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'Who does that?' Driver nearly runs over pedestrian in downtown Bethesda, then slaps him

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A slap to the face was so loud, a cell phone camera captured the sharp sound from approximately 35 feet away.

That slap was the climax to a road rage incident at the corner of Woodmont Avenue and Hampden Lane in downtown Bethesda. It was a Saturday, around 5:15 p.m. A man was reportedly using a marked crosswalk, and had the right of way, when he was nearly clipped by a black Jeep SUV.

Flustered, the pedestrian smacked the exterior of the Jeep, and shouted, "hey." The male driver slammed on the brakes, put the SUV in park, stepped into the roadway and stated, "you better keep walking." The driver then allegedly slapped the pedestrian in the face with such force, the victim's head turned.

"Every time I watch the video I am surprised by how clear the slap comes across," said Donald Bushman who happened to be standing on the street corner, and recorded video of the blow with his cell phone. "I mean, who does that?"

Bushman is a manager at Kapnos Kouzina, a Greek restaurant with a Mediterranean influence and modern twist. He affirmed the pedestrian was in the crosswalk when the near collision occurred, but that the physical confrontation spilled out of the protected zone and into the middle of Woodmont Avenue. That is where Bushman's 14-second video begins.

“You shouldn’t be slapping cars, but at the same time when you’re trying to cross the street and someone nearly hits you, it’s kind of knee-jerk reaction.”

Although the pedestrian was dazed by the sudden, unexpected whack, he had the presence of mind to use his cell phone to take a photo of the Jeep's license plate number. Officers ran that plate, which showed the owner to be Christos Gerrassimou, 24, of the 3000 block of Mimon Road in Annapolis. Police have charged Gerrassimou, who is 5' 10" and weighs 120 pounds, with one count of second-degree assault. That count carries a maximum of ten years in jail.

Reached by telephone Friday evening, defense attorney Thomas Maronick Jr. stated his client maintains his innocence as they enter the discovery phase of the criminal case.

This incident is a microcosm example of the underlying tension that exists between motorists and pedestrians. This year alone, 13 pedestrians have been killed in Montgomery County, and more than 400 others injured in varying degrees. In fact, Bushman shared that during his two years at Kapnos Kouzina, he has seen vehicles hit three pedestrians at the corner of Woodmont and Hampden. Each strike was a standalone incident.

“It’s something that needs to be taken more seriously by both fronts... both by the drivers and by the pedestrians as well. [Many] are either looking down at their phone or don’t really care about their surroundings," Bushman concluded.

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