A Pass Christian man has been sentenced to 40 years in prison following a road rage incident in June 2021.
42-year-old Rudy Desmond Toler received his sentence on Thursday, April 6 after being convicted on nine felony counts stemming from the incident.
It was revealed that Toler had shot at four Hancock High School students who were en route to a fair taking place at the Coast Coliseum in Biloxi.
During the teens’ commute, they testified that a vehicle operated by Toler was following closely while in the left lane on Highway 90 in Pass Christian. All four teens claimed that Toler pulled around them to the right lane, displayed a firearm, and pointed it in their direction.
As the incident continued to unfold, the students dialed 911, giving authorities Toler’s vehicle make and model, as well as his car tag number. While on the phone with a police dispatcher, Toler pulled ahead of the students into a nearby parking lot, then shot at their vehicle.
The jury heard that the bullet fired by Toler struck the right front wheel well of the car, passed through the wheel well liner, and entered the right front tire, causing the tire to go flat. The shot and its impact could be heard on the 911 call.
Within seconds of the shot, Long Beach Police spotted the two involved vehicles. Toler immediately fled after officers attempted to pull him over.
According to Assistant District Attorney Ian Baker, who prosecuted the case, along with Assistant DA Chris Daniel, police dash camera footage showed Toler driving at speeds over 90 miles per hour, running stop lights, and nearly striking a young child riding a bicycle.
Footage from body cameras worn by police showed the suspect opening fire on the officers that were pursuing him.
Upon seeing Toler point his weapon directly at the pursuing officers, police simultaneously fired upon Toler, striking him once in the head. Toler sustained a graze wound to the right side of his head, but immediately dropped his weapon, and was taken into custody.
Toler argued that he was depressed and suicidal at the time of the incident and that he did not intend to hurt the kids, but only intended to scare them. Toler also claimed that he did not shoot at the pursuing officers, but shot at the ground, in an attempt to commit “suicide by cop.”
When handing down the 40-year prison sentence, Judge Christopher Schmidt said, “It’s been said that every choice comes with a consequence. You cannot escape the consequences of your choices, whether you like them or not. In the end, we all make choices, and our choices make us.”
District Attorney W. Crosby Parker praised the four teenagers for their wisdom in contacting law enforcement while also boasting about the bravery of the officers involved in the incident.
“The jury’s decision in this case is a result of four high school students, who had the presence of mind to call 911 when faced with danger, and the courage to come to court and testify against their assailant. I cannot say enough about the brave officers of the Long Beach and Gulfport Police Departments, who came to their aid, put themselves in harm’s way, and performed their duty to protect and serve with the utmost professionalism. The Court conducted a thorough analysis during sentencing and handed down an appropriate sentence given the Defendant’s actions that day,” Parker said.