Argument in Target Parking Lot Escalates into Hit and Run, Trial Set for July

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By Macy Lu

SACRAMENTO  — What began as a heated altercation between two drivers in a Target parking lot quickly escalated after defendant Joseph Lowater allegedly rammed his white SUV into the victim’s vehicle then sped off with the victim close on his tail.

The case, after conflicting testimonies at Lowater’s preliminary hearing, has now been set for July trial after Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Kevin J. McCormick’s ruling.

Detective Mark Callaghan testified last Thursday that Lowater was in a fix from the onset of the investigation. Based on a video taken by the victim, he reported that Lowater was driving illegally with an expired driver’s license and an outdated temporary license plate at the time.

After determining Lowater’s identity from the video, Det. Callaghan then contacted the victim to learn the specifics of the incident.

The victim told the detective she was at a light waiting in her gray Malibu to enter a Target parking lot when a white SUV pulled up a neighboring lane. Rather than go straight, as vehicles in that lane should, the SUV attempted to cut into her lane.

This act catalyzed an argument between her and Lowater, in which she tried to explain why she could not let him into her lane.

According to the defendant, however, that was far from how the scenario actually unfolded.

In his meeting with Det. Callaghan, he asserted that he was the one in the turn lane preparing to enter Target and beside him was another vehicle preparing to go straight. As he turned in, the other vehicle tried to cut into his lane from the back left side but could not, sparking their argument.

The victim claimed that sometime during the argument “there were some racial slurs passed her way from Mr. Lowater” as well as the threat that he will “shoot her,” to which her husband retorted from the passenger seat with “something along the lines of ‘are you serious?’”

The husband also allegedly threatened the defendant by repeatedly asking, “Do you want to die today?” According to the testimony of a nearby witness, Lowater had then shouted, “Do it! Do it!”

As the victim’s husband was preparing to step out of the car “to see if there was any damage,” the Lowater’s SUV accelerated towards her and rammed her car, stated Det. Callaghan. “If he had gotten his leg out, he was sure it would have been smashed, and he believed the driver of the white SUV was trying to hurt him or kill him.”

The damage Lowater’s SUV left was so severe that the victim and her husband “were unable to open the passenger door.”

From the defendant’s perspective, the accident was far less dramatic than how the victim framed it. Concerned “about the safety of his family” upon hearing the husband’s threats, Lowater merely “nudged” the Malibu “to get out of that situation” and to make space for the “cars in front of him and behind him.”

Det. Callaghan recalled that images of the car in the video taken during the accident seemed to suggest that the accident was more serious than a “nudge,” however. In fact, he stated that the damage “was more of a broadside than a side swipe.”

The two parties’ testimonies began to concur regarding the events that happened post-accident.

After the defendant allegedly damaged the victim’s Malibu, he dashed from the parking lot at a “high rate speed” without exchanging information with the victim, prompting her to follow him as far as she could before fainting at the wheel.

After she fainted, her husband took over the chase. Eventually, he gave up after the SUV entered the 80 freeway and decided to instead file a police report at the police department.

Assistant Public Defender Christopher Parkhurst asked whether the husband clarified how he was able to “effectuate the switch” after the victim fainted, Det. Callaghan replied that “they did not explain.”

Even with video evidence from both the victim’s camera and Target’s surveillance system, details of the case remained murky. Apparently, there was no audio on the videos nor could Det. Callaghan determine if the husband was speaking in the direction of the defendant. It was also unclear from the footage whether the husband tried to step out after he opened the passenger door.

A trial date has been scheduled for July 19—coincidentally Lowater’s birthday.

Macy is a junior from Orange County, CA, studying Communications and English at UC Davis. She loves meeting people, reading, and writing.


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