Doctor in road-rage case defends self on stand

Tacoma - Meet Dr. Dennis James Geyer: military neurosurgeon, West Point graduate.

He is 38, trim and built, shoulders like a fullback: 5 feet 9, 210 pounds, according to police reports. His head is clean-shaven, his dark brows rule his face and his hands save lives.

Pierce County prosecutors say he blew up March 2, succumbing to a fit of rage when he was cut off on westbound state Route 16. Geyer is charged with second-degree assault. He is pleading not guilty.

According to charging papers, he followed Robert Speed over the Tacoma Narrows bridge, dragged the 61-year-old man out of his van, slugged him, snatched Speed’s metal Thermos from his hand and bashed him in the head with it.

The charge is a potential career-killer. If convicted, Geyer could lose his medical license. The state Department of Health has charged him with unprofessional conduct tied to the road-rage incident. Resolution of the state complaint hinges on the outcome of the criminal trial.

Thursday, after two days of testimony that painted Geyer as a short-fused brute, he took the witness stand in his own defense. Monday both sides will make their final arguments and he will learn what the jury thinks.

Guided by his attorney, Wayne Fricke, Geyer spoke softly; at times his voice was barely audible in the courtroom.

He is pleading self-defense. He contends he never intended to hit Speed. He only wanted to understand why he had been cut off. He punched him once, only because Speed was spoiling for a fight.

Above all, he said, he didn’t hit Speed with the Thermos.

Photographs taken shortly after the incident show Speed with two black eyes, a broken nose and a bloody bruise above one eye. The defense contends most of those injuries were caused by the pavement when Speed fell on his face after Geyer punched him.

Fricke walked Geyer through the run-up to the incident.

The previous night had been difficult. A 14-year-old boy had been badly injured in a boating accident on American Lake, and the surgery had been long.

On the highway the following afternoon, Geyer was on his way home, approaching the bridge, when a white van “made a very unannounced and abrupt lane change, and in doing so, almost clipped the front of my car,” he said.