A local family believes a man who slashed their tires in a road rage-related confrontation also blocked their cellphones so they couldn't call for help.
Jennifer Harnish described the man she claims terrified her family Tuesday morning: "… We didn't cut anybody off, there was just a long line. It seemed like he was maybe having a rough morning."
Harnish said it all started when they merged onto Interstate 5 from Interstate 15. She told 10News the man was behind them, and then he drove along the shoulder and cut them off.
"[He] slammed on his brakes; we hit him a little bit. It happened again. He got out of the car, so my husband got out, and then they swung a few times. He pulled out a knife and tried to swing at him, slash him. That stopped and then he just stabbed our tire," Harnish said.
The incident happened while the family's young daughter was in the back seat.
Harnish said, "I was tensing up a lot because, especially with her, I get scared of this. But I didn't know what to do when they started fighting. And then we're on the, you know, middle of the highway and it was very frightening."
The family tried following the man while calling 911, but Harnish said they couldn't get through.
Harnish told 10News there was a strange message on her screen that said she could not dial out. It was a message she never saw before, and she believes the driver was blocking her phone.
"My husband thought he saw a jammer. It prevents you from making phone calls," Harnish said.
Cell phone jammers are very rare, but also illegal for the general public.
Stephen Cobb, a security expert with San Diego-based ESET, said jammers can be found online.
"These things are illegal to use, but they are strangely available to buy," he added.
Cobb said he hasn't heard of a jammer causing an error message like the one Harnish saw on her phone.
"I'm not aware that you would have any indication other than the signal wasn't working, other than where you would expect it to work," Cobb said.
10News traced the Harnish family's path on the freeway to see if it was just a cellphone dead spot. Reporter Jeff Lasky was able to make calls on both Verizon and AT&T phones, with signals at three bars on each phone.
According to Harnish, the driver was last seen traveling down Harbor Drive.
The family took a picture of the man's license plate, and police are using it to track him down.