Crime

Suspect allegedly shouted racial slur at victim before driving at him in Belmont fatal road rage incident

The victim has been identified as Henry Tapia, 35, a Black man from Boston.

Dean Kapsalis, 54, of Hudson, with his public defender Paul Mahoney. Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

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Moments after having an argument over an alleged road rage incident on Upland Road in Belmont, a Hudson man allegedly shouted a racial slur at the other man involved.

That man, Dean Kapsalis, 54, then allegedly drove at the victim, identified as 35-year-old Henry Tapia, a Black man from Boston, with his Dodge Dakota pickup truck, and hit and dragged him briefly before fleeing the scene, according to Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan in a press conference Wednesday evening.

Tapia was conscious when emergency responders arrived, laying near the driver’s side of his Honda Civic near 39 to 45 Upland Road, Ryan said.

“I can’t breathe,”  Tapia reportedly told emergency responders, according to The Boston Globe. “I’m going to die.”

He was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital. He died a short time after. Kapsalis, meanwhile, turned himself in to Belmont police about a half hour after the incident.

Kapsalis is being charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (the vehicle), a civil rights violation causing injury, and leaving the scene of an accident causing personal injury, Ryan said. Kapsalis was arraigned in Cambridge District Court on the charges; he’s being held pending a dangerousness hearing scheduled for Monday. Ryan noted that as the investigation is ongoing, the charges could be upgraded.

The argument had seemed to finish, witnesses said, according to The Globe, which obtained the police report, when Kapsalis allegedly shouted the racial slur. Tapia had been getting back in his vehicle at the time, but got back out. Kapsalis then allegedly drove at Tapia.

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Though both Kapsalis and Tapia had addresses listed outside of Belmont, they both had family who lived in the area, close to where the incident occurred, Ryan said.

“We are reminded that incidents like this that are allegedly born of hateful speech have a lasting impact on families, friends, and our neighbors here in this community,” Ryan said during the press conference. “In this incident, the allegation is the defendant intentionally acted to strike the victim with his vehicle following a verbal exchange that included those racial slurs that were meant to intimidate and to threaten Mr. Tapia.”

Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac said that Tuesday night, the department was working on the investigation, but Wednesday was when officials said the enormity of the incident “settled in.”

“Everybody is kind of in shock about what happened,” the chief said.

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