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Motorists had clear view of roadside violence

By MOLLY MOORHEAD
Published February 21, 2007


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Michael Houk desperately tried to revive his brother Sunday after a road rage shooting on the way home from the Daytona 500.

Houk pressed on his brother's chest and breathed into his mouth.

"He was frantic, weeping," said witness Shannon Sosebee. "He knew it was bad."

His efforts weren't enough.

Eric Houk, a 36-year-old father from Land O'Lakes, died a short time later.

On Tuesday, Michael Houk said his brother was a good family man who started coaching boys soccer once his eldest son was old enough to play.

Authorities said the brothers, who were in Volusia County on their way home on Interstate 4, got into a fight with people in a Ford Explorer. It ended with gunfire. The Volusia Sheriff's Office called it an incident of road rage, and three Jacksonville men face charges related to second-degree murder.

Sosebee, a veteran of 10 Daytona 500s, was among several witnesses. Stuck in traffic in a charter bus, he and his buddies were talking about the race and its photo finish. About 9 p.m., the driver stopped so everyone could stretch their legs.

Sosebee stepped into a sea of headlights.

'Get the gun'

"Then I heard a woman's voice say, 'Get the gun, get the gun,' " Sosebee, who is from Geneva in Seminole County, said Tuesday.

He heard two quick gunshots and hurried back to the bus to get out of harm's way. He glanced toward the commotion and saw a silhouette of a man on the side of the road.

"He was staggering to begin with, and he fell to his knees," Sosebee said. "Then I heard another 'pow,' and he crawled to the edge of the road and collapsed."

Scott Nelson of Salt Lake City and his brother-in-law were a few car lengths behind when the scuffle erupted.

Off to the side of the highway, in the darkness, Nelson saw people fighting. Houk's white Toyota pickup was parked, doors open, in the right lane of the interstate. A Ford Explorer was nearby in the emergency lane. Nelson, 43, stopped his rental minivan, not wanting to get any closer to the violence.

"In fact, I contemplated whipping a U-turn," he said.

He called 911. So did Sosebee. They told operators someone had been shot. Nelson said the man was conscious but needed help. Sosebee said he couldn't see a license plate on the Explorer, which was peeling away.

Arrests came quickly

Deputies soon caught up to it and arrested Charles Onasanya, 18, Ronlee Harvin, 21, and David Edwards, 21.

At home in Tampa on Tuesday, Michael Houk said little about the shooting. He is not a NASCAR fan, he said, and neither was Eric, but the brothers couldn't pass up the opportunity to go to one of the state's major sporting events. They'd gotten tickets from a friend.

Eric Houk's wife, Laura, met with a funeral home Tuesday. She declined an interview request from the Times.

Their sons are 10 years old, 8 years old and 6 months old, Michael Houk said. He has taken the reins of his brother's house-painting business, Houk Property Service, to try to keep the family financially afloat. A trust fund is being set up for the boys.

A somber ride home

Sosebee, who is married with two grown daughters, waited on the interstate with his friends for two hours to talk to investigators. The ride home, he said, was somber.

"We all reflected on how this better not happen to any one of us because we've seen it firsthand," he said.

They talked about what each of them would do in a similar situation. As for Sosebee, "I'd go. I would not get out of my vehicle. If there was something in front of me, I'd push it out of the way."

Times staff writer Justin George contributed to this report. Molly Moorhead can be reached at 352 521-6521 or moorhead@sptimes.com.

[Last modified February 21, 2007, 01:31:24]


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