Springfield police released an incident report that gave few details about a road rage incident involving a city council member. On Thanksgiving, Springfield City Council Member Nick Ibarra confirmed to KSPR News he was involved in an altercation. Police say the dispute happened in the 700 block of south Hazelnut around 2:45 Thursday afternoon. According to the report, a man said he was “dragged by a vehicle when he attempted to remove a beer bottle from the console of a car.”
Officers say they are getting conflicting stories about what happened. Lt. Roger Moore says officers are investigating a possible assault but says it is unclear who assaulted whom. The police report shows police interviewed at least 10 possible witnesses.
“I can't believe he is not in jail,” Brian Patterson said. “He tried to kill me.” Patterson says Ibarra followed his relative's car to the 700 block of south Hazelnut. “We went outside to see what was going on,” Patterson said. Police say some sort of altercation followed. “That’s when I tried to reach in and grab his keys from him because he was going to leave the scene,” Patterson said. “I told him he should wait for the police but when he noticed we knew he had an open container in the car he took off as fast as he could with both of us attached.” Patterson says his shoulder is broken. He says he also has road rash over a large portion of his body. Tom Russell says he also tried to stop Ibarra from leaving the scene. He says he was badly scraped and bruised.
Ibarra says the accusations are unsubstantiated. He says he did take a test to see if he had been drinking and was not arrested. Ibarra would not comment on when the test occurred or the results of the test. On Thursday, he released an official statement. "I was involved in an unfortunate accident. I have given my report to police," Ibarra said. “I believe it will be resolved. It is in the police department’s hands.”
Springfield Mayor Jim O’Neal says Ibarra explained the incident to him. O’Neal said he was satisfied with his explanation and confident the situation will work itself out. He said Ibarra feared for his safety. “If you leave the scene of an accident because you feel you are in danger, it is okay if you contact police once you get to a safe location,” local attorney Adam Woody said. Woody, who is not representing anyone involved in the case, says if police do not find an accused drunk driver behind the wheel it can complicate an investigation. “The suspect can of course claim they consumed alcohol after operating the automobile,” Woody said. “That could potentially provide that person a defense.”
“Why would you leave the scene of something,” Patterson questioned Thursday night. “Especially if police were called, “Russell said. KSPR News asked the men if they assaulted or attacked Ibarra. They both said they did not. Police will not comment on any details surrounding the ongoing investigation. “He says I'm a city councilman I can do anything I want to," Russell said. KSPR News has requested a copy of the police report. It is unclear if Ibarra told police the men assaulted him.
Both Russell and Patterson say Ibarra handed out his city council business card at the scene. “The statute does require either exchanging information with the other people involved in the accident or contacting police,” Woody said.
Police are submitting the case to prosecutors. Prosecutors will decide what if any charges are filed against anyone involved in the incident. It is standard procedure for police to withhold names until formal charges are filed. Officers have not released the names of either driver or how they were involved.