Road rage case: 'When we got that verdict, we got physically ill'

Road rage case: 'When we got that verdict, we got physically ill'

SEATTLE -- An Auburn, Washington, man who lost his eye during a road rage shooting is now dealing with a whole new pain after learning that the man charged in the horrific crime was acquitted.

Josh Deraitus said he knows exactly who shot him at point blank range. But that man will never see the inside of a jail -- at least for this crime -- and now Deraitus is forced to live the rest of his life with scars, but no justice.

The last 18 months have been a nightmare for Deraitus.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about it," he said. "It's one of those things that you're not going to find an answer for in this life."

In early January of 2011, Deraitus was driving home from the gym when he accidentally cut someone off on Military Road South in Federal Way. The driver of that car followed closely and became aggressive, trying to pass him several times, according to court documents.

Eventually, that driver pulled up to Deraitus at South 304th Street, pulled out a gun and shot him in the face.

"I just remember thinking, 'If I pass out, I'm not opening my eyes, and this is how I'm going to die here in the street.'"

Deraitus got out of his car to ask for help as the shooter drove away. It was a quick and horrifying interaction, but Deraitus said he got a good look at the man who nearly took his life.

"I saw his face," he said. "I saw him shoot me. I knew I was shot."

Medics rushed Deraitus to Harborview Medical Center, where he ended up losing his eye. His dad remembers the frightening phone call.

"You don't know if he's brain damaged, you don't know if he's dead or what's going to happen, so it was very, very difficult,' said Pete Deraitus.

Police eventually arrested Justin McCleod, a felon with a long rap sheet. McCleod was charged in the shooting, but earlier this week a King County Superior Court Judge acquitted him, claiming there was insufficient evidence linking him to the crime.

"When we got that verdict, we got physically ill," Pete Deraitus said. "We know that the justice system failed us in this case -- there's no question."

Despite the feeling of injustice, Deraitus hopes his story can help other victims of road rage move on with their lives.

"There are pros that come out of bad things like this," he said. "You get stronger. But you wonder, why do I gotta be this strong? There must be a reason."

Deraitus has had five surgeries to repair his face, and the shooting also cost him his senses of smell and taste.

The King County Prosecutor said he was disappointed with the verdict, but he respects the court's opinion.

McCleod is currently in jail on a separate charge.