Local men victims of N.C. crime
Two not linked except for being hurt in same rampage
One man sits in jail, the other is vice president of a construction firm.
Seth Thompson, 34, took the witness stand Feb. 24 in the trial of the man accused in 2004 of running over Thompson during a 50-mile road rampage that injured five people and killed one. Meanwhile, 40-year-old Robert Fortier’s story was told to the jury in North Carolina by Fortier’s imprisoned former girlfriend.
Both former Grand Valley residents are lucky to still be around to tell their story.
“What are the odds we’re both here in 2004?” Thompson said in a phone interview Tuesday from North Carolina. “It’s unfortunate (Fortier) chose the path he did. It’s a shame he couldn’t testify, and I feel bad for him.”
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against 31-year-old Abdullah El-Amin Shareef, who pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to a host of charges. The jury is expected to start deliberations in the case later this week.
A 1994 graduate of Grand Junction High School, Thompson was the last of five victims allegedly struck by Shareef, who prosecutors say stole two vehicles the morning of April 14, 2004, while speeding along a rural stretch of highway covering two North Carolina counties.
Thompson testified last week he had let his dogs loose to run around 8:30 a.m., waiting for work colleagues to arrive at his father-in-law’s farm on State Highway 217, between Fayetteville and Raleigh, when a black pickup pulled onto the property and the driver honked a horn. Thompson said the pickup was at the top of a long driveway.
“I didn’t think anything of it and kept my eye on the dogs,” he said.
The pickup drove further down the driveway, stopping again roughly 50 feet away from Thompson as the driver still laid on the horn.
“As I got right up to the front of it, the driver floored it and hit me with the truck, knocked me down and drug me 40 to 45 feet underneath the front of the truck,” Thompson was quoted by The Fayetteville Observer newspaper, testifying last week in Shareef’s trial.
Thompson on Tuesday said he found himself jammed under the pickup’s front axle, his legs dangling toward the rear of the vehicle and his head inches away from a spinning tire.
“It felt like I was being pushed like a bulldozer,” he said.
Thompson was able to break free at the bottom of a hill, after the truck became stuck in a slick patch of grass, still wet from recent rains. Thompson pulled his arm out from underneath a tire, stood up and yelled at the driver, who sped away. Thompson got in his own vehicle and followed in a pursuit that reached speeds of 90 mph over roughly 10 miles and ended just inside the limits of a small town when Thompson lost track of the driver.
He left the encounter with a gash in his leg, road rash on his face and lingering back problems.
Thompson was hailed by officials in North Carolina as a hero for his actions during the incident because he was able to provide a license plate number and description, staying in contact with 911 operators during the chase.
Thompson’s father in Grand Junction, Doug, said reporters in North Carolina phoned, asking why he believes his son did what he did.
“He’s not a hero at all. He’s just got a really bad temper,” Doug Thompson said.
Before Shareef’s alleged encounter with Seth Thompson, prosecutors have claimed Shareef struck Fortier, whose former girlfriend testified last week in Fortier’s absence. According to the Observer’s account, the woman found Fortier screaming and struggling to walk as a van linked to Shareef sped away.
Shareef had rolled his window down and signaled for Fortier’s assistance, before lurching the van forward and striking Fortier, according to the newspaper’s account.
Fortier, a Fruita resident, was sentenced in December to Mesa County Community Corrections after pleading guilty to sexual assault charges involving a 14-year-old girl.
“The DA’s investigators said they searched extensively and had no idea where (Shareef) was until a month ago,” Seth Thompson said.