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Road rage on I-4 is fatal

After the Daytona 500, two vehicles stop and a Pasco man is shot, deputies say.

By MOLLY MOORHEAD
Published February 20, 2007


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They were two vehicles packed in with thousands of others.

Amid the bumper-to-bumper traffic crawling out of the Daytona 500 Sunday night, authorities say, a roadside argument along Interstate 4 in Volusia County escalated to a brawl.

It ended with the fatal shooting of Eric Houk, 36, a Land O'Lakes youth soccer coach and father of three boys.

One of Houk's neighbors, Mario Grasso, described him as a family man, an animal lover, "the type of guy you wouldn't mind living next to."

Three Jacksonville men face charges related to second-degree murder in Houk's death.

The incident occurred about 9 p.m. as Houk and his brother Michael were on their way home after spending the day at the NASCAR race. They were passing Deland when the car in front of Houk came to a sudden stop, according to the Volusia Sheriff's Office.

Houk swerved onto the shoulder - and into the path of a Ford Explorer using the emergency lane to buzz past slow traffic, deputies say.

The Explorer whipped ahead, and its four occupants piled out. The Houks climbed out next. The two sides yelled back and forth, deputies say, then Eric Houk started fighting with one of the other men, Charles Onasanya.

At one point, Onasanya, 19, went back to his SUV and got a handgun, reports on the incident say.

But he lost his grip on it, the reports say, and another man picked it up. Ronlee Harvin, 21, then passed it to David Edwards, 21.

Edwards fired into the air.

The shot did little to quell the erupting scene. Eric Houk, who was unarmed, walked toward Edwards, deputies say.

Edwards fired two rounds into Houk's abdomen, deputies say.

Houk, who owned a house-painting business, was flown to a local hospital, where he died.

Onasanya, Harvin, Edwards and an unidentified female passenger drove off, clipping Michael Houk as they fled, according to deputies.

Deputies caught up to them in Seminole County. The three men were held being Monday at the John E. Polk Correctional Facility there. A judge declined to set bail. Records show Edwards, Onasanya and Harvin have no adult criminal history in Florida.

The woman in the Explorer was not charged.

On Monday, Houk's wife, Laura, and their three sons - the youngest is 6 months old -kept to themselves behind the gates of the central Pasco County neighborhood of Oakstead in Land O'Lakes.

Michael Houk answered the door at his Tampa home Monday. He declined to speak to a reporter, saying he deferred comment to his sister-in-law.

Mike Campbell, a general contractor in Tampa, hired Houk for numerous painting projects. He never worked on weekends, Campbell said, because that was family time. But Houk was a hard worker who served several large home builders in the Tampa Bay area.

The news of Houk's death, Campbell said, "spread like wildfire through the paint stores this morning."

Houk coached soccer for teams on which his two older sons played. The Central Pasco United Soccer Association issued a statement Monday, calling his loss "a tremendous blow to the community in which he lived and for the soccer club."

The group plans a memorial for him.

Neighbor Mario Grasso, head of the Oakstead neighborhood watch, visited Houk's family throughout the day Monday. They were so upset they could hardly speak, he said.

"It's very sad. You can't even get anybody to mutter two sentences to you," said Grasso, 56.

Grasso said he last saw Houk a few days ago. Houk talked about the car race and asked Grasso if he planned to go.

Grasso replied, "No, I've got a lot of things this weekend. You'll be able to tell me about it when you get back."

Times staffers Caryn Baird, Cathy Wos, Justin George, C.T. Bowen and Thomas Lake contributed to this report. Molly Moorhead can be reached at (352) 521-6521 or moorhead@sptimes.com

[Last modified February 20, 2007, 00:24:17]


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