Three teens have been arrested for allegedly using a slingshot to shoot rocks at pedestrians and cars along a road in Arizona. Officials describe the incident as a “copycat” crime to a string of unsolved shootings along a Phoenix freeway.
According to authorities, the teenagers shot projectiles at several cars and pedestrians along Arizona State Route 24 on Saturday afternoon. The alleged incident occurred just a few miles from the stretch of Interstate 10 where at least 11 vehicles have been shot by an unknown shooter in the last two-plus weeks.
In a press conference, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said that the teens were captured after a report from a couple who said their car window was shattered from a projectile. The couple saw the suspects’ license plate, which led to their arrests.
Police have arrested Aaron Nottingham, Albert German and Christian Cook, all 18-year-olds from Mesa, Arizona. According to booking documents, they have been charged with assault, endangerment, and criminal damage. When questioned by police, the teens allegedly told investigators that they shot crushed granite rock at about 5 vehicles and 10 pedestrians.
In an interview with KPHO, German’s mother, Michelle, insisted that her son would never intentionally harm anyone. “I don t care what anybody says, they weren’t trying to hurt anyone,” she said. “I know that. I know my son better than that.”
Authorities don’t believe the three teens are involved in the shooting spree that began on August 29 when a bullet hit an SUV’s windshield. The SUV’s shattered glass injured a 13-year-old girl in the front seat.
Last week, Frank Milstead, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, called the shootings “domestic terrorism.” Although no one has been seriously injured, authorities say it’s just a matter of time – and that they are working feverishly to solve the case.
“This investigation continues as we work to identity and assist in the prosecution of anyone involved in these series of shootings,” Milstead tells PEOPLE in a statement. “We need the ongoing vigilance and patience of our community and the media as this is a very complex and ongoing investigation.”
On Friday, cops interviewed a man they identified as a person of interest who had been arrested on a marijuana charge, but then announced on Saturday that the man was not considered a prime suspect in the shootings.
A group of 17 armed civilians calling themselves “Bolt Force” has also formed, according to a CNN report. The group, whose founder describes as like “guardian angels on steroids,” dress in black and patrol highway overpasses and alleyways around Interstate 10, the report said.
Anyone with information about the shooting can send a tip to the Arizona Department of Public Safety through their website or call 602-644-5805.
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