Sought after motive for series of fatal Arizona highway shootings
PHOENIX (AP) – Investigators on Friday were trying to determine why a gunman opened fire on vehicles and pedestrians for about 90 minutes in the Phoenix metro area, killing one and a dozen others injured in a series of car shootings.
Authorities believe a man they arrested after Thursday’s shooting acted alone. His identity has not been disclosed.
There have been at least eight separate shootings in three towns, stoking fear across the region and shutting down parts of major highways as police gathered evidence. Four people were shot dead, including the deceased.
Others were injured when bullets shattered glass or when their vehicles crashed. Authorities said the injured victims were all adults and should make a full recovery.
Neil Betrue, a pastor from the town of Surprise, was alone in his church office when he noticed some police officers and heard a helicopter buzzing above him. He looked out the door and saw a swarm of police surrounding the suspect’s car and started recording the commotion on his cell phone.
“I didn’t know at the time that it was a shooting,” Betrue told The Associated Press on Friday. “I just thought there had to be a car chase or something.”
Richard Valencia said he spent Thursday afternoon in hospital after being shot in the shoulder while leaving a convenience store in the town of Surprise. The 34-year-old told Phoenix news channel KSAZ-TV that he fired three times with his own weapon.
“I don’t even know the guy,” he said. “It was completely hit or miss.”
Another victim was able to give authorities a description of the suspect’s vehicle – a white Volkswagen SUV – and the license plate number. A local fire department spotted the vehicle and called the police, who raided a mall that included restaurants, a nail salon and a Walgreens.
As officers drew their guns, the suspect, dressed in a black jacket, black pants and white shoes, raised his hands in the air. He was then handcuffed without incident, video from Betrue shows.
“I’m just thankful that he didn’t put the officers or any of the companies or anybody else here,” Betrue said.
Police do not believe anyone else was involved in the attacks.
“We don’t know the connection, we don’t know what the motive was,” said Brandon Sheffert, spokesperson for the City of Peoria Police Department. “We have no idea what this person was thinking when he went out and did this.
The Phoenix metro area has seen even more deadly drive-by shootings in recent years.
In 2005 and 2006, the area was terrorized by a pair of serial shooters who circled around and fired at random targets, killing six people and injuring 19 others. After being finally arrested, airport concierge Dale Hausner and his roommate Sam Dietman, a petty criminal, were sentenced to life imprisonment. Hausner committed suicide in prison by overdosing in 2013.
A decade later, a similar series of drive-by shootings began. In 2015 and 2016, nine people were killed and two injured in what police called “Serial Street Shootings”. In 2017, police arrested Aaron Saucedo, then 23, alleging he shot people at random, often at night, as they came home from work or in their backyard. He has pleaded not guilty to numerous charges and is awaiting trial. Prosecutors are calling for the death penalty.
Fonseca reported from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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