August 9, 1997 in Nation/World

Interstate ‘Snipers’ Sentenced Young Men Who Should Have Known Better To Serve Jail Time For Shooting At Cars Last Year

By The Spokesman-Review
 

They should have known better, these college boys with their neatly combed hair, tucked-in shirts and 3.0 grade-point averages.

Everybody - the judge, prosecutor, defense attorneys, friends and family - said so.

Evan McKiernan and Gregory Moody should have known it was wrong to get drunk and fire guns near houses and at cars zooming along Interstate 90.

They should have, but didn’t. “We weren’t thinking,” Moody said Friday.

Now, the two young men are headed behind bars, having admitted their roles in a series of freeway shootings late last year that sparked “sniper panic” in Spokane.

McKiernan, 20, pleaded guilty Friday to one felony count of first-degree reckless endangerment and four misdemeanor counts of second-degree recklessness endangerment.

As his parents watched, the Pomeroy, Wash., native confessed to a two-month shooting spree that damaged a house near Tyler and several cars traveling on I-90.

Superior Court Judge Gregory Sypolt sentenced him to 22 months in state prison.

Moody, a 19-year-old Spokane Community College student, pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree reckless endangerment for shooting a 9 mm pistol near the house.

Sypolt sentenced him to a year in the Thurston County Jail, near his parent’s home in Olympia.

Moody’s girlfriend cried as the sentence was announced, and his grim-faced parents sat quietly shaking their heads.

A third suspect, Christopher Williams, was scheduled to plead guilty as well but didn’t show up in court. Sypolt issued a warrant for the 19-year-old’s arrest.

The shootings, which began in October, panicked I-90 commuters.

For a week in November, many motorists avoided driving Interstate 90 for fear that a crazed gunman had them in his sights.

The Washington State Patrol formed a task force to patrol I-90 between the West Plains and the Idaho border.

Emergency dispatchers were inundated with calls about camouflaged men carrying rifles, gunfire at the Argonne overpass, bullets in the air on Sunset Hill.

“This entire episode caused a lot of difficulty, fear, extreme danger, expense, panic,” Sypolt said.

Defense attorneys said Moody and McKiernan made errors in judgment but weren’t bad people. Both defendants apologized.

Attorney John Clark said Moody, a talented soccer player who wants to become an architect, didn’t know a house was in the vicinity last December when he opened fire with the pistol.

Mark Vovos, who represented McKiernan, said his client went on a two-month drinking jag that contributed to his “crazy conduct.”

“If there’s an iceberg that sticks out, it’s alcohol,” Vovos said.

Both attorneys said Williams was the instigator.

McKiernan, a farm boy who wants to become an airplane mechanic, fell in with Williams at Spokane Falls Community College, Vovos said.

As soon as McKiernan was caught, he began cooperating with authorities, Vovos added. “It’s been exceptional accountability from day one,” he said.

“Both of these guys are stand-up guys,” Clark said.

Deputy Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz said Moody and McKiernan were the “least culpable of the three involved.”

But, Steinmetz said, they are still guilty of “stupidity, callousness and recklessness.” They were just lucky that no one was hurt, he said.

Sypolt agreed.

“You are fortunate you aren’t in court on much more serious charges,” the judge said. “If the timing had been different, or if a bullet had gone a foot one way or another, things might be a lot different for you.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo


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