Man recalls frightening moments in road-rage case

Testifies he was the victim of vicious attack by enraged driver with baseball bat

Rosie Mullaley rmullaley@thetelegram.com
Published on May 6, 2011
Christopher R. Hollett is led into provincial court in St. John’s Thursday, the first day of his trial. The 30-year-old faces several charges, including assault causing bodily harm, which stem from a June 2010 incident, in which he allegedly chased down a man in his car and assaulted him with a bat. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram

The video shows a terrified-looking Dennis Fleming storming into a gas station, demanding the clerk get help.

“Call the f---ing cops, please!” he shouts at the man, who is heard dialling 911.

In another frame of the video, Fleming is then heard relaying to police what he said had just happened.

“I just got f---ing chased from the Village mall to the Avalon Mall by (a guy in) a car,” Fleming is heard telling an officer on the phone.

“He knocked out my f---ing window. He hit me with the bat. I have his licence plate number.”

The videos were from June 4, 2010, at Ultramar on Kenmount Road, where Fleming and his girlfriend ended up after what was reportedly a chilling, 15-minute high-speed car chase by an enraged driver.

On Thursday, Fleming recalled his experience while testifying at the trial of Christopher R. Hollett.

Hollett, 30, is accused of assaulting Fleming, 22, with a baseball bat and smashing out the windows of his car following a dispute on the rules of the road.

Hollett has pleaded not guilty to six charges — assault causing bodily harm, assault, mischief relating to property damage, possessing a weapon dangerous to the public, dangerous driving and breaching a probation order.

Cut off by vehicle

Fleming told the court the incident started on Empire Avenue, at the Columbus Drive intersection. He was on his way to dropping off his girlfriend, who was in the passenger’s seat, at around 1 a.m., when a silver Jeep pulled suddenly out in front of his van and cut him off just before reaching the traffic lights.

Once the vehicles made the left-hand turn onto Columbus Drive, Fleming quickly pulled into the other lane and flashed an offensive gesture at the Jeep’s driver.

“I gave him the finger,” Fleming said. “I was annoyed.”

Fleming said he saw the man pointing and yelling at him.

That’s when, he said, the driver of the Jeep pulled out in front of his van and began slamming on the brakes.

“He was trying to get me to hit him,” Fleming said.

The Jeep then turned right onto Captain Whalen Drive, next to the Newfoundland Hydro building, with Fleming behind him.

But with a small island dividing the lanes at the turnoff, Fleming said, the Jeep stopped, blocking him from going further.

It was then, Fleming said, the driver of the Jeep got out, carrying an aluminum bat. He said the man knocked on his window with his fist and began yelling at him.

Fleming rolled his window down halfway.

“I told him I didn’t want any trouble,” Fleming testified, “and that I was just trying to drive my girlfriend home.”

Fleming said the man then punched him in the eye.

“I hit the gas and hit his vehicle to try to push it out of the way,” he said.

He said the man then swung the bat and smashed out the driver’s side window of his van.

“Glass went everywhere,” Fleming said, “in my eyes, in my girlfriend’s hair.”

Fleming then sped away, with the Jeep in pursuit. The vehicles sped down Blackmarsh Road, onto Topsail Road and eventually onto Kenmount Road.

Fleming said he drove his van to speeds of 180 km/h.

But the Jeep caught up with him, he said, and tried to run him off the road.

Desperate to find help, Fleming turned into the Ultramar gas station, near the Avalon Mall, with the Jeep behind him.

Fleming and his girlfriend got out of the van and ran towards the gas station door. Before the buzzer to allow entry went off, he said, the man got out of his Jeep and struck him twice in the leg with the bat.

Fleming said at one point, he managed to get hold of the barrel of the bat under his arm.

“He shouted at me to let go,” said Fleming. “Then he said something about his child being in the car.”

The video shows his girlfriend outside the door covering her head to protect herself during the attack.

The buzzer to the front door then went off and Fleming and his girlfriend raced inside.

Fleming said he then saw the man using the bat to beat out almost every window in his van before driving away.

He said he didn’t get a good look at the man and would not be able to identify him.

“I was just focused trying to get away from him,” he said.

Once police arrived, Fleming was taken to hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries.

Hollett had been granted bail shortly after his arrest, but was taken into custody in January in connection with a drug bust, in which pharmacist Ann Marie Burke was also arrested.

The trial on the alleged attack is expected to wrap up today.

rgillingham@thetelegram.com