Sunday, February 15, 2004

SUV struck on I-70, five see 'casual' shooter, car

By Jonathan Drew
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - A man stood on a highway overpass Saturday morning and fired a handgun at a sport-utility vehicle on Interstate 70, and investigators said it appears linked to the series of highway shootings near Columbus.

No one was injured in the shooting about 10:15 a.m. near Pataskala, about 15 miles east of Columbus.

Franklin County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Steve Martin said Saturday the shooting appears related to the other 23.

"This is pretty consistent with what our shooter has done in the past," he said. "Our particular shooter is becoming much more aggressive, much bolder."

The shooter's demeanor appeared "casual," he said. "The person was in no hurry, or appeared to be in no hurry," Martin said.

The bullet entered through the right front fender of the Chevrolet Suburban and lodged in the battery. It was recovered and sent for lab testing in Columbus.

The driver and four other witnesses described the shooter as a clean-shaven white male in his 30s with dark hair, wearing a hat and sunglasses and driving a small black sedan, Martin said.

The car was similar to a Chevy Metro with a sloping hood.

The description matches the one given by witnesses who were shot at last Sunday on Interstate 71 southwest of Columbus.

"We had aircraft in the area within moments," patrol spokesman Sgt. Richard Zwayer said. "This guy was able to blend into traffic and slip away."

The serial shootings began in May, though most have occurred since mid-October. One person has been killed in the shootings at vehicles and buildings.

Until last month, the gunfire was scattered along or near Interstate 270, which encircles Columbus. The last four cases, including the two from a week ago, moved progressively farther southwest on Interstate 71.

Saturday's shooting is the farthest east the shooter has struck.

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