The past few days have been very scary for Arizona residents as an individual or individuals is going on a shooting spree. At certain areas of interstate 10, entering the downtown Phoenix area, it seems that the perpetrators are opening fire on random individuals. So far there are no deaths but this is still terrifying regardless.
News of a string of freeway shootings prompted more motorists on Wednesday to report suspicious activity or damage to a vehicle that could have been consistent with a bullet or other projectile.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety responded to at least one report at about 11 a.m. Wednesday stemming from an incident on Interstate 10 near 35th Avenue.
DPS officer Tim Case said the passenger cab window of white pickup truck was shattered after it was struck by a projectile. The driver was not injured.
By noon more than a dozen plainclothes and uniformed DPS officials gathered at a nearby gas station to interview the driver and collect evidence.
“This is our number one priority right now, catching whoever’s doing this,” Case said. “We’ve got extra patrol in the area, our gang units are out, we’ve got undercover unmarked cars combing the whole area, we have our helicopter up, so it’s, our full effort is going into this.”
Dozens of others called the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center to report incidents like “percussion noise” near their cars, shattered glass or people perched on a bridge or alongside the highway, according to a DPS spokesman. .
The new reports came after DPS administrators on Tuesday evening announced that detectives were investigating nine possible shootings in which motorists were targeted on Phoenix-area freeways in the past two weeks.
Col. Frank Milstead, the DPS director, made the announcement that more than doubled the previous official tally of incidents, which were announced last week. Milstead encouraged drivers to be “hypervigilent” and to report anything suspicious.
“Let us be the ones to rationalize those away,” he said.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety is investigating nine possible freeway shootings reported over 10 days in the Phoenix area. The reward for information leading to an arrest or indictment in the case has been raised to $20,000.
By Wednesday morning, it appeared commuters had taken the message to heart. DPS spokesman Bart Graves said officials had fielded at least 100 more calls since about 6:30 Tuesday.
DPS officials have become increasingly tight-lipped about the status of the investigation. They have declined to release any information on solid leads, whether any ammunition has been found at the scenes, and the precise location of at least one of the incidents.
Graves said releasing such information could jeopardize the investigation.
“We take our time. We’re thorough,” he said. “We don’t really telegraph what we’re finding out as we’re finding it out.”
Last week, DPS officials said at least four vehicles had been shot at on a stretch of Interstate 10 between 16th Street and 59th Avenue.
On Tuesday morning, DPS announced it was investigating two new incidents: one involving a Phoenix police sergeant at about 5:20 a.m. on eastbound I-10 near 35th Avenue, and one that occurred about 8:30 p.m on Loop 202 near 32nd Street.
By Tuesday evening, Milstead added three other reports to the list, including a second incident that occurred within minutes and in the same area as the incident involving the sergeant.
Milstead said another involved a vehicle driving on State Route 51 and another that was reported Tuesday. He declined to elaborate on either incident.
Milstead said investigators are unclear about whether all of the incidents involved shootings and preferred the term “projectiles” rather than “bullets.” And he declined to definitively link all of the incidents, saying some may have been the work of a copycat.
Still, the director declined to minimize the gravity of the situation.
“Don’t kid yourself,” he said. “This is a very important matter for the department and the traveling public.”
Milstead said the department has been pooling resources from inside and outside of DPS for the investigation. Officials have tapped the gang task force, SWAT team and undercover officers to conduct “covert and overt” surveillance around I-10 and have partnered with ATF, the FBI and Phoenix and Tempe police.
“This is a paramount priority to the Arizona Department of Public Safety and our law-enforcement partners,” he said.
Silent Witness has increased its reward to $20,000 for information leading to an arrest or indictment in the cases.
DPS asks anyone with information to contact Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS, or 480-948-6377. Tips can also be e-mailed in at silentwitness.org.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said officials were responding to two new incidents Wednesday morning. They responded to one.
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