A Texas couple married for 40 years was driving home from a doctor's appointment this week, talking about what they were going to have for dinner, when suddenly a bullet shattered the passenger-side window of their SUV, mortally wounding the wife and leaving her husband begging her to keep breathing.
But 62-year-old Saron James didn't survive Tuesday's shooting near Houston and authorities say her death appears to be the result of a road-rage gunfight that she and her husband had no involvement in.
On Wednesday, James's heartbroken husband, Cleveland James, had a message for the still-at-large culprits responsible for his wife's death: "Give yourself up."
"You don't know what you have taken from us," he said in an interview with ABC affiliate station KTRK in Houston. "You have taken an angel. That woman was an angel. You will answer to God. What you did, you will pay for it."
The killing marked the latest in an alarming series of apparent road-rage shootings throughout the nation and came just days after a 3-year-old girl was shot to death in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when a motorist allegedly angry at the child's mother over a near accident opened fire on the family's car.
There have been at least 18 fatal road rage shootings and one fatal stabbing in seven states across the country in just the past three months, based on a review of news reports.
Cleveland James said he initially thought he heard firecrackers going off, before realizing his wife had been shot.
"I didn't even duck. I just turned away because there was smoke. I thought it was firecrackers and all this smoke started coming out and the force of the explosion. I turned to my wife and said, 'Saron, did you see that?' And she just was slumped over and that was the biggest shock to me," he told KTRK.
"Blood was all over, and it really struck me," he said. "How could this happen? I kept saying, 'Saron, stay with us, baby, stay with us. Stay with us, don't leave, stay with us.' Tried to keep her focused. But there was no response."
No arrests have been made, and investigators Wednesday morning were asking for the public's help in identifying the suspect or suspects.
"Our hearts are broken for them," Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said during a news conference Tuesday night, adding that James and her husband "were complete innocent bystanders."
Sheriff's officials are attempting to identify the occupants of a white Audi SUV that Cleveland James and independent witnesses saw speeding in the opposite direction after gunfire erupted, officials said.
"It could have again stemmed from another road rage incident," Gonzalez said. "Maybe they just got caught in the middle of gunfire."
Gonzalez said Saron James and her husband were just minutes from their home when tragedy struck about 6:20 p.m. on a desolate two-lane road in a suburb of Houston.
“”Give yourself up. You don't know what you have taken from us. You have taken an angel
Cleveland James told KTRK that he head at least four shots that he now suspects came from the Audi.
"It was young people," he said. "At least two people in the front seat."
Live press briefing for homicide on Old Greenhouse rd. Sheriff Ed Gonzalez https://t.co/fPZCtlO2wF— HCSOTexas (@HCSOTexas) July 17, 2019
Gonzalez said James told investigators that the last thing he and his wife were talking about was just what they were about to eat for dinner.
"It's very tragic that this would happen," Gonzalez said.
Several passersby stopped to help Cleveland James provide first aid to his wife, who later died at a hospital.
Please help us find justice for the James family. Yesterday, as they headed home from a Dr’s visit, & just minutes from home, Mrs. Saron James, 62, sustained a fatal gunshot wound. Its believed that the James’ were caught in the middle of gunfire from other parties. #HouNews pic.twitter.com/EmUvHyq1YO— Ed Gonzalez (@SheriffEd_HCSO) July 17, 2019
The incident came seven months after 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes was killed when a gunman fired on her, her mother and three sisters as they were riding in their car in northwest Houston.
Harris County Sheriff investigators identified two men suspected in Jazmine's death and both were charged with murder. Detectives believe the suspects mistook the car Jazmine's mother was driving for one belonging to someone they were feuding with.
Tuesday's shooting follows a July 4 incident near Houston that left two children, ages 1 and 2, and their parents injured when an 18-year-old motorist allegedly opened fire on their pickup truck igniting fireworks the family had just purchased.
Saron James was the second person killed in an apparent road rage shooting in Katy in 18 days. On June 28, a man was shot to death in Katy during a fight that erupted over a traffic dispute, according to the Harris County Sheriff's Office. Dietrich Thomas, 22, was charged with murder in the alleged road-rage shooting of 29-year-old Eric Starr.
Since April, road rage encounters have also led to fatal shootings in Indiana, Arizona, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, and Pennsylvania, and a fatal stabbing in Massachusetts, according to police.
"It's a very tragic situation," Gonzalez said Tuesday. "We've seen the spectrums in our community from losing our very young, to now again an innocent person of 62 years old."