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Auburn man fortunate to be alive after road rage shooting

The suspect in the shooting was driving a black luxury sedan, and is described as being a nonwhite, possibly Hispanic man between 20 and 30 years old. Anybody with any information is asked to call the Federal Way Police Department at 253-835-6835. - Sketch courtesy of Federal Way Police Department
The suspect in the shooting was driving a black luxury sedan, and is described as being a nonwhite, possibly Hispanic man between 20 and 30 years old. Anybody with any information is asked to call the Federal Way Police Department at 253-835-6835.
— image credit: Sketch courtesy of Federal Way Police Department

Josh Deraitus' life changed in a flash.

That flash and the .40-caliber bullet that followed hard on it came out of the barrel of a handgun, smashing into his face as he sat in his truck waiting for a light to change in Federal Way. The bullet took his eye and mangled his nose but it also gave something to the 30-year-old Auburn man.

“I think I really got a second chance at life that day,” Deraitus said. “Honestly, my faith in God has been strengthened by this. I feel like I had an instantaneous transformation of faith within myself at that point. Everything in my life became crystal clear and prioritized. I need to take advantage of that and live with a purpose and help other people.”

It all happened about noon on Jan. 2 as Deraitus, on his way to pick up his 4-year-old son for the day, drove his white pickup truck down Military Road in Federal Way.

“I was pulling out of the Walgreen's parking lot near the intersection of Military Road and 288th Street (Southwest),” he said.

Looking to the left, Deraitus saw a black luxury sedan or coupe approaching. With the posted speed limit at 40 miles per hour, Deraitus figured he had time to pull out safely.

“He was traveling at a greater speed than 40,” Deraitus said. “So when I pulled out, he came right up on me really quickly. And we were basically in a tailgate situation. I thought, 'I'm not going to go 50 or 60 just because this guy is doing 60,' so I just maintained 40.”

For the next couple of miles the car tried to get around Deraitus, once on the right-hand side and once on the left. Both times traffic stymied the driver, forcing him to drop back behind Deraitus.

As he approached the intersection at Military Road and 304th Street Southwest, a stoplight controlled four-way intersection, Deraitus said the car was “so close I could hardly see him.” Despite the driver's aggressiveness, Deraitus said he wasn't intimidated or frightened.

“He never brandished the pistol or did anything to scare me at all,” he said. “I didn't know he had a pistol, I just knew he was tailgating me.”

Deraitus, continuing south on Military, stopped at a red light with the car behind him moving into the right-hand turn lane, which had a green arrow at the time.

“He pulled into the lane on the passenger side of the truck,” Deraitus said. “I looked because I wanted to see the guy who was tailgating me, and as I looked, he pulled up slow. The first glimpse I got of him, he already had the gun out. He didn't say anything or try to scare me with the pistol or flash the gun. He just fired one shot and basically hit me right between the eyes.”

Here's an update from King 5 News. The victim, Josh Deraitus, lost his eye:

The bullet smashed through the glass of his passenger door and hit him in the face, knocking him out for a second.

“When I came to, I remember thinking 'I'm going to die,'” he said. “Then I realized 'I'm still thinking, I can't be dead' and I felt my truck rolling.”

Deraitus had the presence of mind to stop the truck and put it in park, although he couldn't dial 911.

“I realized then that I was still alive, of course, and that I was bleeding pretty bad,” he said.

After several attempts he got the driver's side door open and walked to the back of his truck, hoping that someone would see him and stop to help.

“And that's what happened, a couple of witnesses stopped and called 911 and assisted me until the paramedics arrived,” he said.

Although it took only took a few minutes for aid to arrive, Deraitus said he felt an eternity pass.

“Every minute was like an hour,” he said. “It was kind of surreal. I've had first aid training at my work, so I knew I needed to get something on my face to put pressure on it to keep the blood in. I also knew I didn't want to look down, because the blood was gushing out. So I just looked up.”

Deraitus stayed conscious and was sufficiently coherent when he was put in the ambulance to give the paramedics his name and tell them what medications he was allergic to.

On the mend

Today, after a couple of surgeries, Deraitus is out of the hospital and beginning the ardous process of rehabilitating and rebuilding.

“For having what happened, it was the best case,” he said. “I didn't die, and it didn't hit my brain. I lost my eye and part of my nose, but looking back, it's the best case that could have happened in the situation.”

He's staying with his parents - Karen and Peter Deraitus, also of Auburn – and preparing for as many as nine surgeries to rebuild his eye socket and nose.

“And I have to get a prosthetic eye and repair the soft tissue. That will be over the next eight or nine months to a year.”

Along with his rehabilitation, Deraitus said he's focused on helping police find the man who shot him.

“They haven't found him yet,” Deraitus said. “We're doing what we can to expose it to the media. We don't want it to happen to somebody else. We feel that this person has probably done it before and is probably willing to do it again. We want him to get caught before he does it to someone else.”

A traumatic and life-changing event such as this can affect people in a multitude of ways. For Deraitus, it's all about realizing that he has a second chance and that he needs to live to the fullest.

“Right now, I'm putting time in on my own faith and making changes in my life, readjusting what is important,” he said. “Faith, family and friends go to the top of the list, and everything else kind of becomes less important.”

He continued:

“I don't have any anger,” Deraitus said. “My faith has filled the void that possibly could have been consumed with anger. I don't have a person to focus it toward, either. I know it would only be anger in my life. I don't have anywhere to place it.”

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Have you seen this man?

The suspect in the shooting was driving a black luxury sedan, and is described as being a nonwhite, possibly Hispanic man between 20 and 30 years old. Anybody with any information is asked to call the Federal Way Police Department at 253-835-6835.

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