1 dead in possible road rage-related shooting

Don Dudley and Benjamin Dudley (undated photos)

SPARTA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — One man is dead and another is in critical condition after a suspected case of road rage led to a shooting on M-37 near Sparta, authorities say.

One of the drivers has been identified as Robert Chipman Jr., who was on his way to work at the time. Brothers Don and Benjamin Dudley and a female driver were in another car. Police said one of the brothers was being driven to work when the suspected case of road rage started near Kent City.

“Who instigated who? Was one tailgating another? Was one flashing the high beams? That was all said. There was some passing of the vehicles, I know that transpired during this …. maybe 5, 6 miles. We want to nail down exactly what was happening throughout interviews,” Kent County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Al Roetman told 24 Hour News 8 Monday afternoon.

Roetman said both vehicles eventually pulled off to the side of the road near the Sparta Chevrolet in the 9000 block of southbound M-37 and that some sort of fight ensued between the three men. That’s when Chipman pulled out a gun and shot the brothers.

Don Dudley died at the scene. Benjamin Dudley was rushed to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids and underwent surgery Monday afternoon. He was later listed in critical condition. Authorities said they have reason to be optimistic that he will survive.

Roetman said the female witness left the scene after the shooting. She called 911, as did Chipman.

Police say Chipman admitted to pulling the trigger. He was taken into custody for questioning, but later released and is not currently being called a suspect.

Robert Chipman, Jr. (undated photo)

“One area that we’re looking at is potentially self-defense was involved. But there’s a whole other side of the coin that we need to look at as well,” Roetman said.

Roetman said Chipman had a valid Michigan concealed pistol license. Authorities found the gun at the scene.

Police said the two parties did not know each other. Investigators are working to determined what led the vehicles to clash in the first place.

“What were they up to? What were they doing prior to this? What was their mindset? There are a lot of factors in this,” Roetman said.

Sparta Chevrolet Incident
Authorities investigate at the scene of an incident at Sparta Chevrolet in Sparta Township (May 22, 2017)

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

Authorities have interviewed the shooter and the female witness, but say the information they got doesn’t entirely match up. There do not appear to be any other witnesses.

Detectives were able to interview Benjamin Dudley before he went into surgery, but Roetman wouldn’t elaborate on what was said.

Investigators are now checking for surveillance video in the area.

24 Hour News 8 stopped by Chipman’s home in Newaygo County seeking comment on Monday, but a man on the property asked our crew to leave.

John Adkins, who worked with Don Dudley and lived with him at a home in Bailey, said he was shocked to learn of what happened.

“It wasn’t true… that it couldn’t be true. Only 20 years old,” Adkins told 24 Hour News 8 before heading to the hospital to check on Benjamin Dudley.

“He was a great friend and I’m going to miss him a lot,” Adkins said of Don Dudley.

Authorities shut down M-37  from 10 Mile Road to 12 Mile Road to investigate. The road reopened shortly before 7 a.m.

Investigators plan to forward the investigation onto the prosecutor to determine if any criminal charges should be filed.

**CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated the shooting suspect went to the hospital based on early reports from dispatchers. Authorities also incorrectly named the alleged shooter as Robert Shipman Jr. This story has since been corrected.**