OK, confession time — this probably isn’t properly a part of AATTP’s Non Award-Winning Series Only in Florida. While this particular incident took place in America’s Twilight Zone, there’s little reason it couldn’t happen anywhere else. That said…do not attempt to adjust your computer.
This is not a test. You are about to enter a place where the borders of reality intersect with the fantasies of madness. Where armed stupidity meets with American-style psychosis and entitled old farts. This is…ONLY IN FLORIDA. (cue Doctor Who theme music.)
We find ourselves in a place strangely known as Niceville, on the panhandle near Eglin Air Force base. Halfway between Panama City and Mobile, Alabama, Niceville is a stone’s throw from the Gulf Beaches and truly earns its name on its better days. The dawn of September 22nd would not herald one of 32-year-old FedEx driver Dale Pierson’s better days…but it might have been his luckiest.
Dale and his un-named co-worker were following another car down the exit ramp from the Southbound 85, onto the connector that runs east-west through Niceville.
As they pulled off, the car ahead of them began to swerve all over the road, like a rabid dog trying to shake a clothes pin off its tail. Dale and his co-worker looked at each other, and then into the car. The driver was an old man, 77 to be exact. He was gesturing wildly and appeared to be cursing into the rear-view mirror. He slowed down, and indicated the two should pull over. They did.
It’s hard to say if Dale and his co-worker were new to Florida — but evidence indicates they were.
The moment Dale stepped out of his truck, the old man, Ted Simmons, stepped out of his vehicle. He immediately raised a .380 revolver and pointed it at Dale’s head. Fire exploded from the barrel, and its lead round crashed through the air.
“It was so close to my ear, I thought it shaved it,” Dale later said. “My head was ringing.”
Dale saw his co-worker, who had a military background, exit the other side of the FedEx truck. He crept quickly along the passenger side of the old man’s car, keeping low and out of sight. Dale kept Simmons distracted, as his co-worker slithered around the front of the car.
The old man didn’t get a second shot off; he was grabbed from behind, his gun arm pinned and useless. Simmons was quickly taken down, and the police were called.
When they arrived, Simmons was arrested for two counts of aggravated assault with a gun; attempted murder charges may be pending. He told police he was angry because “the FedEx truck was tailgating” him. He was first taken to the hospital after complaining of shoulder pain, and booked into jail from there. The connector road was shut down for two hours.
And Dale’s take on all this?
“It was a pretty exciting day, to say the least.”
Maybe he’s Floridian after all.
If there’s a lesson from Dale’s story, it’s this: It pays to keep trained military personnel on hand at all times if you’re planning to survive a work-day in Florida. And if things keep going the way they are, that’ll be a good policy everywhere else, too.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.