'I was just shocked': Mother of road rage victim speaks out

By Sophia Beausoleil - Reporter

HOUSTON - On Thursday morning, a woman charged with manslaughter after chasing a motorcyclist and running her over appeared in court.

Julivan Tran is accused of chasing and running over 33-year-old Shirmett King on Monday night. King, who was riding her motorcycle, died when she got to the hospital.

“I was just shocked, just numb, it was a nightmare,” said Suzanne Coburn, King’s mother. “That was my oldest daughter, I loved her so much and she just free-spirited, she was a happy person.”

Coburn said her daughter was adventurous, loved to travel to the Caribbean and someone who loved her family.

“She’s a fun person, she loved little kids although she didn’t have any, she did love kids and family. She loved her family and she loved her brother unconditionally,” Coburn said. “She was just all around, a beautiful person and I’m not just saying that because she’s my daughter, I’m saying that because it’s fact.”

Coburn, who lives in Arkansas, said her daughter also had a love for motorcycles, including her Harley-Davidson.

She spoke with her daughter, who recently moved to Houston, on the phone on Sunday to wish her a happy birthday. Her last conversation was a text message on Monday.

“My last words to her were be safe, because I’ve driven in Houston, Texas. I said, ‘Whatever you do, be safe and I love you,’ and she wrote back, ‘I know you do, I love you more,” Coburn said.

Sean Teare, head of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office Vehicular Crimes Division, said the incident was sparked by a motorcyclist who swiped two vehicles, smashing the window of a Honda Accord.

“She was driving in an unsafe manner. She struck two cars. She should have stopped and given her information, but that shouldn’t be a death sentence, and that’s what happened here,” Teare said.

Teare said that the driver of the Honda, Tran, and the other driver stopped at the scene, but the motorcyclist sped away. Teare said Tran followed the motorcycle and at one point, Tran's fiancee got out of the car to try to flag down the motorcyclist. Teare said Tran chased the motorcyclist through neighborhoods, up and down Voss and around the parking lot of Kroger.

“In the back of the Kroger, she struck the rear tire of the victim, causing her to fall off the bike, and she ran over her body and pinned her against the wall,” Teare said.

“But the most disturbing part was that someone chased her down and just ran her down like she was not human, knocked her off the bike and hit her again, which, that was just unnecessary, that was just unnecessary,” Coburn said.

King’s mother said she’s hearing different versions about whether her daughter fled the scene. She said she can’t believe her daughter wouldn’t have pulled over but says ultimately police should have been the ones to handle the situation.

“If she did, if she did flee the scene, whatever, if the person would have called 911 and let the police handle it, they would have handled it, they’ve got cameras everywhere. I just don’t understand that part, and that part devastated me the most,” Coburn said.

Tran appeared before a judge Thursday morning and was released on bond.

“A tragic accident that happened here in Harris County and our condolences on behalf of my client is for the King family at this time,” said William Mejia, Tran’s attorney. Tran didn’t speak but nodded in agreement when her attorney sent condolences.

“This was a very serious and tragic accident that could happen to any one of us, and so we ask that you hold off judgment until we get a full investigative report from the district attorney’s office and law enforcement,” Mejia said.

When asked after court, Teare said he believes the whole incident was preventable.

“This was not a tragic accident, this was an unintentional but very reckless act that took someone’s life for basically something that is a speeding ticket, those type of things are unacceptable, in our community,” Teare said.

Teare said Tran was on the phone with 911 dispatchers for most of the chase. He said investigators will try to obtain surveillance video in the area. While the investigation continues, he said all drivers should think twice before reacting behind the wheel.

“In this case, the defendant simply wanted to get this person's information and have her car paid for. She took a life because she wasn’t rationally thinking about how dangerous cars are,” Teare said.

Coburn said she wants people to learn from this incident and for people to not give in to road rage.

“I’m going to pray for the individual, that she take accountability for her actions and then I’m trusting the courts to allow justice to be served,” Coburn said.

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