Arizona police question man in freeway shootings

Author: The Associated Press
Published: Updated:

PHOENIX (AP) – Police swarmed a convenience store near Interstate 10 in Phoenix, detained a man and woman and seized their white Chevrolet Tahoe on Friday, raising hopes of a resolution to the freeway shootings rattling Phoenix for the past two weeks.

The man and woman had been together, but Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves said only the man is currently of interest to investigators seeking anyone responsible for 11 vehicle shootings in Phoenix.

Graves said the man has not been arrested, but his questioning could continue for hours. Graves said he didn’t know the status of the woman. He said their SUV is being examined for any evidence that might connect it to the freeway shootings.

Marco Mansilla watched it unfold while getting coffee at the McDonald’s connected to the convenience store. The parking lot was suddenly swarming with law enforcement officers and their vehicles, and when he tried to leave, an officer told him to “go back in the store. It’s not safe.”

Mansilla said he was allowed to leave shortly thereafter, and asked an officer, “What happened? Is that the sniper guy?” The officer declined to answer and just said “enjoy your breakfast.”

On his way back to his window-tinting business across the street, Mansilla said he saw the man sitting inside a police car while four officers watched over the woman, who was in handcuffs.

“She was in shock,” Mansilla said.

Convenience store clerk Sara Kaur sold the man a pack of cigarettes at about 9:15 a.m., moments before between 15 to 20 cars swarmed and handcuffed him. She described him as being about 30 years old and a regular customer and said she’s “never had a problem with him.”

Eight of the cars shot since Aug. 29 were hit with bullets and three with projectiles that could have been BBs or pellets. One girl’s face was cut by glass as a bullet shattered her window.

Authorities appealed for help through social media, news conferences, TV interviews and freeway billboards, whose messages morphed from “report suspicious activity” to “shooting tips” to the more ominous “I-10 shooter tip line.”

Many of the thousands of tips proved to be false leads based on road hazards routine in Arizona, like windshields cracked by loose rocks sent airborne by the tires of other vehicles.

On Thursday alone, drivers reported possible shootings of an armored truck, two cars and two tractor-trailers. Authorities and TV crews scrambled to these scenes, only to discover minor damage.

The shootings haven’t fit any obvious pattern. Most happened on Interstate 10, a main route through Phoenix. Bullets have been fired at various times of the day, striking a seemingly random assortment of vehicles, from an empty bus to tractor-trailers to pickup trucks, cars and SUVs.

Helicopters have been flying up and down Interstate 10 as officers scan a wall of TV monitors carrying live surveillance video from every freeway in the metropolitan area. The FBI and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have joined the hunt.

“We have a number of officers … both uniformed, non-uniformed, plainclothes, undercover vehicles, marked vehicles on the road patrolling, looking for the suspect, looking for leads,” Graves said Thursday.

Longtime residents still remember the random shootings that terrorized Phoenix a decade ago. Nearly 30 people were shot then, and eight killed, including a cyclist who was riding down the street and a man who was sleeping at a bus stop. Two men were eventually caught and convicted.

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.