WESTFIELD — A man faces an attempted murder charge stemming from a suspected road rage attack in which he pistol-whipped a Public Works employee in the head and tried to shoot him, documents allege.
A probable cause affidavit alleges Austin J. Weir, 38, of Westfield pointed a gun at the victim and pulled the trigger twice, but the weapon didn't discharge because the magazine had fallen out during a physical struggle between the two men.
The victim, a City of Westfield employee of eight years, and his colleague were trimming foliage Monday afternoon when they encountered Weir near the intersection of Grassy Branch Road and 196th Street, according to the affidavit.
The worker saw Weir coming eastbound on 196th Street in a pickup truck and motioned for him to slow down. It was then Weir shouted for the worker to "get the (expletive) out of my way," the affidavit alleges.
Weir then "said something about taking care of this right now," then went to his truck and got a handgun. Weir then chased the worker and struck him in the head with the gun, causing him to fall down and drop his trimmers, according to the affidavit.
While on the ground, the worker pulled Weir down and the two got into a physical struggle. At some point, the worker saw a magazine and bullet fall. Weir eventually stood up, pointed the gun at the worker's chest and pulled the trigger.
But the gun didn't fire, so Weir pointed it at the worker's head and pulled the trigger again. It failed to discharge a second time.
It was then Weir noticed the magazine had fallen from the gun. He was preparing to grab the magazine when the victim's colleague started yelling at him, causing Weir to walk back toward his truck and drive off.
As he was walking away, Weir shouted a racial slur toward the victim, who is Latino.
The victim and his colleague then got ready to call 911 but then flagged down an off-duty Westfield officer in his patrol vehicle.
The victim was transported to a local hospital to be treated for a bleeding abrasion to his head.
Westfield police found Weir's vehicle a few hours later at Scofield Ridge Boulevard and Hayward Way. Weir initially refused officers' commands, at one point saying, "I don't have to answer that," the affidavit alleges.
He also "began to act very fidgety, moving his hands around" before finally surrendering, according to the affidavit. He had a 9mm handgun in his waistband at the time.
Weir initially told police he acted in self-defense after being attacked by the victim and his colleague but later said he wanted to seek legal counsel, according to the affidavit.
Weir is charged with one count each of attempted murder, battery by means of a deadly weapon and battery resulting in moderate bodily injury and two counts of pointing a firearm at another person.
Westfield Mayor Andy Cook issued the following statement on the arrest.
"The arrest of a suspect in the assault and attempted murder of a City of Westfield Street Department employee this week, shocked and stunned the citizens of our city. Two of our Street Department employees were involved in an unprovoked attack on Monday afternoon when they were assaulted by a male with a handgun who attempted to discharge the weapon at one of our employees. Fortunately, the gun did not fire. The victim was then pistol whipped before the suspect left the area shouting racial slurs at the two men.
This incident has left me shaken and angry. This behavior has no place in our society and it won’t be tolerated in this city. Neither will intolerance and racism. The safety of our employees has always been my priority as mayor and an assault on one is an assault on our city. I’m grateful for our diverse workforce and the women and men who proudly serve our citizens. They deserve our gratitude and respect, not mistreatment. I’m relieved that the victim of this vicious attack is recovering and will soon return to work. I also commend Westfield Police for making a swift arrest.
As a city and as a society, we must address the difficult questions as to why this type of behavior is spreading across the country. Are we ignoring mental health issues, or are the consequences of criminal actions no longer a sufficient deterrent? Regardless we must find answers and quickly.
For as long as I am mayor, violence and racism will never find safe harbor in our city."