After evaluating testimonies and assessing surveillance video of a February road rage incident that erupted into violence, felony assault charges against Sgt. 1st Class Kai Waters, 33, have been dismissed.
Waters, a 15-year veteran with combat tours of Afghanistan and Iraq and a clean military record, told The Washington Post last week that she had driven off the post at Fort Knox toward her home in Elizabethtown when another motorist began aggressively tailgating her, then bumped her car from behind, over an eight-mile stretch of highway in western Kentucky. At a stoplight, Waters said, the other driver called her a “black b——,” said she didn’t like “your kind,” and challenged her to a fight.
In an attempt to diffuse the situation, Waters dialed 911 and pulled into a nearby gas station. While still on the phone with police, the other driver pulled in behind her, ran over to her car and began to attack her. Then in an effort to fend off her attacker, Waters grabbed a ceremonial knife given to her by soldiers from her previous station and stabbed her attacker in the leg.
That’s when police arrived and a bad situation turned worse.
When Elizabethtown police arrived, they promptly arrested Waters. She spent the next three nights in the county jail, and when she was released, a judge ordered her to post $10,000 bond, undergo psychiatric evaluation and remain confined to Fort Knox, although she lived in her townhouse in Elizabethtown. An officer who provided first aid to the other driver was credited with saving her life and given an award by the local chamber of commerce. The charge of second-degree assault filed against Waters carries a minimum five-year prison sentence and a maximum of 10 years.
Waters, however, maintained her innocence. And with the help of attorney Jeremy S. Aldridge, she obtained the gas station surveillance video from prosecutors. Then, with the support of her superior officers at Fort Knox, she posted the video on Facebook and shared a detailed account of what actually transpired. Soon after, she launched a GoFundMe page to raise $10,000 to help cover her legal costs. But due to the nature of the situation—the racial overtones of her attack, police refusing to hear her side of the story, a detective asking what she was doing in that upscale part of town, and other factors—she ended up with over $15,000 in pledges.
However, Elizabethtown Police Chief Jamie Land maintains that race had nothing to do with the decision to press charges against Waters while allowing her assailant to get off scot-free.
“It’s not as cut-and-dried as Ms. Waters is making it appear. The story she’s presenting is not exactly the complete truth,” Land said. “This did not start at the gas station parking lot.”
But his official statement in response to the grand jury’s decision to drop the charges sounds like an about face.
“We support the decision of our dedicated citizens serving on the grand jury and we thank them for their service and participation in the criminal justice system.”
While Aldridge, Waters’ attorney, issued his own response and confirmed his intentions to pursue charges against Waters’ assailant.
“I’m pleased that Hardin County’s grand jury got it right, even when the police might not have, and the justice system worked in this particular case.”
But clearly exasperated from the ordeal, Waters just wants to move on.
“I have no hard feelings for her,” Waters said. “I just pray for her that she gets help. I think she was just going through some stuff and I’m just happy that this is over with.”
And now begins the uphill battle to restore her damaged reputation and military career, including fixing her records and security clearance. (Waters lost her job following the arrest. She was working as a chemical, biological and radiological nuclear specialist.)
“No matter the outcome, my life will be forever altered by this situation,” Waters said.
The other driver declined to comment on this case.