JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The man who fired first in an October road rage incident in which two children were shot will not be criminally charged. The man who returned fire, however, has been charged with seven counts of attempted murder, aggravated assault and shooting or throwing deadly missiles.
According to prosecutors, 44-year-old Frank Allison's first shot was a justifiable use of force, because 36-year-old William Hale was the primary aggressor. They say Hale tried to run Allison off the road on U.S. 1 near Callahan and threw a water bottle at his car.
Allison responded by firing a single shot at Hale’s vehicle, striking Hale's 5-year-old daughter in the upper calf.
Hale returned fire, emptying his Glock 43 9-millimeter semi-automatic handgun into Allison’s vehicle, hitting Allison’s 14-year-old daughter in the back. She suffered a collapsed lung.
According to the State Attorney’s Office, “both children are expected to make a full recovery.” Both men had concealed weapons permits and no prior criminal record.
Charging documents say Hale drove his “vehicle in a reckless threatening or intimidating manner, which created a well-founded fear in Frank Allison that violence was imminent.” It says Hale threw “a stone or other hard substance” – actually a water bottle -- at Allison’s car “which would produce the death or great bodily harm.”
Because of that, prosecutors say, Allison was justified in using force because he “reasonably believe[d] that using or threatening to use deadly force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.”
Investigators said the two men’s version of events “vary.” The Allisons and the Hales “provided accounts that were mostly aligned with the interests of their respective side,” prosecutors wrote. They relied on a third motorist, who prosecutors call “the only independent witness in the case” as well as “the most credible and reliable among all the witnesses.”
The witness didn’t see the actual shooting, but he did see its confrontational antecedent, in which he said Hale was the clear aggressor. The witness said Hale pursued the Allisons car in a game of “cat and mouse” in which Hale was the cat.
The witness told law enforcement that the Allisons’ “[Nissan] Murano was clearly attempting to get away from the [Dodge] Ram” driven by William Hale, and he saw “the Ram forcing the Murano partially off the road on several occasions." The witness said he was so alarmed he called 911.
Both men were arrested Oct. 8 on charges of second-degree murder, but no formal charges were filed in the case until March 30.
Explaining why they were dropping charges against Allison, prosecutors said it was clear he was trying to flee.
“The prosecutor wrote a lengthy disposition notice, explaining the thought process in dropping the charges against the one party and filing them against Mr. Hale and essentially it came down to there was an independent witness who described this as a cat and mouse game of the cars going after each other and that hale was the primary aggressor," said Janet Johnson, criminal defense attorney.
She continued, “Some people would say well water bottles shouldn’t be more aggravated than a gun but under the case law that the state cited a water bottle is considered a deadly missile. The same as a bullet would be so if you’re the first aggressor even if you didn’t use a gun and you used a water bottle you don’t get to hide behind stand your ground because you caused the conflict," said Johnson.
“I think the police at the time knew exactly what they were doing as far as charging them with the charges they charged them with because both of these gentlemen fired shots at each other and there were two victims obviously result of those two gunshots that were fired," said First Coast News Crime & Safety Analyst Mark Baughman.
First Coast News reached out to the State Attorney’s Office in January to ask why no charges had yet been filed. At the time a spokesperson said, “potential charges are still under review.” Hale’s attorney David Robbins said at the time he was hopeful his client would “not face any charges."
Hale is set to be arraigned April 20.