WALTHAM — It seemed innocent enough, just a minor sideswipe accident on the turnpike. But even by Massachusetts road-rage standards, things escalated in a hurry, igniting a high-speed burst of rush-hour chaos that looked like a Hollywood stunt. It wasn’t settled until someone pulled out a gun.
On Monday, both drivers appeared in court on charges stemming from the heated incident, which featured a 65-year-old man somehow clinging to the hood of a speeding SUV for a couple of miles, hanging tight even during sharp accelerations to an estimated 70 miles an hour. The confrontation ended when a gun-wielding man ordered the driver out of his car and onto the ground, according to police.
The bizarre scene played out not on a lonely highway late at night but during the clutch of the evening commute. It was captured on video — naturally — and quickly became a head-shaking sensation.
The situation had taken an angry turn when the SUV driver, Mark Paul Fitzgerald, 37, of Ashland, refused to pull over after the accident, according to a police report.
The second driver, Richard Kamrowski of Framingham, then stood in front of the SUV to block its path and jumped on the hood when Fitzgerald began to drive away.
In an interview on Monday with NBC10 Boston, Kamrow-ski described watching the Jersey barriers whiz by as he hung on to the hood, terrified he would be thrown from the vehicle. “I would have been all done,” he said. “There’s no way I can let go. It’s not supposed to end like this.”
He said he smashed the windshield of the vehicle to get Fitzgerald to stop.
But Fitzgerald said Kamrowski was the instigator, attacking him before jumping on his car and smashing his windshield
“Mr. Fitzgerald reasonably decided ‘I need to get away from this man,’ started to drive away, and the man jumped onto the hood” of his car, said Fitzgerald’s lawyer, Michael Chinman. “The other party was the aggressor here.”
Fitzgerald was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a person over 60, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and leaving the scene of property damage.
Kamrowski was charged with disorderly conduct and malicious damage to a motor vehicle.
Both men pleaded not guilty Monday and were released on $500 bail and personal recognizance, respectively.
They are due back in Waltham District Court March 13.
Both men were heading home after work. Kamrowski has a metal refinishing business, and Fitzgerald works for STEMCELL Technologies in Cambridge.
The accident happened around 4:45 Friday afternoon on the Massachusetts Turnpike, westbound in Weston. According to a police report, Fitzgerald told investigators he was traveling in the left lane when his Infiniti SUV was struck by Kamrowski’s Ford F150 truck. Fitzgerald said traffic was “stop and go” when he noticed Kamrowski walking up to his car.
The men exchanged words before Kamrowski allegedly reached into the SUV and grabbed a water bottle off Fitzgerald’s passenger seat, the report stated. He then walked in front of the SUV and jumped on the hood.
Fitzgerald began to drive.
“Fitzgerald stated that he was in fear for his safety so he started to drive with Kamrow-ski on his hood,” the report said. Fitzgerald said he stopped several times and told Kamrowski to get off, but he refused, so Fitzgerald kept driving until several cars boxed him in.
A third motorist then got involved. The man got out of his car and pointed a gun at Fitzgerald, telling him “to exit the car and get on the ground.”
The man was identified in court papers as Frankie Hernandez, 49.
Hernandez told investigators he was “in fear of the safety of the man on the hood” so he drew his gun and ordered the driver out of the car, police said. Kamrowski slid off the hood.
A responding state trooper drew his weapon when he saw Hernandez with the gun and told him to drop it.
Hernandez shouted “I have an LTC,” or license to carry, and complied with the trooper’s order after he issued it a second time, the report said.
Hernandez was initially handcuffed but was released without charge once investigators confirmed he had sought to act as a good Samaritan.
Kamrowski gave investigators a decidedly different account. He said that Fitzgerald had drifted into his lane and struck his side-view mirror, the police report said. Kamrowski said he did not call 911 but wanted to exchange information with Fitzgerald, who had kept driving.
Kamrowski eventually caught up to Fitzgerald and, when traffic stopped, got out of his truck and approached Fitzgerald’s car. Kamrowski said he asked Fitzgerald to exchange information, but Fitzgerald indicated he wasn’t pulling over.
“Kamrowski stated that Fitzgerald then pulled his SUV forward, almost striking him,” the report said.
“Kamrowski then states that Fitzgerald drove forward more, causing him to jump onto the hood to not get run over by the SUV. Fitzgerald started to drive down the highway and Kamrowski smashed the water bottle into the windshield breaking it.”
One witness, Amir Schur, 46, told the authorities that he saw the two men arguing before Kamrowski ended up on the hood.
He said Kamrowski “jumped on the hood to avoid being run over,” and the Infiniti would speed up and brake hard in an attempt to “throw Kamrowski off the hood,” the report said.
Another witness, Raymond Fuschetti, 31, told police that Kamrowski “appeared to be very angry as he approached” Fitzgerald’s Infiniti. He said that Kamrowski walked in front of the SUV and jumped on the hood.
“He said the [Infiniti] would speed up and brake suddenly,” according to the report. “He said several vehicles had the [Infiniti] blocked in, but it stopped and took off changing lanes and sped up to an estimated 70 mph” before it was boxed in for good.
Kamrowski’s lawyer, Joseph Comenzo, said his client had grabbed the water bottle off of Fitzgerald’s seat out of self-defense.
But Fitzgerald’s lawyer said that after “minor contact between the vehicles” Kamrowski got out of his truck and appeared angry.
Asked why Fitzgerald drove for so long with Kamrowski on the hood, Chinman said his client feared for his own safety.
“It was a difficult situation,” Chinman said.
Danny McDonald of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Maddie Kilgannon contributed to this report.