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Simple fender bender escalates into alleged death threat

This past Sunday at about 2:30 p.m., a Sunnyside woman, who wishes to remain anonymous for safety reasons, was threatened by a male subject after a minor traffic accident in the Sunnyside Bi-Mart parking lot.

The woman said she was pulling out of a parking space and a Chevrolet Impala sped into the parking lot. She said she didn't have time to stop before the two vehicles collided.

"I was most of the way out of the parking stall," said the woman, stating she followed proper procedure after the collision and exited her vehicle to exchange insurance and registration information with the driver of the second vehicle.

"My right back bumper was struck by the Impala," she said, stating the driver of the other vehicle didn't exit his vehicle.

"He just sat there, staring at me," the woman said, stating a female was in the front passenger seat of the Impala and a child was in the back.

After what seemed an extended pause, the driver of the Impala sped off and the woman said it caught her off-guard.

"I was doing what I was supposed to...it shocked me because I have never been the victim of a hit and run," she said.

The woman said she tried to read the license plate of the Impala, but it was muddy and obscured.

"I wanted to get at least three numbers, but couldn't."

She said the Impala traversed the parking lot and proceeded up an aisle parallel to the one where the accident occurred. She was still standing outside her vehicle when she witnessed the driver of the Impala on his cell phone. He closed the phone, rolled down his window and gestured to her with a shooting motion to his head.

That is when the woman said she heard him shout a threat on her life.

Clearly shaken, the woman said she was eager to go home. She said there were two witnesses to the incident, but neither of them would admit to having seen the exchange.

The woman said she left the Bi-Mart parking lot intent on reaching her home when she noticed a second vehicle following her.

"I just wanted to get home, to get safe...but a newer model vehicle slowed way down and stopped in front of my house about 15 minutes after I got there," said the woman.

She had already notified Sunnyside police about the accident and the threat to her life and the vehicle stopping in front of her home nearly paralyzed her with fear.

She watched the vehicle from inside her home and said two passengers, one in the front seat and one in the back, were staring intently upon her home.

"They just stared and stared...it was scary and it wasn't for just a couple of seconds," said the woman.

"I wanted to close my blinds, but was afraid to."

She said she had the urge to run outside and obtain the license plate of the vehicle, but was afraid to leave her home.

The woman again called police and she said officers arrived within minutes of her call. "It was a really quick response."

Sunnyside police Sunday night patrolled her neighborhood and Monday morning visited her home to discuss the situation. She said officers from the Yakima County Sheriff's Office have also become involved.

That night her local I-Watch group held an emergency meeting. "They have been very supportive," said the woman.

She said Sunnyside Police Chief Ed Radder and several past and present members of the Sunnyside City Council attended that meeting.

"Everyone has shown a great deal of concern and care for me," said the woman.

Her local I-Watch spokesman, Dr. Jim Stevens, is especially concerned. She said he closed his office Monday to help her, and he called the I-Watch meeting. He also alerted the media.

He has also been exchanging communications with the police department to help curb crimes like the one that occurred Sunday.

In his emails, Stevens says he believes the suspects involved are gang members. To that, the woman said, "There isn't any way to know that...he was wearing blue, but that doesn't mean he is a gang member."

Stevens believes otherwise, that the suspects are at least gang affiliated and this was an act of terrorism. "A death threat is a felony and we all need to be outraged about this," Stevens said.

He continued, stating, "The act of sending others to her home made matters worse."

Stevens feels no person should be afraid of going to the store. No person should be afraid a simple accident will escalate to the level of this past Sunday's incident.

"This is an American citizen on American soil being terrorized and this is absolutely unacceptable," said Stevens.

With tears in her eyes, the woman said the incident has impacted her greatly. "I'm scared, but I'm not going to be a prisoner," she said, stating she has learned just how much her neighbors care.

"We are all looking out for one another and law enforcement is doing what they can," she continued.

"I have such respect for them."

The woman said she is also intent on speaking out in the next legislative session. Although she doesn't know whether or not the suspects involved in her case are gang members or not, she wants to be involved. She wants the legislature to pass the gang bill proposed by Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna.

"I am nervous, but I have to do it," she said.

The Sunnyside Police Department is investigating the incident. Anyone with information regarding the accident, alleged threat or any other details related to the case is urged to call the Sunnyside Police Department at 836-6200.

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