Police: Joyrider used car as weapon

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Police: Joyrider used car as weapon

A reckless driver out to show off for his friends was arrested last month after he allegedly sped into oncoming traffic to scare a taxi driver, forcing the cabbie to veer into another taxi which smashed into a street lamp, breaking four of that driver’s teeth.

The 20-year-old joyrider, surnamed Choi, now faces a criminal charge of using a car as a lethal weapon in addition to traffic violations, police announced Tuesday.

It marks the first time a joyrider has been charged criminally. In the past, police have charged reckless motorcycle and automobile drivers with minor traffic violations, driving without a license or modifying a vehicle to make it noisier.

“Because [Choi] deliberately drove on the opposite side of the lane even though he knew he could hurt someone, we’re charging him with using his car as a lethal weapon,” an officer at Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said. “In this incident, the car was far more dangerous than any lethal weapon.”

Police didn’t charge Choi with a hit and run, even though he allegedly fled the scene of the accident.

“Hit-and-run cases are basically accidents caused by carelessness,” the officer explained. “But this was intentional. It warrants a charge of violence.”

According to police, Choi admitted that he raced into the opposite side of the road when he saw a taxi coming ahead.

Choi allegedly confessed that he risked the cabbie’s life “simply because he wanted to show off his driving skills to his motorcycle buddies, who were following him.”

The accident happened at about 2 a.m. on Dec. 20, when the drivers of four cars and 50 motorcycles started racing around Hwayang intersection in eastern Seoul.

Choi, driving a Hyundai Avante sedan, saw a taxi approaching in the opposite lane and suddenly swooped toward it, police said. The taxi driver instantly dived into another lane to avoid a crash, but hit the cab driven by a man surnamed Ryu. Ryu swerved to try to avoid the other taxi, but instead crashed into a street lamp, breaking his teeth.

Choi allegedly fled to avoid arrest, but he was picked up in early January after police examined accident footage from the black box in Ryu’s car and questioned witnesses at the scene.

The charges against Choi mark a change in the court’s definition of a lethal weapon, which in the past has been limited to such items as shards of glass, square wooden bars, scissors and bricks. But the term was stretched last May after the Incheon District Court deemed a woman’s high-heeled shoe could be considered a lethal weapon when it was used to blind another woman. The offender in that case received a 30-month jail term for her role in the assault.

By Kang In-sik, Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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