Son says he watched mother thrown into traffic in road rage incident

The family of a nearly 80-year-old woman hospitalized during a road rage incident in Hermitage on March 12 is now speaking out. (WSMV)
Published: Mar. 19, 2023 at 6:32 AM HST
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HERMITAGE, Tenn. (WSMV/Gray News) - The adult son of a woman in her 70s who was hospitalized during a road rage incident in Tennessee said he was following her in his car when it happened.

Mark Magner said he watched in awe as a man picked up his elderly mother and threw her across nearly two lanes of traffic. The suspect, 48-year-old Billy Johnson, was charged with aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury.

“He just snapped, picked her up and threw her,” Magner said.

He described the bone-chilling scene as something he will never forget.

“Panic and fear, to hear your mother cry for help … my main thought was to go to her,” Magner said.

He said it started minutes after he was following her home March 12.

“My mother slowed down before the railroad tracks down the road, and I was following her,” he said. “We were in two separate cars, and a guy ran up on the back of me like he was going to rear-end me.”

Magner said he decided to ignore it but then the driver did something else.

“Next thing I know he’s laying on his horn, and at about the time we got almost up here to this traffic light he started weaving over to my lane trying to side-swipe me,” he said.

He said the driver got out of his car and started pounding on Magner’s car window with a flashlight.

“I ended up stopping here in the turn lane and getting out and confronting him, and it escalated from there. It was a verbal argument,” Magner said.

His mother got out of her car and tried to de-escalate the situation, he said. That’s when he said the man grabbed his mother by the arms and threw her.

“The next thing I know I hear my mother cry, ‘Help me,’” Magner said. “And I turn around and there she was laying in the middle of the road. Luckily, that light was red because if cars were coming through, she would have probably gotten hit.”

Multiple drivers jumped out to help. Magner said the driver started to speed off, but he got a picture of his license plate, which helped lead police to make an arrest.

“It’s not normal to get that angry,” Magner said.

A witness told WSMV a similar account, saying she saw it from when the man got out and approached the car.

“By the time I got 911 on the phone, I looked out of the corner of my eye and he had her by the shoulders and threw her across the center lane into oncoming traffic,” said the witness, who asked to remain anonymous. “Just to see her go flying like that was just, my heart stopped for a minute. It was one of those gut punches where you think I can’t believe what I’m seeing.”

Magner said doctors told him his mother hit her head on the pavement, causing internal bleeding. It’s her second head injury and surgery in four months.

“She actually had a really bad fall in Arizona when she was on vacation and had to have brain surgery here back in October, so she wasn’t fully healed from that,” he said.

Now, she is fighting for her life in Skyline Medical’s ICU. Magner said he’s praying for his mother’s recovery.

“This road rage ... you know, if you’re in that big of a hurry, leave home earlier. There’s just no call for this kind of stuff,” Magner said.