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Driver who smashed window in Grand Forks road-rage incident says he's not at fault

GRAND FORKS -- A Grand Forks man who broke the back window of vehicle in a road-rage incident this weekend called the Herald on Tuesday to share a version of events far different than what the other driver told police.

Josh Fonder, 26, said he was heading west on DeMers Avenue in his white sports-utility vehicle Saturday evening when he passed a dark-blue SUV that was doing about 30 mph in a 40 mph zone. The driver of the dark blue SUV, 26-year-old Travis Rambel, told police that Fonder tailgated him and then cut him off, but Fonder denies those allegations, saying that he simply passed Rambel, who then drove alongside him and yelled at him.

"I really don't know what I did to him," Fonder said.

Fonder said Rambel pursued him to his apartment on the 1900 block of South Columbia Road. Fonder said he drove close to 90 mph to get away.

"I was driving erratically," Fonder said. "It was because I was afraid."

Fonder said Rambel quickly approached him once he parked at the apartment complex.

"By the time I could even reach my door handle, his head was in my window screaming at me," Fonder said.

Fonder said Rambel tried but wasn't able to grab him through the window and eventually spit gum in Fonder's face. Worried about what might happen next, Fonder said, he got his 5-year-old son's baseball bat from his backseat and approached the front driver's side of Rambel's SUV.

"I honestly thought he was trying to assault me," Fonder said. "I feared for my safety. That's the only reason I did what I did."

Fonder said Rambel peeled out nearly hitting him and that, as the SUV drove past him, he defensively swung the bat, shattering the rear window.

Rambel told police he followed Fonder and scolded him at the apartment. "I told the driver he should be a little more careful because I had a baby with me and he was driving like a jerk," Rambel's written statement says.

Fonder, who had no passengers with him, wonders why Rambel was driving so fast if he had a baby with him. "If he was so responsible, why didn't he call the police while he was chasing me?"

Fonder acknowledged he should have called the police while he was being chased or after the incident but said he dropped his phone in a snowbank when he got out of his SUV and didn't find it until hours later. Rambel left the scene before reporting the run-in to police, who estimated the window damage at $400.

Fonder said Rambel got his license plate number wrong, explaining why police weren't able to match the plate number with the car.

Sgt. Bill Wyatt said no one has been arrested or charged in the incident, which remains under investigation. Fonder said he's hired an attorney but does not expect to face charges.

Rambel has not returned phone messages.