He once killed a man in a road rage incident. Now, he has died in one.

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr

Gary Durham in 2002, after he was charged with manslaughter in a road rage killing. Durham died Wednesday following another road rage altercation in Florida. Photo / WTVT / Fox 13
Gary Durham in 2002, after he was charged with manslaughter in a road rage killing. Durham died Wednesday following another road rage altercation in Florida. Photo / WTVT / Fox 13

After a traffic mishap this week in Florida's Hillsborough County, Gary Lynn Durham got out of his car and exchanged heated words with another driver.

Their argument ended violently, with Durham dying from a gunshot wound on the side of the road, police said.

When investigators dug deeper into the case, they found a sad twist: Durham had recently been released from prison for killing a man in road rage confrontation in 2001.

Police say Durham punched a 48-year-old cancer survivor in the face at an intersection as the two men argued 15 years ago in Tampa.

The punch killed the man, Tim Gibbs, and Durham was convicted of manslaughter. He was sentenced in 2002 and spent the next decade behind bars, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The judge also required Durham to take anger management classes.

Now, he is dead in a similar incident.

"It's a shame that he didn't learn his lesson while in jail," Nancy Gibbs, Tim Gibbs's widow, told the Tampa Bay Times after learning Durham had died in a road rage incident. "I'm just glad I don't have to worry about him or running into him somewhere. It's ironic that he died in the same way as my husband."

The most recent incident happened early Wednesday afternoon, when school buses and parents on the road for the first day of school exacerbated normal traffic, officials said.

Sheriff's deputies were called to Martin Luther King Boulevard in the Tampa suburbs about a shooting - and when they got there, they found Durham lying dead in the street, with Robert Padgett standing nearby.

"Durham and Padgett were involved in a traffic road rage incident," the sheriff's office said in a news release. The altercation, sheriff's officials said, "ended with Padgett firing at least one round from a handgun that struck and killed Durham."

Padgett has not yet been charged with a crime, and investigators say he has been cooperative.

After the fatal rage incident 15 years ago, Durham was the assailant being questioned, according to Tampa police.

The deadly confrontation in October 2001 happened on the city's north side.

A witness told investigators that Durham cut Tim Gibbs off outside a 7-Eleven.

"At that point, the victim drove off and ended up in a parking lot of a business at 10001 N. Armenia, where he was known by fellow friends," a police report states. "The suspect pulled up in his vehicle and approached the victim. The victim was seen balling up his fist, but the suspect punched him once and caused the victim to fall backwards onto the concrete pavement."

Investigators say Gibbs hit his head on the pavement after being punched by Durham. He died days later from brain injuries and a skull fracture, police said at the time.

Durham was charged with manslaughter and ultimately convicted. He was sentenced to 11 1/2 years in prison, according to NBC affiliate WFLA.

He was on probation when he had the altercation with Padgett in Plant City, east of Tampa.

Durham's wife, Heather, told the Tampa Bay Times that they married in 2015, after he was released on probation.

"Just because he went to jail, that did not define who he was," she told the newspaper. "He wasn't this angry person who went around angry all the time. People only see the side that the media spreads. They don't know him like I did or his family did."

Though it rarely leads to fatalities, anger behind the wheel is not uncommon.

According to a newly released study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, "nearly 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the past year."

Among the study's estimates: 7.6 million U.S. drivers (about 3.7 percent of those on the road) got out of their vehicles to confront another driver.

"Inconsiderate driving, bad traffic and the daily stresses of life can transform minor frustrations into dangerous road rage," Jurek Grabowski, director of research for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said in a statement last month. "Far too many drivers are losing themselves in the heat of the moment and lashing out in ways that could turn deadly."

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says driving frees people from typical social constraints because it involves both private and public behaviors.

As a result, according to NHTSA, people are more likely to experience rage while behind the wheel.

"A motor vehicle insulates the driver from the world while, at the same time, traveling through it," NHTSA notes. "Shielded from the hostile outside environment by tinted windows and a microclimate that defies the seasons, a driver can develop a sense of anonymity and detachment, as if an observer of the surroundings, rather than a participant.

"The anonymity provided by this insulation can erode the inhibitions to antisocial behavior that normally shape interpersonal relations. That is, some people feel less constrained in their behavior when they cannot be seen by others and/or when it is unlikely that they will ever again see the witnesses to their behavior.

"When emboldened by the seemingly invincible power of a motor vehicle, a driver's feeling of anonymity can result in extreme rudeness and even transform an otherwise nice person into a dangerous, raging individual."

- Washington Post

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