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Driver faces attempted murder charges in Lutz motorcycle road-rage incident (w/video)

An image take from video that shows a car driving over a motorcycle after a Memorial Day celebration Monday in Lutz. [WFTS-TV Ch. 28]
An image take from video that shows a car driving over a motorcycle after a Memorial Day celebration Monday in Lutz. [WFTS-TV Ch. 28]
Published Jun. 1, 2016

LUTZ — Joseph Calderazzo was riding to dinner on his Harley Davidson motorcycle Monday around 5:30 p.m. after a Memorial Day celebration when a silver Pontiac swerved into his lane, as if trying to force him off the road.

At the next traffic light at U.S. 41 and County Line Road in Pasco County, the Navy veteran said he offered the Pontiac's driver some "advice on his driving abilities."

That's when the driver of the car did something Calderazzo never expected: He backed up, yanked the steering wheel to the right and barrelled forward over the motorcycle, knocking Calderazzo and his passenger to the ground.

It was all caught on a video, now gone viral, shot by another motorist.

"We knew we got hit, but when you see the video, oh my God." Calderazzo said, "We could have died."

Somehow, the 46-year-old suffered only a broken fibula and sprained knee. His passenger, Melanie Ann Milinkovich, 41, was not injured. Both are from Tampa.

The driver of the Pontiac was 31-year-old Robert Paul Vance of Land O'Lakes, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. He sped off, but witnesses followed behind him, tracking him to 129 Lutz Lake Fern Road.

When a trooper arrived, Vance had already replaced a tire with a spare, according to the FHP. In the trunk, the FHP said they found a shredded tire, the damage consistent with the road rage incident.

Vance later admitted to running over the bike and driving away, according to the FHP.

He now faces two counts of attempted murder as well as charges of leaving the scene of a crash with injury and driving with a suspended license as a habitual traffic offender. He was being held Tuesday in the Pasco County jail in lieu of $115,000 bail.

"A few more inches to the right," said FHP Sgt. Steve Gaskins, "and he would have run the guy smack over."

Florida has declared Vance a habitual traffic offender — twice.

His driving record shows he has been convicted of offenses like DUI and reckless driving. His license has been suspended or revoked several times. His latest 5-year revocation is set to expire on June 4, 2017. He's also been repeatedly cited for driving without a license.

Records also show a history of more serious charges: He was convicted in 2011 on a hit and run charge and driving on a suspended license. In 2012, he was convicted of disorderly conduct and getting into a fight. He's done two stints in prison for drug charges.

Two panicked female 911 callers couldn't believe what they saw — or that Calderazzo and his friend were able to stand up afterward.

"Yeah, uh, we just got got run over by a car," Calderazzo told 911 minutes after the crash. "It was a hit and run."

Listen in: Hear all the audio from the 911 calls here

Abe Garcia, the motorist who posted the video to Facebook and YouTube, described the altercation as moving from zero to 100 "real quick."

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Garcia, 26, saw the silver Pontiac driving erratically while he was en route to his Wesley Chapel home. That's why he pulled out his camera phone.

He watched as the car's back wheels hung in the air while it moved over the top of the bike.

"Realistically, I knew something was going to go down and I knew it could be useful to the police," Garcia said. "It wound up being completely crazy."

There's no one kind of road rage driver, Gaskins said. It's a problem with no specific demographic.

"It could be grandma who pulls out a pistol," he said.

Social media is filled with local incidents. An undated YouTube video that shows a scuffle between a driver and bikers in the middle of the Courtney Campbell Highway went viral in April. After a motorcyclist punched the driver, his passenger exited the car wielding a pistol.

In May, Tampa police released a video of an SUV seemingly trying to run motorcyclists off the road on the Howard Frankland Bridge.

"This kind of behavior compounds itself very, very quickly," Gaskins said. "You're dealing with a 4,000-pound missile … a car."

Gaskins said drivers who fear a situation is about to escalate into a road rage incident should give the aggressor space and avoid provocation. Even a glance can set someone off, he said.

Calderazzo said his Monday started off beautifully. A Navy veteran who served in the 1990s, he got on his bike early to make it to Bushnell for the annual Memorial Day ceremony at Florida National Cemetery. He was on his way to dinner when he met Vance.

"This escalated to the possible highest degree," he said. "It's unfortunate it happened, but we're fortune to be alive."

Calderazzo, who is now on crutches, said this wasn't the first time he's found himself dealing with a "road rager." He doesn't expect it to be the last time.

"People get distracted on cellphones, not paying attention," he said. "They're raging over someone else that did something sometimes … They don't care about another human life."

Contact Sara DiNatale at sdinatale@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3400. Follow @sara_dinatale.

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