March 14, 2023
The New Jersey man who allegedly ran over a man with his pickup truck in the parking lot of a McDonald's in Levittown last month will face homicide charges, prosecutors said Monday.
Prosecutors allege Daniel Dietrich, 45, of Palmyra, Burlington County, struck and killed Jason Smith, 47, of Levittown, in an act of road rage that stemmed from an altercation that had occurred about one mile from the McDonald's. Dietrich, who allegedly was driving with a suspended license, fled the scene after running over Smith with the front and rear driver's side wheels of his truck, police said.
Surveillance footage showed Smith's Nissan entering the parking lot of the McDonald's, at 7700 Bristol Pike, around 4 p.m. on Feb. 5. Seconds later, Dietrich pulled his pickup truck into the lot along the right side of Smith's car, temporarily blocking him from moving, police said.
Smith then got out of his car, retrieved a hammer from his trunk and approached the front of Dietrich's truck, police said.
At that point, Dietrich drove toward Smith and made a hard left-turn, striking him with the front of his truck and knocking him to the ground, investigators said. Dietrich allegedly ran Smith over without slowing down and left the McDonald's lot heading northbound on Route 13.
In February, Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub had said that Dietrich — who had not yet been identified by police – might have acted in self-defense because Smith was armed with a hammer.
After reviewing surveillance video, prosecutors determined that Dietrich had a clear, alternative path out of the parking lot to avoid further conflict if he had chosen to drive to the right, away from Smith.
"It is my determination that the defendant caused and then aggravated this altercation when he had many other peaceful options at his disposal," Weintraub said at a press briefing Monday, adding that there was clear probable cause to charge Dietrich.
Investigators did not provide details about the incident that led up to the deadly encounter in the parking lot.
Dietrich was identified with help from an anonymous tip, prosecutors said. He and his pickup truck were found at his home in Palmyra; Dietrich turned himself in voluntarily Friday.
Smith was a forklift operator and truck driver. Dietrich is a sub-contractor and painter by trade.
"It seems to me these two guys had a lot in common," Weintraub said. "Probably, had they met in regular circumstances, they would have gotten along and even been friends. If both drivers allowed whatever it was that caused this altercation to not bother them and get under their skin ... we wouldn't be here."
Dietrich is charged with criminal homicide, driving with a suspended license and related offenses. He's being held at the Bucks County Correctional Facility.