Family of men shot in road rage incident say ‘there is no justification’

Posted at 9:31 PM, May 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-29 22:22:58-04

SPARTA, Mich. — The family of two young men shot—one fatally—in an apparent road rage incident one week ago say there is no justification for what happened.

Donald Dudley, 20, was shot to death, while his younger brother Benjamin, 18, was seriously injured. The early morning incident happened on May 22 on M-37, north of Sparta Avenue NW.

The two brothers were being driven to work by Donald's girlfriend at the time, police and family said.

Robert Chipman Jr., 43, of Newaygo, told deputies he shot both men during a physical altercation. Chipman has a valid state concealed pistol license, investigators say.

Chipman has not been charged with a crime.

It remains unclear what exactly led up to the two vehicles pulling off to the side of the road where the shooting happened. The entire ordeal is believed to have stretched on for 6-8 miles before the vehicles stopped, relatives say.

"We’re not sure who cut who off, who initiated it, but the point is both parties were involved in this back and forth," said Brian Utter, an uncle.

“All we know is that at the end of this road rage incident, somewhere he pulled over, they had pulled over, and gunfire ensued."

It was Chipman who motioned for them to pull over, family of the brothers claim. They likely knew they were in for a fight, Utter said, but they weren't armed and never expected the other driver to have a gun.

Donald Dudley, 20, shot to the death in apparent road rage incident.

Donald was shot point blank in the head, family says, while Ben was shot at least three times, leaving him paralyzed.

Chipman called 911 after the shooting. Donald's girlfriend, who ran from the scene, also called police.

Relatives of the two men say they don't understand why Chipman is able to walk free while investigators work to determine exactly what happened.

"There is just no justification to get to that point to take the life of one, and then to severely injure another one like that," Brian Utter said.

Utter and other relatives reached out to FOX 17 saying they were unhappy with how the two young men had been portrayed in various news reports. They said they wanted Donald, or 'Donny,' to be remembered as a man with a "heart of gold," who loved skateboarding and music.

“People acted like this was justice, that somehow they deserved to be shot," said Bernadette Utter, an aunt. "They did not deserve to be shot."

Ben Dudley, 18, in his hospital bed, hugs his mother (courtesy photo)

On Monday, standing outside the downtown hospital where Benjamin, or 'Benny,' has been since the morning of the incident, Bernadette Utter began to cry as she described her nephews, never expecting she'd have to watch one be buried so soon.

“(Benny) can’t even be there for his brother’s funeral," she said. "There’s no right about it, it’s just wrong... and we’re hurting and we’re going to be hurting for the rest of our lives."

Donald's funeral is Tuesday May 30.

On Friday, Ben was finally well enough to provide a statement to police, his aunt said.

"He just said that he was honest," said Bernadette Utter. "And he told me, 'we did not start it.'"

The Kent County Sheriff's Department said Chipman was cooperating with investigators and is not being considered a suspect. Chipman did not return repeated calls from FOX 17 before the listed number was ultimately disconnected.

Investigators don’t believe drugs or alcohol played a role in the incident.