Reward for info about I-10 shootings up to $20K

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(Source: Arizona Department of Public Safety) (Source: Arizona Department of Public Safety)
(Source: Arizona Department of Public Safety) (Source: Arizona Department of Public Safety)
(Source: Arizona Department of Public Safety) (Source: Arizona Department of Public Safety)

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The Silent Witness reward for information leading to an arrest or indictment in a recent series of shootings along Interstate 10 has been quadrupled to $20,000.

Last Monday, DPS Director Col. Frank Milstead said four vehicles were hit by gunfire while traveling along I-10 between 35th Avenue and 16th Street. Two of those incidents happened last Saturday morning (Aug. 29), a third that night and the fourth last Monday morning (Aug. 31).

[Raw video: Sept. 8 DPS briefing on I-10 incidents

"You should be concerned," Milstead said. "We have someone or some people shooting guns at moving cars on Interstate 10. It has not ended in a tragedy, but it could."

One person, a 13-year-old girl, was hurt by glass from a shattered window, but no other injuries were reported.

But it's not just those four shootings on those two days.

"Right now there is a real and continuing threat to Arizona motorists," Milstead said Tuesday. "Over the last 10 days, the Arizona Department of Public Safety has investigated nine incidents where vehicles traversing Interstate 10 have been struck by projectiles."

The most recent incidents happened at about 5:20 a.m. Tuesday on I-10 between 35th and 43rd avenues. Two vehicles were struck, one eastbound and one westbound. The driver of the eastbound vehicle was an off-duty Phoenix police sergeant on his way to work.

"We do not think he was targeted," Milstead said.

There also was an incident on the Loop 202 on Sunday night. Investigators are looking into an incident on State Route 51 and another call that came out Tuesday morning.

"I don't know how related they are at this point," Milstead said.

There is no consistency as to time or place that these incidents are happening. Six of the nine, however, happened along I-10 between SR 51 and 59th Avenue.

"If you drive that stretch of roadway, always be vigilant," Milstead advised. "Under these circumstances, be hyper-vigilant. Pay attention to your surroundings."

DPS will have "overt and covert surveillance" in that area.

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"This is a paramount priority for the Arizona Department of Public Safety and our law-enforcement partners," he continued. "Any time that you have multiple shootings against American citizens on a highway, that's terrorism. They're trying to frighten or kill somebody."

Not only is DPS throwing everything it has at the investigation, but it also is partnering with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI, the Phoenix Police Department and the Tempe Police Department.

"We will continue around-the-clock coverage of the highways and of our Watch Center," Milstead said.

At this point, investigators do not know if they are looking for one person or "if it's multiple people that are involved in this type of insanity."Anyone with information related to any of these incidents is asked to call Silent Witness at either 480-WITNESS (948-6377) or 1-800-343-TIPS (8477). Spanish speakers may call 480-TESTIGO (837-8446). You also may submit your tip online.

"As always, tipsters will remain completely anonymous and any information provided which results in the arrest or indictment of those responsible for these shootings may be eligible for this cash reward," Sgt. Jamie Rothschild said Tuesday.

DPS already has received more than 100 tips. 

"Every tip is a potential success," Milstead said.

The public will be an important resource for investigators as they track down the suspect or suspects."We only are at our best with community support," Milstead said. "Somebody knows [who is behind this]. Somebody was there. I need you to call our Watch Center. ... Somebody will get hurt, or somebody will get killed if this continues."Gov. Doug Ducey reiterated Milstead's request in a statement released shortly after the DPS news conference.

"I ask all Arizonans to stay alert and contact authorities with any information that could lead to the arrest and prosecution of responsible parties," he said. "I assure you, this is the top the priority for the Department of Public Safety and the state of Arizona."

The Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center phone number is 602-644-5805. There also is an online submission form for tips.

"It is just a matter of time, if this behavior continues, that we have tragedy on our roadways," Milstead said. "The other thing that we always see in these types of domestic terrorism crimes is that somebody knew something later, and they said 'You know what, I felt that that guy was suspicious, or so-and-so was having problems and I didn’t know.' If those are concerns of yours, please call the hotline and let us know what those concerns are. Let us be the ones to rationalize those away if that needs to be done."

Since it was established in 1979, Silent Witness has worked with law-enforcement agencies and the public to help solve thousands of crimes. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, it is a member of both Crime Stoppers USA and Crime Stoppers International.

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