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Truck driver choked driver in road-rage incident, troopers say

FHP investigates attack on I-75 near SR-40

Michael Kelly, 55
Michael Kelly, 55 (MARION COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT)

OCALA, Fla. – A Florida truck driver is arrested on allegations that he punched another driver in the face and choked him with a belt, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Troopers said Michael Kelly, 55, of Jacksonville, punched the driver in the face and choked him after they pulled over near Ocala.

Kelly was driving a 2013 semi hauling cargo south on Interstate 75 approaching State Road 40 when a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, driven by a 27-year-old man from Citrus Springs, merged onto the interstate from S.R. 40, troopers said.  Kelly signaled for the Jeep to go ahead of him, trooper said.

FHP said that after the Cherokee merged, Kelly got upset and bumped the Jeep at least three times in an attempt to get the driver to pull over. Both vehicles stopped in the area of mile marker 348.

The men got out, and Kelly punched the other driver in the face, then took off his belt, hit him with it and wrapped it around the victim's neck and while choking him, saying, "I'm going to kill you," according to an FHP news release.

The 27-year-old driver yelled to his passenger to get his gun, but Kelly ran back to his truck, according to FHP officials.

Troopers said the driver had marks on him after the struggle.

Kelly told troopers that, after he allowed the Jeep to merge, he wanted to pass but the driver threw something at his truck. Kelly said he got mad, pulled in behind the Jeep and bumped it about three times, according to troopers.

Troopers examined the semi, but found nothing to indicate that anyone had thrown something at it. However, the Jeep did show damage, trooper said.

Kelly said he had argued with the man and admitted punching and pulling a gun on him, troopers said.

Witnesses told troopers that they saw Kelly using the belt, and one of them said he had to pull Kelly off the man. Witnesses said they never saw the other driver with a gun.

Kelly appeared in court early Friday on charges of aggravated battery, battery and attempted murder. Bond was set at $40,000.