Investigators raced to a gas station on Wednesday after a truck driver pulled off Interstate 10 near Phoenix with a shattered window, even as police and federal agents were scouring the area of a string of highway shootings that have rattled nerves and heightened fears of a possible serial shooter.
Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Frank Milstead called the incidents "domestic terrorism crimes," reported The Associated Press.
Authorities had not yet confirmed whether the truck's glass was shot out on Wednesday. Nobody was hurt, safety agency spokesman Bart Graves said.
Police were already investigating nine shootings of vehicles over the past two weeks. Four cars were hit last week along the city's main freeway. One bullet shattered a windshield and the broken glass cut a 13-year-old girl. The other rounds hit a headlight and the sides of vehicles.
Then on Tuesday, police announced they were investigating five more shootings, including one that shattered the window of an off-duty police sergeant's vehicle as he drove to work.
"Anytime that you have multiple shootings against American citizens on a highway, that's terrorism," Milstead said. "They're trying to frighten or kill somebody."
His agency brought in the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and local police to help. Authorities were conducting surveillance and deploying undercover detectives and members of the SWAT team and a gang task force.
"Ten days, nine incidents," Milstead said at a news conference. "This is a real and continuing threat to Arizona motorists."
Police have been asking for the public's help in identifying a suspect, including putting messages on freeway billboards urging people to report suspicious activity. They quadrupled the reward Tuesday to $20,000.
Graves said the agency would not discuss the surveillance or other aspects of its investigation, including whether any bullets had been recovered, whether the shooter or shooters fired from vehicles or alongside freeways and whether more than one weapon was involved. Police do not know if all nine of the shootings are connected or whether a copycat might be at work.
"We're not going to give the nuts and bolts of our investigation," Graves said, adding that doing so "would help the bad guy."
Investigators don't know a possible motive for the shootings, Graves said.
Milstead said drivers are fortunate that no one has been killed or seriously hurt, but if the incidents continue, "it's just a matter of time before there is a tragedy."
The shootings began Aug. 29, when two vehicles were struck in a half-hour span on Interstate 10 between 19th and 59th avenues. A third vehicle was hit on the same freeway near 16th Street later that day.
A fourth vehicle was shot Aug. 31 in the same area.
On Tuesday, a passenger window on the Phoenix police sergeant's personal car shattered while he was driving to work before dawn on I-10 between 35th and 43rd avenues, according to DPS officials. The officer was not injured. Another shooting happened nearby a minute later.
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