MERCED -- Rep. Dennis Cardoza is counting his blessings after an experience that California Highway Patrol officials called road rage.
Cardoza, D-Merced, said two men in their 20s tried to force him off Highway 99. Then they followed him off the freeway and one man violently banged on the congressman's car while he was stopped at a red light, he said.
The incident happened about noon Thursday, Cardoza said, as he was driving to a meeting in Merced, traveling south on Highway 99. Cardoza told the CHP he tried to switch lanes when he noticed a car covered in gray primer.
Cardoza said the two men in the vehicle became enraged as he drifted into their lane.
He said the two men pulled alongside his federally issued Ford Escape hybrid and began making obscene gestures. He said they then swerved in front of him as if they were going to run his car off the road.
"They were clearly outside the realm of civil responsibility," Cardoza said.
After Cardoza left the highway at 16th Street, he said the car's driver jerked it to a stop in front of his car by slamming on the brakes. He said the men leaped out of their car and began to charge his vehicle on foot. At that moment, Cardoza said he backed up his car and drove around them.
Cardoza said the men followed him in their car to 16th and V streets, where he stopped at a red light. One of the men got out of the car again, approached Cardoza's car, began pounding on it and tried to kick the car's side mirror. Cardoza, who had his car windows rolled up, yelled at the man, telling him that he was calling the police.
The men then jumped back into their car and sped away, the congressman said. The entire incident lasted about two minutes.