Houston law enforcement plans to fight city's increase of violent road rage incidents

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston has a reputation for road rage, and deadly confrontations are increasing.

Two siblings who had been planning some sister-brother bonding over a fishing trip for many months will be unable to go now because one of them lost his life in a road rage incident.

Travis Rowden, who was fatally shot on Dec. 4 in northwest Harris County as he was driving home from work, is just one out of many violent road rage victims in a year that saw a steep increase.

"You don't shoot people because you didn't get your way or got mad. You don't pull out a gun," his sister, Angela Pesina, told ABC13.

According to the Houston Police Department, there were 200 road rage incidents involving shootings in the first 10 months of 2020 compared to 150 in the same time the year before. That is a 30% increase. Those 200 incidents included six murders.

HPD Sergeant Sean Rios, who was shot in November along a North Freeway feeder road, was among the six victims.

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"We're seeing way too much of this," said Commander Kevin Deese of HPD's Vehicular Crimes Division.

On Dec. 9, HPD Chief Art Acevedo announced a new road rage task force. It's a partnership between HPD, the Harris County Sheriff's Office, the Department of Public Safety and the Harris County District Attorney's Office. Reckless drivers will go to jail, if warranted, they say. Cars will be seized, if legally possible.

READ MORE: After more than 200 shootings already, HPD chief reveals plan to curb road rage

Deese said already there has been success.

"The problem is not going to go away just that fast. So, we need to keep attention on it. We need to keep focus on it," he said.

The task force put extra officers on the roads. Some are in marked cars, Deese said, while others are undercover. They are looking for aggressive driving, which is believed to be a precursor to violence.

"The driving on the shoulder, cutting people off, slamming on the brakes in front of another," he said. "Behavior that are all events that lead to violent behavior outside the vehicle."

The hope is to stop it by making arrests or writing tickets before it escalates to something that cannot be taken back. However, Deese said we can all be proactive.

"What we really want other motorists to do is not engage in aggressive behavior. We [have to] learn to let stuff go," he said.

"At least it's a reaction to the problem," said Pesina about the task force.

She only wishes it would have helped her brother.

"Travis didn't fight people. He would have talked to the dude," she said. "Travis was funny. He was really funny. We would talk about my marriage, day-to-day problems. He was my best friend."

She takes comfort in the fact that Rowden was an organ donor. His death, she said, helped save three to four lives.

"I'm so proud of that because he lives on," she said.

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