are often reduced to manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon, or even less.
Jackson’s attorney argued for a reduction of the charges, but presiding judge Ana Espana wasn’t having it; she upheld the second-degree murder charges the prosecution was seeking, citing “implied malice,” the fact that Jackson’s actions caused Buob’s death, and that she acted with a conscious disregard for human life.
In her statement, she acknowledged that Buob had a role in the incident, but that it was Jackson who drove “dangerously and recklessly in pursuit” of him.
39 year-old Buob, the victim who lost his life in this incident, was not only an experienced on- and off-road motorcycle rider, but also happened to be a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy. He was assigned to Naval Special Warfare Command at the time of the incident, and had worked with Navy SEALs and other special forces units.
This tragedy has garnered an outpouring of support from both the motorcycle riding and military communities. Several memorial events and rides have been organized to honor him and to bring awareness to motorcycle safety.
What Can We Learn From This?
As this case shows us, there are some very crazy drivers out there, and when rage takes over, they’re liable to do anything – even attack you with their cars! Buob was a highly trained combat veteran and an experienced rider on one of the most powerful superbikes on the planet, but the circumstances on the road prevented him from being able to escape the situation once it began. If he couldn’t find a way to get out of that situation, probably nobody could have.
All of us who ride have been tailgated, passed too closely, or nearly killed by clueless or overly aggressive drivers at some point. But the best thing we can do when that happens is not to escalate the situation, but to avoid it altogether.
While we hope to see justice served in this case, it should also remind us to be aware of the kinds of people there are out there, and to keep a cool head when we inevitably run across them. Because no matter how long you’ve been riding, or what kind of bike you’re on, we riders are no match for cars in a collision, and have nothing to protect us when the worst happens.
We remind you to be hyper-aware and hyper-defensive when out there on the road – because that little victory of making it home in one piece after a ride is a better than the biggest victory in court after a tragedy happens!
If you would like to follow developments in this case, Zachary Buob’s family maintains a Facebook page with regular updates which you can follow here.
The family has requested that any donations made in honor of Buob be made directly to the Navy SEAL foundation, which can be found here .