11 days, 10 shootings out of nowhere along Arizona Interstate. Cops call it ‘domestic terrorism’
The shootings along a busy stretch of Interstate 10 in Phoenix started August 29, when a bullet from out of nowhere struck an SUV, shattering glass which injured 13-year old girl riding in it. On that same day, along the same stretch of road, someone fired at a bus, fortunately empty except for the driver, who was not injured.
But bullet holes were found in some of the seats of the bus. That night, about 10, yet another car was hit, again, with no injuries.
By Tuesday, there had been nine similar incidents in days, and no arrests, prompting Col. Frank Milstead of the Arizona Department of Public Safety to hold a news conference calling the attacks “domestic terrorism” and offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the “person or persons” responsible.
The response came the next morning: Another reported shooting at a vehicle on I-10, in that same 8-mile stretch. Again, nobody hurt.
This Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015 photo provided by The Arizona Department of Public Safety shows a SUV window shattered by a gun shot in Phoenix. Authorities say shots were fired at several vehicles on Interstate 10 in Phoenix over the weekend, with bullets striking three vehicles and injuring one person. (The Arizona Department of Public Safety via AP)
“Anytime you have multiple shootings against American citizens on a highway, that’s terrorism” Milstead said.
“They’re trying to frighten or kill somebody …. I don’t know if this is a copycat crime, if it’s multiple people that’s involved in this type of insanity. Because somebody will get hurt, somebody will get killed. Don’t kid yourselves. This is a very important matter for the department and the traveling public,” Milstead said.
Milstead declined to compare Arizona’s situation to the so-called Washington Beltway sniper attacks of 2002, which took the lives of ten people before John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were apprehended.
Those shootings took place over a much wider area and were clearly targeted not simply at vehicles but specifically at people, standing outside of stores or service stations or mowing a lawn. Milstead believes that “a number of different weapons” have been used, unlike the Beltway sniper shootings.
Milstead isn’t officially saying all of the shootings involved bullets, per se, preferring to use the word “projectiles,” in part because police have not recovered all the objects that struck the vehicles along I-10.
Nor are police positive they are all connected, though some clearly were, said Milstead, like the two that were separated by one minute Tuesday, the first at 5.20 a.m. when an eastbound vehicle as hit and a second in the same area at 5.21 a.m., when a westbound vehicle was struck.
Asked what advice he could give to frightened motorists, Milstead said: “If you drive that stretch of roadway, always be vigilant. Under these circumstances be hyper-vigilant.”
He pleaded for information from anyone who had seen or heard anything or noticed suspicious behavior.
“The other thing we always see in these type of domestic terrorism type of crimes,” Milstead said, “is that somebody knew something … and they say ‘you know what? I thought that guy was suspicious. I thought that guy was having problems.’ And they didn’t say anything.”
Authorities have mobilized a task force including local SWAT teams, the FBI, state and local police and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in an effort to find out who’s doing the shooting and why and put an end to it.