Fifteen days into an investigation of a shooting spree on Phoenix highways, the Arizona Department of Public Safety announced Monday afternoon that it's increasing the reward for information or tips that lead to the arrest of the person or people targeting vehicles.
The reward, previously $20,000, now is $50,000 and is funded by the DPS, the Arizona Highway Patrol Association, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Fraternal Order of Police.
DPS Director Frank Milstead explained that the reward has been more than doubled to stress how important it is for anyone with information to come forward.
“The reward implies that I have not received the tip that I'm looking for, at least that I know of,” he said. “Someone out there has information on this case, and I'm willing to pay for it.”
Milstead stressed that tips can be called in anonymously. “We don't need your name, we don't need your identity, we just need to know what you know,” he said. Without elaborating, he said the DPS somehow will find the caller and pay the reward.
Since August 29, the DPS has been investigating 11 non-fatal incidents in which vehicles on Arizona highways – primarily Interstate 10 – have been targeted by bullets or projectiles.
No official arrests in the case have been made, although last week a 19-year-old Avondale resident, Oscar de la Torre Munoz, was booked on unrelated charges and remains “a person of interest” in the case. Munoz “is still somebody that we want to know more about, and through the investigative process we hope to do that,” Milstead said.
At the Monday afternoon press conference, Milstead also talked about the three Mesa 18-year-olds who were arrested Saturday night after they used slingshots and granite rocks to shoot vehicles and pedestrians: “Instinctively, there is no reason to believe that's related to bullets being fired on I-10 west, but we still have to interview the kids – determine where they were, what they were doing, and why they participated in this hazardous activity.”
“By giving out that information [about the three teens] with the sheriff yesterday, it was by no design trying to say that we had solved this case. And I will tell you, quite candidly, that we have not solved this case,” he said. “I can tell you that we have made headway and we continue to move forward, but we are still not there.”
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Milstead assured the crowd of reporters that he has “no intention of scaling back” the investigative effort “until we know more or have reason to believe that Arizonans are safe…Peoples' lives are at risk, the public is terrified, and the only way to put this back to normal is to make sure that apprehend the perpetrator or perpetrators as quickly as possible.”
At the end of the press conference, one reporter asked Milstead if he worries that such a large sum of money could inspire vigilantism, to which Milstead replied: “That hasn't occurred to me, I haven't given that thought.”
He paused for moment before saying, “If something comes up, we'll respond accordingly, but right now that $50,000 reward is for that person or persons who knows who this is.”