I-526 road rage video goes viral

This image from a YouTube video shows a cruiser changing lanes in front of Chad Walton of Summerville.

The squad car zips around the truck and then its brake lights flash. The two vehicles collide, and then it’s on.

The road rage incident between a North Carolina deputy and a driver on Interstate 526 was caught on camera and posted online, drawing hundreds of thousands of clicks on YouTube.

The driver, Chad Walton, 32, of Summerville, posted the video Tuesday.

The deputy turned in his resignation Wednesday, according to a statement from the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina.

Walton told The Post and Courier he posted the video of his encounter with the deputy because the deputy should be held accountable for his erratic driving.

But, it’s not Walton’s first traffic dust-up with law enforcement.

Last year, he filed a very similar complaint against a North Charleston police officer, police said.

The latest encounter has generated major traffic on social media sites.

Walton told the newspaper he started recording the cruiser as he was driving behind it on I-526 at about 6:30 p.m. Monday. Walton said the deputy was traveling about 50 mph in the left lane.

“He was holding up traffic. I flashed my high beams at him. I could see him yelling at me in the side-view mirror,” Walton said. “I just thought ‘he’s going to do something stupid’ and if I don’t record it, no cop is going to believe me.”

At the end of the nearly two-minute video, Walton is seen passing the cruiser on the right. Then the cruiser is seen pulling alongside Walton, speeding up and pulling in front of Walton, and then hitting the brakes.

The driver of the cruiser, identified by police as Craig Culpepper, 47, of Jacksonville, N.C., braked suddenly, causing Walton’s car to hit the cruiser, according to a North Charleston traffic collision report released on Wednesday. No citations were issued to either driver. The deputy was shown as contributing to the accident, according to police spokesman Spencer Pryor.

No one was injured, according to police. Walton said his truck has a small amount of damage on the bumper. Walton said he called 911 while he was still traveling on the interstate.

In that 911 call obtained by The Post and Courier through a Freedom of Information Act request, Walton can be heard telling a dispatcher about his run-in with an Onslow County sheriff’s cruiser near the Ashley River Road exit.

“I’m about to pull over. I’m going to tell you right now, if this guy gets out of his car, he’s going to have a rude awakening,” Walton told the dispatcher.

The dispatcher advised Walton not to make threats on a 911 line. Walton is then heard yelling and telling the dispatcher the man was following him.

Walton said he and the driver of the cruiser pulled into the parking lot of Northwoods Mall, where they met with North Charleston police.

Walton is also heard on the 911 call yelling at someone once he arrives in the mall parking lot. “You lost your mind?” Walton said. “I suggest you stay over there.”

The collision caused about $150 worth of damage to Culpepper's cruiser, according to the police traffic report.

Culpepper posted an apology for his actions on his Facebook page Wednesday. He said he was driving home from a 40-hour K-9 handler training course on Edisto Island when he “allowed another person to manage my emotions and I made a very bad decision.”

He went on to write:

“I was being tailgated by another driver in a much bigger hurry then I was, and I reacted to his impatience by creating a situation that could have had very serious consequences. I have embarrassed; myself, my family and my fellow law enforcement officers. I apologize to any law enforcement officer’s that feel any repercussions for my actions. As a result of my actions I am no longer a deputy with the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office; this I am very hurt by, I loved my job, the people I worked with and the citizens I worked for; and it drives home the mistake I made. Let me be clear I made a mistake, I own it, it’s mine and I will not try to hide it or cover it up.”

Officials with the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office released a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

“The audio recording, along with the video, was disgusting with obscene language by the irate motorist about the Sheriff’s vehicle holding up traffic,” it stated. “By video and audio, it appeared the motorist was recording this footage as a message for a future use.”

Culpepper resigned immediately after the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office administrative staff and the sheriff addressed the matter with him, according to the statement.

Walton has been in a similar situation before. He filed a complaint with the North Charleston Police Department last year on March 12 telling officers that he was on the interstate being tailed by an officer in a reckless manner.

The report states that Walton told police that he tapped his brakes and the officer went around him, traveling in and out of traffic and that the officer disregarded traffic lights at the mall.

The claim was found to be “false and not factual,” according to Pryor.

Walton has been arrested several times for traffic offenses, including reckless driving, failure to stop for blue lights and driving under suspension, according to a State Law Enforcement Division background check.

Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.