Arizona police probe shootings along major interstate highway

A bullet hole is shown in a windshield of a car that was traveling on Interstate 10 in Phoenix, Arizona in the handout photo released to Reuters, September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Arizona Department of Public Safety/Handout (Reuters)

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Arizona state troopers sought the public's help on Monday as they investigated a rash of shootings along an interstate highway in Phoenix that police said left four vehicles pocked with bullet holes during the past three days.

The only person hurt was a 13-year-old girl who was riding in the front passenger seat of a sport utility vehicle and suffered a minor cut to her right ear from the shattered windshield when the SUV came under fire late on Saturday morning, police said.

She was treated by emergency medical personnel near the roadway.

Three more vehicles were subsequently struck by gunfire along the same stretch of Interstate 10 - one about six minutes after the SUV, another on Saturday night and another before dawn on Monday, police said.

Investigators from the state Department of Public Safety have not determined whether the incidents were related or random acts, said the agency's director, Colonel Frank Milstead.

“Our detectives are working non-stop on this particular case,” Milstead told reporters at a news conference. “It is obviously a big concern to us.”

The shootings all occurred within a 10-mile stretch of the interstate as it passes through the Phoenix metropolitan area. The I-10, the southernmost transcontinental route in the U.S. interstate system, remained open to traffic.

A passenger bus with just the driver aboard was the second vehicle hit by gunshots, at about 11:09 a.m. on Saturday, but police gave no further details.

A third vehicle came under fire at about 10:15 p.m. on Saturday, but the driver, who heard a banging sound at the time, did not notice any damage until she inspected her vehicle and then noticed bullet holes on the passenger side, police said.

The fourth shooting was reported by a truck driver who told investigators he heard a loud bang at 4:25 a.m. on Monday that he initially thought was a rocking hitting his vehicle. When he inspected his truck after arriving at work, he found a driver-side headlamp with what appeared to be damage from gunfire.

Investigators were checking to see whether freeway cameras captured any of the incidents.

Milstead said motorists should be alert, and he urged anyone with information about the shootings to contact authorities.

“Should we be concerned? Well, absolutely,” he said. “It has not ended in a tragedy, but it could.”

(Editing by Steve Gorman, Peter Cooney and Ken Wills)