Florida Man On Wheels: Marco Mazzetta Sets
Bar, Michael Popper Accepts Challenge

Florida Man Marco Mazzetta is an absolute obliviot, so why would anyone want to follow his example? Well keep reading, because Florida Man Michael Popper followed Mazetta like he was a recipe. [Jump to that 2022 Update]

“Florida Man” really is a thing, and apparently so is “Florida Vehicle” (which, to be fair, is just a vehicle with a Florida Man at the wheel). Such stories led the past two issues (and ended up as Story of the Week both times), so let’s take a closer look.

Last week's story.Last week it was an accident, more or less. (Click to see larger.)

More because it was accidental, but less because shouldn’t a professional truck driver 1) know how to secure his vehicle properly, and 2) grasp that the “Bridge Clearance” sign applies to him? Well, apparently not in this case.

But that’s child’s play. Wait’ll you get a full understanding of Marco Mazzetta’s mentality. Let’s start with his story, from True’s 4 October 2020 issue:

This week's story.He probably was minding his own business while tooling down the FL-417 highway outside Orlando, when a Nissan 370Z zoomed up and tailgated him.

So the Nissan “started it” — but Mazzetta escalated: he says he “brake checked” the guy, which caused him to bump into Mazzetta’s truck’s rear bumper.

That, of course, set Mr. Nissan off, and he zoomed around Mazzetta, who had a friend in the passenger seat. When the Nissan was in front of him, Mazzetta says, the other driver flashed a gun out his window (all the photos on this page are captured from his dashcam, which helpfully shows both the view ahead and inside Mazzetta’s truck cab and out through the back window):

Breaking it Down

Well, it might be a gun, and probably is; let’s just assume it is and break this down:

  1. The Nissan driver’s gun isn’t pointed at him,
  2. Mazzetta has total advantage in that he’s behind the Nissan, and in a much larger vehicle, yet
  3. he “feels” he’s in some sort of danger, so he
  4. pulls out his own pistol and starts shooting, right through his own windshield,
  5. which means his bullets aren’t going the direction he wants them to after being deflected through safety glass, and
  6. it’s almost impossible to control your own moving vehicle and shoot any gun, let alone a handgun, and actually hit another moving target while simultaneously being sure not to hit innocent bystanders (bydrivers?) in the vicinity.

Every one of those points is an element of incredible obliviocy.

But Wait, There’s More!

Look closely at this screengrab taken as Mazzetta is pulling his gun:

According to his own drivecam, which apparently is GPS-equipped, he’s speeding along at 98 mph to catch up to or keep up with the Nissan! And, as he lines up to take the shots:

…he’s still going 96 mph.

I also like how this makes it clear that Mazzetta isn’t leaning out the window to shoot, he’s rather shooting through his own windshield, which resulted in him and his passenger getting sprayed with pieces of glass. A later view toward the front shows damage to the glass: see below for the news report from WESH Orlando.

Self Defense?

Chasing after someone to shoot at them doesn’t sound much like self-defense to me. If he was afraid for his life because of the brandished firearm (even if it was pointed at him), all he had to do was take his foot off the gas, and take the next turn after the other driver passes it. That sure sounds a lot safer than the path he decided on.

And remember, all of this is based on his side of the story! As far as I’ve heard, the Nissan driver hasn’t been identified.

I did check to see if, in the nearly two weeks since this happened, there are any updates — such as Mazzetta being arrested for wanton endangerment. So far, nothing, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that charges were filed against him.

Did I say “obliviot” yet? Because it definitely fits. Statistics show that civilians using guns to defend themselves are much more likely to not injure an innocent bystander, such as the previous shooting breakdown I did in July — a police shooting: Peak Stress. In this case, the civilian with the gun sure looks like the “crazy” party.

The Video

2022: Presenting Mazetta’s Protégé (the Perfectly Patronymed Popper)

First, the story (again, you can click to see it larger).

The story is enough, but the video that supplied the still frame capture in the story is a gem.

It’s below, only one minute long, and has sound.

You can hear the other motorist honking at Michael Popper. His response is to curse — then slam on his brakes, just like Mazetta — and take off again.

Popper clearly expects trouble from what he did: he casually opens his center console and unlocks a safe in there, from which he pulls out a pistol. He very casually waits for the other car to get beside him, and then he starts shooting, freaking out as he empties his gun: 10 rounds plus the 1 in the chamber.

Here is the result (police photo of the victim’s car):

Interestingly, it appears only one of the four shots penetrated the metal: bullets are clearly slowed way down by going through a windshield …though I’d also like to see Popper’s car!

A gun going off inside an enclosed vehicle has got to be dangerously loud. His answers to police questions were probably mostly “What?” and “Huh?”

The caption to the video indicates Popper is a fire inspector. The audio is a bit loud, so you may want to turn your volume to low before clicking play:

After watching the videos the question to ask yourself is this: do either of these men appear to be in such genuine fear for their lives that they need to resort to deadly force in their defense? Sure doesn’t look like it to me.

I was surprised that I never found any reports of Mazetta (the first shooter) being prosecuted. If I don’t later find a report about Popper’s prosecution, I’ll be utterly amazed.

March 2023 Update: Utterly Amazed

I looked in late 2022 for an update, and found nothing whatever. But now, there is one: “The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office has dismissed charges against a man who opened fire from his car on I-95 nearly two years ago,” reports WPLG in Miami. They didn’t bother to say what the charges were. Wanton endangerment? Assault with a deadly weapon? Obvious obliviocy? It should be all of the above.

The source story I used back in January 2022 said the charge (singular) was aggravated assault with a firearm. But stories now say charges (plural). It took me just about a minute to find the answer: aggravated assault with a firearm, and firing a deadly missile, both felonies. Who published that info? WPLG. I guess its reporters today can’t be bothered to look up what they previously reported themselves!

The Florida Highway Patrol investigated the case and found the other driver did not have a gun. Yet, Eric Popper maintains, he’s still sure the driver shot at him. You know, with that plastic water bottle. (Wait: Eric Popper? That’s what the story says, even though he was initially identified as Michael Phillip Popper. WPLG didn’t bother to explain that, either.)

Screenshot from the video. Note the passenger window is already shattered from the first shot.

“I think under the stand your ground law, Mr. Popper was perfectly reasonable and justified in his actions,” said Popper’s paid apologist (er, attorney), Robert Gershman. “There was no question when you look and listen to the facts of the case, Mr. Popper was shot at.” You know, by the driver armed with a plastic water bottle.

Lesson Learned?

At least Popper learned something from the incident. “Hindsight is 20/20,” he began after the charges were dropped. “There are always things we can look back and say we wish we could have done differently. Definitely, I would have done — would be to not have pumped my brakes. I would have taken another tactic. Definitely try to de-escalate a little better.”

Ya think? And who knew “not being an asshole” was a “tactic”!? But if that helps makes people think rather than react, I’m all for it.

The investigative report is clear: “The defendant [Popper] changed lanes in front of the victim and abruptly cut him off. When the victim honked his horn, the defendant shouted an expletive and abruptly applied his brakes,” it says. “When the [victim] begins to pass the victim on the right, the defendant points the handgun towards his right-front passenger door. As the victim passes the defendant, he throws and strikes the victim’s vehicle with an unknown object.”

Throws, not “shoots with a firearm.”

At least I finally found a photo of Popper’s car. (Florida Highway Patrol)

Still, “I was just shot at. My car was hit,” Popper insisted at the time (emphasis added). “I returned fire back at the individual.” So the bullet hole in his car is where, exactly? Other than the ones Popper himself put in the glass surfaces, the police didn’t find one. Yet charges were still dropped. Incredible.

The victim threw the water bottle at Popper’s Toyota as he was going past, the FHP says. One thing that hasn’t been pointed out in the news reports: Popper already had his gun out by then. You know, early on in the “road rage incident” which he started.

A few other bits: at the time, stories noted that Popper was on his way to work. He resigned as a civilian fire inspector in Miami Beach shortly after the incident. The shooting happened in June 2021, but didn’t explode into the public sphere until the video from Popper’s dashcam was “obtained” by Andy Slater, a sports radio talkshow host on WMEN in Royal Palm Beach (640 AM, “Fox Sports 640”), and he posted it on Twitter.

It would be interesting to hear the victim’s comments on this.

– – –

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26 Comments on “Florida Man On Wheels: Marco Mazzetta Sets
Bar, Michael Popper Accepts Challenge

  1. You need to invent a ‘scratch my head in disbelief’ emoticon, Randy.

    There’s a universal need for that, Marion. -rc

  2. CCP should be pulled and maybe his right to own any firearm revoked given he has such little self control and introspection. That’s beyond ridiculous and the awful part is he doesn’t see why. It’d be better (if ever so slightly) if after cooling off he could realize what he had done in allowing his road rage (anger) to take over. Instead it seems he still feels totally justified in his actions.

    For others: CCP = Concealed Carry Permit. That’s assuming he has one…. -rc

  3. Ah, Florida Man, you never disappoint.

    BTW, I’d say “passersby” rather than bystanders or bydrivers.

    Yeah, but then you wouldn’t get to make up a cool new word! -rc

  4. There’s a typo in the last paragraph. The word ‘not’ does not appear to belong.

    No, that’s correct. From another page here: “Newsweek magazine found that the error rate in shootings by police is 11% — they shot the wrong (innocent) person 11% of the time, which is shockingly high. When civilians shoot someone in an attempt to stop crime (which is rare: they usually don’t have to actually shoot at all), they get the wrong person 2% of the time.” -rc

    • Note the Brianna Taylor case. The b/f fires one shot at police, and hits with a warning shot. The cops return fire. And every single shot that hits a person hit Brianna. that’s an error rate of 100%.

      • And the guy they were after was already in jail! They not only shot the “wrong” person, but the “right” person was nowhere around. Does that bring the error rate even higher than 100%?

        Sounds fair. -rc

        • And they got away with killing the “wrong” person. This seems to occur with such regularity that there is no incentive for police to be more careful about who they shoot.

  5. The article from last week. I’ve thought about it since then, and want to come to the driver’s defense. It is possible that the accident was not his fault, even though the article says plainly that the dump was not latched.

    About 10 years ago, the Feds decided to widen our US Highway from a 2 lane to a four lane divided highway. All sorts of lines having to be rerouted, most of them temporarily. At a loading site off the road (where loads of gravel had been pre-positioned) a dump was pulling out, and his dump was reportedly latched. The mechanism let loose and the dump went up, and took out telephone, cable company (2 of them) and electrical lines that were not tightly strung (they were temporary.) Two days later, everything was restored to operating function.

    The point is that the driver was NOT at fault. And accidents happen.

    Looking at the picture provided, it looks like this MAY have happened to this driver.

    • I actually want to come to that driver’s defense too (sort of) — Connecticut has him beat by eleven years, and our guy forgot to put down the trailer at all.

      I might end up paying to find the story in the Hartford Courant’s archives, actually; I remember a very impressive image.

    • Bad design — that a truck can move at all with dump unlatched (Except with temp override enabled — to allow for manouvering when unloading).

      Witnessed the same accident (power, lights, phones) ripped out by truck with bed raised in 1987 in Taipei.

  6. I also own firearms and have held a concealed carry permit. I’ve had guns pointed at me in the past in road rage incidents; you slow down, let the other guy have the road, get off the road as soon as possible, and notify the police of the vehicle type and plate number if you get it. Nobody dies!!! Additionally, brandishing a weapon to intimidate in public is considered aggravated assault in most jurisdictions.

    You’re not in the hospital or morgue and the obliviot, if found, risks a felony conviction. If successfully prosecuted, the obliviot loses the right to own firearms and is less of a risk to the rest of the world.

  7. He would need to have a CCP to carry inside the waistband like that in Florida, even in his own vehicle.

    Also, I live in Central Florida, very close to SR-417 (I take it to work and church just about every day), just north of the Orange County line. This is the first I’ve heard of this ridiculous incident. However, I can say that driving 90 to 100 mph on that road isn’t unheard of.

    “Legally required to have a permit” does not equal “Has a permit” — though it’s likely he does have one, since after all he went to the police to report this. As for 100 mph, it’s not smart to do that when you’re trying to get away from the guy in front of you! -rc

  8. I drive for Uber in Florida, and I see a lot of, uh, interesting driver behavior. Some of it even makes me remark to my passengers, “We are in the home of Florida Man, you know.” But I’m very glad I wasn’t on the 417 tollway that particular day.

  9. I didn’t notice the speed they were travelling at until you pointed it out, because I was too busy being horrified at yet another dimwit having a handgun tucked into their waist and pointing at their groin again.

    Wasn’t it just a week or two ago we heard about some idiot that was doing the same thing when he managed to shoot himself with it whilst waiting at a checkout line?

    Though I am pleasantly surprised to see he didn’t already have his finger on the trigger. More of an alfoil lining than a silver one though.

    I did notice that he had the pistol pointed at his crotch as he pulled it and that he had his finger off the trigger. So he’s trained in the mechanics, but apparently not the ethics. -rc

  10. “it’s almost impossible to control your own moving vehicle and shoot any gun, let alone a handgun, and actually hit another moving target while simultaneously being sure not to hit innocent bystanders (bydrivers?) in the vicinity.”

    But they do it in the movies all the time.

    And a car that drives off a cliff explodes into a fireball before it even hits anything. *shrug*! -rc

  11. If he’s not a fan of guns, why was he carrying one? And from the looks of how he drew it, he’s lucky he didn’t shoot himself in a delicate spot.

    His answer to the question: “I’m a fan of not getting shot.” Luckily, he knew to keep his finger off the trigger while it was pointed at himself. -rc

  12. Why would you expect different behavior from someone who grew up in Florida? People complain about {Boston, New York, San Francisco, LA, Dallas, St Louis, Florida — pick one} drivers, but it boils down to being a defensive driver at all times. Or dying. Because stupidity knows no state boundaries.

    • Ah my bad, it said April 24 and mistook that for this year.

      No worries: it only said 2014 in one spot …in gray on white. -rc

  13. Florida “stand your ground” laws only apply if you feel slighted or offended by someone on the highway, and may require you to chase down your opponent in a high speed chase, corner them, and THEN proceed to “stand your ground” by emptying your clip into the offending vehicle. Welcome to Florida.

  14. I live in the immediate area. What you’re getting from Randy is only the highlight reel. Driving here is a real adventure.

    I could probably do an all-Florida issue every month, but obliviots lurk everywhere, so I diversify. -rc

  15. He must have been having one heck of a bad day!! Even with the time to re-assess the value of getting the pistol out of the gun safe, the idiot still pulled the trigger. Normally, having an additional couple of steps in front of pulling the trigger gives the mind a moment to catch the gear, and even with a slippery clutch, engage in some degree of thought.

    I admit to chuckling at his “oh shoot!” expression while removing the expended magazine from his weapon.

  16. Having moved to Fl recently, the advice given to me almost on a daily basis is, “assume they’re packin'”.

    A smart assumption. -rc


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