SEPTEMBER 07, 2017 1:19 PM
A man in the Ozarks has been charged after he allegedly pointed his pistol at a woman because she had Democratic bumper stickers on her car.
Edward Burns of Ozark, Mo., was charged with felony unlawful use of a weapon in the late August incident. The woman involved, Laura Umphenour, crashed into a guardrail at highway speeds as a result of the threatening show.
An incident report issued by the Ozark Police Department sheds light on what happened: Burns pulled up alongside Umphenour’s vehicle and flashed an “L” sign with his hand.
Umphenour then flipped him off.
“Laura said she was scared and jerked the steering wheel, which caused her to lose control of the vehicle,” the report states. She then struck Burns’ vehicle before crashing into a guardrail.
Burns first denied pointing a gun at the woman to police but later admitted he had done so.
“I made a bad choice,” he told police. He added he thought the woman’s bumper stickers were “stupid.”
The statement said, “Edward is a conservative and the decals were liberal in nature.”
A gun was later recovered from a briefcase in Burns’ vehicle. Springfield lawyer David Ransin, who is representing Umphenour, said the gun was a .380 pistol. The incident report indicated it was loaded with six rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber.
Umphenour, a Fremont Hills, Mo., woman, said her bumper stickers have elicited laughs, discussions and “thumbs up or down” gestures in the past, but never a threat with a weapon.
Her attorney said the incident with Burns was prompted solely by the stickers.
“It had nothing to do with driving behavior,” Ransin said. “It was purely initiated by Mr. Burns and his disapproval of her exercise of her First Amendment rights with the bumper stickers.”
Umphenour’s bumper stickers included messages such as “Hillary,” “Right to work is a rip off,” “Resist,” “Coexist” and “Because of my faith I vote for Democrats.”
Ransin said heightened political division following the 2016 presidential race may have motivated the incident. Though he often deals with road rage incidents, he said he’s never had a case in which bumper stickers incited a threat.
“Our society has too short a fuse these days,” he said. “There’s no question that our political and societal present circumstances have escalated unreasonably to the level that people are too quick to anger.”
He added Umphenour was “traumatized emotionally” from the incident and suffered minor injuries. Her vehicle’s front end was damaged.
Ransin said he and his client will pursue a negotiated settlement with Burns. If a settlement is not met, Ransin plans to file a civil lawsuit for physical and emotional trauma.
Burns is no longer in custody after posting bail on a $5,000 bond, court records show. His next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 11.