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Cleveland road-rage case offers questions of intent; prosecutor to decide whether charges to be filed

Friday, March 30, 2012, by John Caniglia, The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio - A 20-year-old Cleveland man remains hospitalized after a road-rage feud in the Steelyard Commons parking lot March 15.

But Nathan Harrison, who was listed in good condition at MetroHealth Medical Center on Friday, is at the center of a feud that started on the Jennings Freeway, then continued in a department store and finally into a parking lot, where Harrison was hit by a van.

A relative of Harrison's says the van driver, Juan Delgado, 38, of Cleveland, ran over Harrison after confrontations stemming from Delgado's driving.

Delgado, however, told police that Harrison was the aggressor. Harrison attacked Delgado's van with an aluminum baseball bat that Harrison had bought at Walmart at Steelyard Commons after an earlier altercation. Delgado told police that Harrison struck his van with the bat, causing Delgado to swerve and hit him.

Police initially charged Delgado with felonious assault. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason's office is reviewing the case, said Maria Russo, a spokeswoman.

"Once [Mason's office] sees the full picture, I'm hoping [Delgado] is not indicted," said Delgado's attorney, Michael Goldberg. "We're counting on the prosecutor to make the correct decision."

Police were called about 1:15 p.m. The case unfolded like this, according to a police report and interviews:

On March 15, Harrison was driving on the exit ramp on the Jennings Freeway to Steelyard Commons and passed the tractor-trailer that Delgado drove for work. Goldberg said his client was carrying 16 tons of cargo when Harrison's black Ford Focus cut him off. The men stopped on a ramp, argued and then got into a fight.

Goldberg said Delgado was sucker-punched by someone from Harrison's car during the fight, sending Delgado to the ground. When Delgado pulled a pocket knife, Harrison and another man with him left, the police report said.

After the altercation, Delgado got into his truck and drove to a nearby business on Harvard Road and dropped off the tractor-trailer, Goldberg said. Delgado got into his own van and found Harrison at Walmart 10 or 15 minutes later, the attorney said. Delgado went into the store and tried to confront him, according to the police report. Store security officers told Delgado to leave, which he did, the police report said.

Harrison's cousin, David Yon, said Harrison told him that he had gone to the store to run an errand. While there, he also bought an aluminum bat out of fear.

"He was afraid for his life," Yon said. "He didn't know what was going to happen. It was ridiculous."

What happened next is in dispute.

Delgado told officers that he was leaving Walmart and was southbound on Steelyard Drive when Harrison charged at Delgado's 1995 Chevy van and struck the windshield with the bat, smashing the glass. Delgado told officers that it made him swerve and hit Harrison.

"He did not intend to hit this kid," Goldberg said. "No way. He lost control and swerved."

But Yon said the bat struck the windshield after Harrison was hit. He said Harrison believed the confrontation was over, because he didn't see the tractor-trailer Delgado had been driving earlier and believed Delgado was gone. So Harrison left the store.

Yon said his cousin suffered burns to 75 percent of his body from being dragged. He said Harrison also suffered injuries to his pelvis, back and shoulder. Delgado stopped after the incident and spoke with officers.

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