South Florida

No charges in fatal road rage stabbing. It was ‘Stand Your Ground,’ FHP decided

Duvarn “Devon” Fraser’s Facebook page is now a memorial site. Fraser, 26, died of stab wounds after a 2017 road rage incident in Riviera Beach.
Duvarn “Devon” Fraser’s Facebook page is now a memorial site. Fraser, 26, died of stab wounds after a 2017 road rage incident in Riviera Beach. Facebook

No charges in a road rage incident that left a man bleeding to death from stab wounds on I-95 in Palm Beach County on June 20, 2017.

That’s the decision the Florida Highway Patrol made Thursday after a 15-month investigation involving two brothers — Mario Rene Briceno Escobar, 45, and Jose Rene Briceno, 50 — and another motorist, Duvarn Nabarry Fraser, 26. While acknowledging that Escobar stabbed Fraser, and that he died from his stab wounds, the FHP declined to press charges against Escobar, The Palm Beach Post first reported Friday.

Florida Highway Patrol’s successful argument hinged on Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. The assistant state attorney in Palm Beach County agreed. FHP concluded that Mario feared for his life after two cars, one carrying the brothers, the other Fraser, sideswiped each other that afternoon. A verbal confrontation, followed by a physical confrontation escalated into a stabbing, according to reports.

Police received a call around 3 p.m. that day from a man who said there was a crash on I-95 and that a gun was involved. But that call was lost while officers took information from the man. Soon after, another call came in to 911 to report a fight was underway on the right shoulder of the interstate, north of Blue Heron Boulevard.

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According to the FHP’s offense report, when Trooper Michael Olaciregui arrived on the scene he saw a shirtless Jose on top of Fraser on the grass embankment with his hands on Fraser’s head, “pinning him down against the ground.”

The FHP trooper also wrote in his report that Mario was “holding a knife in the downward position” while he stood near a black Chevrolet on the paved shoulder. Mario also had a gun holstered in the waistband of his pants, the report said. Fraser had been driving the 2008 black Chevy Malibu. The brothers were riding in a 2015 Chevrolet Express passenger van.

Fraser had multiple injuries to his head, stomach and arms, the report said.

Several other troopers soon arrived on the scene, as well as detectives from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. One of the FHP troopers, Joan Cantelar, said in her report that Mario shouted to her, “It was all me. I did it myself.”

In a digitally recorded interview with the FHP that evening, Mario told troopers that after the crash, Fraser “stepped out in an aggressive manner and “displayed his handgun with his hand on it and went face to face” with Jose. After words were exchanged, Mario called 911 and told his brother to get back into his car.

Mario retrieved a knife from his van and tucked it into his waistband. Fraser, he told troopers, told him he had a permit for the gun, upon which Mario said he told him, “Yes, but not to kill us.”

The two clashed, and Fraser struck Mario in the face, Mario told officers. Fraser, he said, drew his handgun and attempted to fire a round. In a struggle, Mario said he stabbed Fraser once. He said if he “had not reacted, he and his brother would have been shot,” the report said.

Jose, in a separate interview, backed his brother’s story, saying that Fraser exited his vehicle, lifted his shirt to show his gun, and said, “Mother-------, I’m going to kill you right now, you hit my car.” Jose said he returned to his car with the intention of calling 911 but Fraser trailed him. Mario was already on the phone with 911, Jose said, and he took over the call to report the gun and the threat.

Jose said after the struggle and after disarming Fraser, he took his shirt off and wrapped it around Fraser’s bleeding left bicep and “began praying.” Fraser, Jose told officers, “apologized and began crying.”

In August 2017, detectives interviewed Fraser’s coworkers at Costco. They spoke highly of him and said he “never had issues with anyone while at work” and appeared “fine and did not get into any arguments with anyone” on June 20, a few hours before the crash on the road.

Fraser’s shift at Costco was from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. that day but he asked to get off work an hour early since he had been in Atlanta over the weekend and wanted to visit his daughter that afternoon. Fraser’s daughter is now 7.

Fraser clocked out at 3 p.m. Soon after, he tried to merge onto I-95 south, from Northlake Boulevard. Jose, who was driving his van, also attempted to merge onto 95 south at the same time.

By 3:11 p.m., the brothers’ first call to 911 was placed, alerting dispatchers of a crash.

FHP ultimately declined to press charges against Mario because the 911 calls suggested there was no premeditation.

“Based on the investigation to date, no charges are being filed on Mario Rene Briceno Escobar,” the FHP report read. “Briceno Escobar described an imminent threat to him and his brother, and acted on that threat to avoid being seriously injured or killed.

“That fact that Briceno Escobar called 911 prior to the incident escalating into a fight, attempted to wave over a law enforcement officer, and called 911 again once J. Briceno began to administer first aid, eliminates the suspicion that this incident was planned or staged,” the report said.

The FHP report also added that the brothers were not together from the start of the fight up until law enforcement arrived and gained control of the scene. So “it did not allow enough time for them to rehearse the similar accounts of the event that they gave during their separate interviews.”

Fraser’s final Facebook post, on the same day as his death, read: “The only way to turn up is to turn yourself up.”

Among the 89 comments, someone posted: “RIP BRO! You weren’t a confrontational person at all! You heart was so big! I know you made it to heaven! All prayers to your family.”

Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.