PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona authorities are investigating nine shootings of vehicles over the past two weeks on Phoenix-area freeways, heightening fears among law enforcement and drivers about whether a serial shooter is in their midst.
The shootings frayed nerves among drivers last week when four cars were hit while driving along the main freeway in Phoenix. One bullet shattered a windshield and cut a 13-year-old girl, while others hit a headlight and sides of vehicles.
Police on Tuesday announced that they are investigating five more shootings, including one that shattered the window of an off-duty police sergeant's vehicle as he drove to work. They didn't provide specifics on the other shootings, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety, without elaborating, noted that three of them involved bullets or projectiles.
The Department of Public Safety has brought in the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and local police departments to help with the investigation.
"This is a paramount priority for the Arizona Department of Public Safety and our law enforcement partners," Department of Public Safety Director Frank Milstead said at a news conference. "Ten days, nine incidents. This is a real and continuing threat to Arizona motorists."
Police have been asking for the public's help in identifying a suspect, including messages on freeway billboards urging people to report suspicious activity. They quadrupled the reward Tuesday to $20,000.
Milstead said drivers are fortunate that no one has gotten killed or suffered serious injuries, but noted that if the incidents continue, "it's just a matter of time before there is a tragedy."
He also said police do not know if all nine of the shootings are connected or whether a copy-cat might be at work.
"I don't know if this is a copy-cat crime or multiple people partaking in this kind of insanity," Milstead said.
The incidents began in the late morning of Aug. 29 when two vehicles were struck in a half-hour span on Interstate 10 between 19th and 59th avenues and a third vehicle was hit on the same freeway near 16th Street late that night.
A fourth vehicle was shot on Aug. 31 around 4:25 a.m. in the same area.
On Tuesday, a Phoenix police sergeant's personal vehicle had a passenger window shattered while he driving to work around 5:20 a.m. on eastbound I-10 between 35th and 43rd avenues, according to DPS officials. He wasn't injured. Another shooting happened nearby a minute later.
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(Photo: Arizona Department of Public Safety via AP Photo)