A Bullet Hole and a 'Miracle': Local Driver Tells of His Close Call with Phoenix's Serial Street Shooter

The exit hole made by a bullet that passed through a Phoenix resident's car. Police have linked the shooting to the serial killer who has terrorized west Phoenix since March.EXPAND
The exit hole made by a bullet that passed through a Phoenix resident's car. Police have linked the shooting to the serial killer who has terrorized west Phoenix since March.
Ray Stern

The Phoenix man who narrowly escaped being killed in July by the Serial Street Shooter doesn't want his identity revealed.

"I'm just an ordinary young man who experienced an extraordinary miracle," he says with a grin.

He may be right about that. On July 11, the unknown assailant, who appears to choose his victims at random, riddled the man's car with bullets at point-blank range in a quiet neighborhood near 30th Street and Thomas Road. One bullet whizzed past the man's 4-year-old nephew, who was in the passenger seat, before leaving a ragged exit hole on the outside of the door.

Neither of the car's occupants was hurt.

The killer, whom authorities have dubbed the Serial Street Shooter, has terrorized Phoenix since March, killing seven people and wounding two others.

Though the suspect is also known as the Maryvale Serial Killer, owing to the fact that five of his victims were shot in that area of west Phoenix, police want to remind the public that he could attack anywhere.

"I have been trying to explain since the early on that this is not limited to Maryvale," Sergeant Jonathan Howard, a Phoenix police spokesman, tells New Times. "With his access to vehicles, he certainly has the ability to continue committing crimes elsewhere."

A police report released this week details the shooter's most recent confirmed strike and lists the target's name, but for obvious reasons the victim would prefer that his identity not be revealed.

The young man and his nephew were returning from a coin laundry at 30th Street and Thomas Road at about 5:30 p.m. on July 11, a Monday. Driving slowly south on 30th Street into the neighborhood of single-family homes, he reached the stop sign on Sheridan Street. A dirty, black, four-door BMW had also pulled up to the four-way stop, heading west on Sheridan. The young man driving with his nephew yielded to the BMW, but the driver, also a young male, didn't move. So the victim moved his red car forward to continue along 30th. The BMW driver turned right to head north on 30th, and for a moment the two drivers — both of whom had their driver's-side window down — came within feet of each other.

"We were pretty close. He was like, from me to you," the man says. "It was at point-blank range."

He describes the BMW driver as a young-looking, clean-shaven Hispanic man with short black hair, wearing a black T-shirt and holding a black handgun.

The latest flyer depicting the serial shooter contains a composite sketch of the suspect and a car similar to the black BMW seen by the victim who escaped being shot on July 11.
The latest flyer depicting the serial shooter contains a composite sketch of the suspect and a car similar to the black BMW seen by the victim who escaped being shot on July 11.
Phoenix PD

"It was so in-the-moment," he says, attempting to describe the experience. "It was within a matter of seconds."

He recalls that the suspect seemed to stick his head forward: "Like, 'I'm making sure I'm locking on to you.'"

The gunman looked quickly left and right as if to check for possible witnesses, then focused again on the victim: "Like, 'I'm gonna get you.'"

The victim says the gunman would have been able to clearly see his nephew in the passenger seat. The handgun snapped as the suspect fired once at him. The man ducked and tried to shield the little boy as he stomped the accelerator. He remembers hearing at least two more shots as he sped away.

"I was like, 'I gotta get away from this dude!'" he recounts. "It was so quick and so surprising."

The man says he firmly believes it was "God's deliverance" that spared him and his nephew. He shows New Times the bullet holes in his car. One punched through the left side near the hood. He found another in his dashboard.

The normally quiet intersection at 30th and Sheridan streets in Phoenix, the site of the most recent confirmed assault by the Serial Street Shooter, which occurred July 11.EXPAND
The normally quiet intersection at 30th and Sheridan streets in Phoenix, the site of the most recent confirmed assault by the Serial Street Shooter, which occurred July 11.
Ray Stern

Residents near the intersection say it's frightening to think of bullets flying around their neighborhood, a quiet area where gunfire is never heard.

Almost never, that is.

One group of family members tell New Times that, about a year or two ago, someone stood on the same street and fired a gun several times into the air. The perpetrator was arrested after he was identified on a homeowner's exterior house camera.

When one of the residents called 911 to report hearing gunshots on July 11, the operator told her police wouldn't respond unless the shooting was "retaliation," she says. (New Times couldn't immediately confirm her tale.) She says one of her sons then called another number for Phoenix police. She looked outside after hearing the shots and saw the victim's red car drive past, but no black car.

Detectives who responded to the scene found five shell casings at the intersection of Sheridan and 30th streets. One of the bullets hit a nearby block wall. In a video recovered from a nearby resident's home, a "puff of smoke or dust can be seen" as the bullet hits the wall.

The report doesn't indicate whether the shell casings were definitively linked to the seven fatal shootings, or why police believe the shooting at 30th and Sheridan was committed by the serial shooter. Police collected video evidence from several sources following a canvass of the neighborhood.

"We thought it was firecrackers at the beginning," one resident said. "One of our neighbors thought it was someone pounding on her door."

Residents said they've been on high alert since the incident, paying more careful attention to the cars that drive on their street. Witnesses from the other shootings reported seeing a car that also had light coloring — police believe the suspect could be a mechanic or someone else who has access to several vehicles.

"Our hope is that people throughout the Valley increase their levels of awareness and report suspicious people or vehicles in their neighborhoods, regardless of where they are," Sergeant Howard tells New Times. "People seem to be struggling to understand that this issue goes beyond Maryvale and affects a larger portion of our city."

Police are offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the suspect's capture. The public is asked to call the Arizona nonprofit Silent Witness at 480-948-6377 or 800-343-TIPS. Tipsters can also leave an anonymous message via the nonprofit's website, silentwitness.org


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