November 7, 1996 in Nation/World

Sniper At Large Shootings Frighten I-90 Motorists

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A weeklong string of freeway shootings has steered some frightened motorists away from the region’s busiest roadway and forced authorities to heighten patrols.

Authorities are investigating a series of 10 window-shattering incidents along Interstate 90. They believe a sniper is terrorizing motorists with a pellet gun or a rifle.

Locations of the shootings have ranged from Fishtrap southwest of Spokane to the Sullivan Road exit, with most occurring in the Spokane Valley.

Authorities are uncertain whether the shootings are related or if they’re dealing with a copycat.

Washington State Patrol troopers are teaming with sheriff’s deputies and city police officers to step up patrols along the I-90 corridor in hopes of catching the sniper.

Up to 10 additional patrol cars are being assigned to the area, said WSP Capt. Jim LaMunyon. Of those, a couple will be unmarked units.

“This is serious,” LaMunyon said Wednesday. “This is something we don’t take lightly.”

Troopers do not have any suspects, but when caught, the gunman likely will face felony assault charges.

No shootings were reported Wednesday.

“As of right now, no one has been hurt, and we’d like to keep it that way,” said LaMunyon, who added it is amazing no accidents have been caused by the shootings.

Troopers estimate 80,000 to 100,000 cars travel the stretch of freeway every day. The gunfire has unnerved motorists, some of whom have switched to different routes.

Heavy traffic that usually backs up a couple of times during Sue Barden’s commute between the Valley and downtown moved without delay on her way to work Wednesday morning.

Barden is still braving the freeway, but she finds herself scanning the roadside, looking for a sniper lurking in the brush and “wondering if I’m going to get shot.”

Carrie Fuller, who drives between jobs at Divine’s Auto Center at the corner of Pines and Mission and the company’s downtown service station, isn’t taking chances.

“I don’t get on the freeway anymore,” she said.

The shooting spree began last week near Fish Trap. Two semitrucks and a pickup were hit on the freeway Oct. 30.

Since then, seven more vehicles have been struck by gunfire between the city and the Valley. One of the casualties was a WSP trooper’s cruiser, shot at while the officer investigated an earlier car shooting.

“That particular shot goes beyond a random shooting,” LaMunyon said.

Four of the shootings occurred near the Pines and Sullivan exits in the Valley.

Troopers searched a county-owned horse arena near Splash-Down Water Slide after a Tuesday morning shooting that damaged the windshield of a Ford Escort. They found footprints and tire tracks, but uncovered no solid evidence leading to the sniper.

One resident noticed a car leave the area quickly after that shooting. However, most residents of the neighborhood surrounding Valley Mission Park said they didn’t see or hear anything suspicious.

Most of the shootings occurred either in daylight or during the afternoon commute, LaMunyon said.

Both westbound and eastbound vehicles have been shot at, authorities said.

Troopers are still analyzing evidence collected from the damaged vehicles to determine if the sniper is wielding a pellet gun or a rifle.

“We don’t even know if they’re being fired from a hillside along the freeway or from a vehicle driving alongside,” LaMunyon said.

Law enforcement officials are asking for the public’s help. Anyone with information about the shootings should call the State Patrol at 456-4101.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Interstate 90 shootings

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