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Driving Dispute Cited in Slaying : Family Says Man Might Have Stopped, Warned Motorist

Times Staff Writer

Brent Scott Costew, the 26-year-old University City man who was shot on his way home from work Thursday, had a pet peeve that may have cost him his life, members of his family said Tuesday.

Bad drivers often upset Costew and, according to his widow, Rita, Costew frequently stopped motorists to warn them about their bad driving habits--a practice that police said may have led to his being killed.

A witness told San Diego police Monday of hearing a gunshot while observing Costew leaning into a car occupied by at least two people on Regents Road beneath the California 52 overpass.

After hearing the gunshot, the witness saw Costew return to his 1984 white Ford pickup truck and drive a short distance along Regents Road before crashing into a parked vehicle.

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Before the shooting, other witnesses said they saw Costew’s vehicle traveling eastbound along California 52, then make a sudden lane change to exit at Regents Road.

Costew normally used the Genesee Avenue exit to get to his home, which is the next off ramp along State 52. The shooting occurred nearly five miles from Costew’s home.

“My speculation is that he had some sort of confrontation with someone on the freeway and he pursued this person,” said Lt. Paul Ybarrondo, police homicide investigator.

Rita Costew tends to agree.

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“Bad drivers really upset him,” she said. It was not unusual for Costew to get out of the car at stoplights and stop signs to warn drivers about their bad driving habits, Rita Costew said.

She recalled an incident in which Costew approached a woman at a stoplight who was traveling with a child. She had cut in front of his pickup truck.

“He walked up to the car and asked the driver if she realized she was endangering her child’s life,” his widow said.

“He never threatened anyone or anything like that. He just thought that maybe if he said something, maybe the driver would be more cautious the next time they got behind the wheel.”

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Costew had recently lost two friends in car or motorcycle accidents, which made him even more sensitive to reckless drivers, Rita Costew said.

His mother, Barbara May of El Cajon, said his concern over reckless drivers worried her.

“We told him you just can’t do things like that because, in today’s society, people do as they wish,” May said.

“We were afraid something like this would happen,” said Glen Wheeler, Costew’s father-in-law.

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Wheeler is working with the San Diego Police Department’s Crime Stoppers program to establish a reward for any information concerning his son-in-law’s shooting.

So far, witness testimony has been crucial in unraveling the homicide.

Police initially thought Costew had suffered a heart attack while behind the wheel of his pickup, authorities said. But a routine autopsy dispelled that theory when a coroner’s deputy discovered a bullet wound in Costew’s chest. Police then suspected that Costew may have been the victim of a sniper, Ybarrondo said.

By Monday, police abandoned the sniper theory and they are now seeking information about the vehicle Costew was seen leaning into before his death. Police know very little about the second vehicle, said police spokesman Bill Robinson.

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“There were other cars in the area, according to witnesses we talked to yesterday, and we hope they will come forward,” Ybarrondo said.

Costew’s family hopes “money might trigger someone’s memory.” His family is guaranteeing a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Costew’s killer.


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