The account of road rage is less clear

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 7, 2008 - 11:23 PM

Police say it now appears that the Prior Lake driver wasn't thrown onto Hwy. 169.

A Prior Lake woman who said an enraged driver threw her onto Hwy. 169 near Shakopee last week has changed her story after police asked her about conflicting statements from other witnesses, authorities said.

Now Jennifer Boulden, 34, admits she wasn't thrown by the man, nor did he smash her cell phone, said Capt. Greg Muelken of the Scott County sheriff's office.

He said he's not sure the woman intentionally meant to mislead police and reporters in her initial statements, noting that she was shaken by the incident and on heavy pain medication at the hospital when first interviewed. After deputies interviewed her again and gathered witness statements this week, Muelken said this appears to be what happened the afternoon of Feb. 25:

Boulden was talking on her cell phone when she made a U-turn on Hwy. 169 near the Mobile Manor Trailer Park. She pulled into the passing lane in front of a man driving a pickup truck. He locked up his brakes and swerved into the central median strip to avoid a collision on the four-lane highway.

He drove back into the lane behind her. Boulden pulled over on the outside shoulder, and the dark-colored, full-size pickup with a topper parked behind her. The pickup driver walked up to Boulden, who rolled down her window. He yelled at her for her poor driving and for using a cell phone, then returned to his truck, where a woman and two children waited.

Then Boulden walked back to the pickup and argued with him. The man wanted to leave, but she tried to keep him from shutting his driver's door. He shoved her so he could close the door, and she fell on the highway. Her cell phone fell and broke. He drove away.

Muelken said it's not clear, but it appears that Boulden crawled off the highway onto the shoulder behind her vehicle. Seconds later, a passerby stopped, picked her up and put her in her car at about 5:30 p.m.

"I think this is more accurate to what occurred," he said.

Reached at home Friday, Boulden maintained her story hadn't changed and questioned Muelken's account.

She said she leaned on, but didn't hold open, the truck door while talking to the man. But then "things escalated. I got frightened and threatened to call 911. It happened so fast. He was upset." About her earlier statement that the man had taken her phone and thrown it into the road, she said, "I don't know if he did grab my phone."

But, she said, "he pushed me hard enough where I flew in the air and landed on my back in the middle of the road. My medical reports show that. 

The truth as remembered

"I was knocked unconscious. I don't remember every little detail. I told the truth about everything I can remember that happened."

Boulden was hospitalized for about three days and said from her hospital bed last week that she had serious lower back and leg injuries and two herniated discs. She is home with her husband and five children and said she is getting pain treatments and therapy for her back.

Boulden admits she was at fault for cutting the man off. "I was just trying to make it right. ... I feel terrible about what happened."

Witnesses had no consistent description of the pickup or its driver, who has not been found. Based on what is known now, it appears he did nothing illegal, Muelken said.

Deputies would still like to talk to the man. His statement could support possible traffic citations against Boulden for failing to yield and inattentive driving, Muelken said.

The incident is a prime example of why officers try to avoid reaching conclusions until they talk to involved parties and independent witnesses, said Lt. Mark Peterson of the State Patrol.

"There's always two sides," he said. As for the pickup truck driver, Peterson said, "I hope he steps forward."

Jim Adams • 612-673-7658

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