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'That Was His Aim . . . to Kill' : Driver Recalls Tailgater's Lethal Blasts on Freeway

June 23, 1987|LONN JOHNSTON and NANCY WRIDE | Times Staff Writers

As investigators hunted for the tailgating driver who gunned down her boyfriend, Sandra Leigh Tait recounted a chilling tale Monday of weekend violence on the Santa Ana Freeway.

Rick Lane Bynum, a 24-year-old automotive machinist, who lived with Tait in Orange, was shot about 9:45 p.m. Saturday on the freeway in Santa Fe Springs and was declared dead outside a roadside restaurant to which Tait drove for help. His 3-year-old son, along on a Father's Day visit, was unhurt.

The gunman apparently was angry because Tait would not get out of the fast lane and allow him to pass.

Car Close Behind

"Just all of a sudden, there he was," Tait, 18, said in an interview Monday at the Lakewood home of Bynum's parents, tears sometimes interrupting her account.

She said she was driving 65 m.p.h. in the southbound fast lane when the tailgater appeared out of nowhere, "so close I couldn't see the headlights."

Bynum turned around and said, " 'What's that jerk doing? Slow down and let this car go around,' " Tait said.

So she braked to allow the car to pass, she said, because traffic prohibited her from changing lanes. The tailgater flashed his lights and then pulled alongside her Pontiac, she said.

Suddenly there was a shot, Tait said, that sounded "like a firecracker" and looked like "a blue flash." The couple turned toward the burst, and the window collapsed. Then came a second shot, and Bynum put his hands to his face.

"I looked over and couldn't see anything," Tait said. Then, she said, she asked Bynum, "Are you OK?"

His face in his hands, Bynum only shook his head.

"What's the matter, you can't talk to me?" she asked.

Bynum again shook his head, she said, and then slumped toward her.

It appeared, Tait said, that the gunman accomplished exactly what he had set out to do.

"That was his aim that night," she sobbed. "To kill."

Investigators Busy

Los Angeles County Sheriff's investigators said there has been no arrest but that investigators are following leads from about 100 calls from people offering information. Officers described the suspect as a dark-haired man with a mustache. Tait described his car as a yellow, early 1980s Toyota, possibly with primer spots on the right-rear quarter panel.

Bynum was recently divorced, but had custody of his son every other weekend, relatives said Monday.

Rick "worshipped his baby," said his mother, Lana Bynum. "The baby was worth everything to him. We just want to survive to bury him. It's so hard. We don't understand when someone is 24 and suddenly their life is gone. We don't understand."

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