Woman robbed after thief intentionally rear-ended her on highway

Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 12:05 AM CDT
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) - Police in California’s capital are investigating recent fender bender robberies where thieves purposefully rear-end victims with the intent to rob them.

Rindy Merrifield, a victim of one of these crimes, is sharing her story in hopes it helps others avoid being a target of the thieves. She was headed home on the highway March 10 after running some errands in Sacramento when a driver bumped her car from behind.

She didn’t think much of it, not worried the bump did any damage to her SUV. She says the same car bumped her again about a mile later, but still not too concerned, Merrifield kept driving.

“He pulled beside me, told me to pull over,” Merrifield said. “So, I thought, ‘OK, maybe he did do some damage, and that’s why he wants me to pull over.’”

She found a place to stop off the exit near Cal Expo and got out of her car to speak with the other driver.

“I just came around, looked and said, ‘You know what? No damage. Just go on your way,’” Merrifield said. “That’s when he said, ‘Well, I really think we should exchange insurances because that’s the right thing to do.’”

Merrifield went to the passenger side door and opened it. She says the other driver then pushed her away, grabbed her purse and swatted away her arm, preventing her from retrieving it.

“It was just, ‘How dare you… take my purse.’ And I was bound and determined to get it back or hurt him enough that I could get it,” Merrifield said.

She followed after the other driver as he returned to his own car. She says she slammed his own car door on his legs five times as he was getting away. Merrifield’s efforts didn’t stop the thief, who escaped with her purse and its contents, including her credit cards, cash, car keys and cell phone.

Police say a similar fender bender-type robbery happened the next day, involving a different victim. Detectives arrested Phung Nguyen and Hau Nguyen and charged them for that crime.

Police received an arrest warrant April 1 for Phung Nguyen for charges related to Merrifield’s case. His whereabouts are not currently known, and he is considered wanted by law enforcement.

California law indicates drivers are required to stop and exchange information after a crash.

Merrifield is determined to warn others, using her own experience as an example. She organized a personal safety seminar with law enforcement and safety experts about how to handle situations just like the fender bender robbery she endured.

“Knowing that I was so naïve and trustworthy and not watching my surroundings, I didn’t want anybody else to go through that,” Merrifield said. “It may never happen again… but I’ll be ready.”

She also plans to organize other safety sessions in the near future.

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