With tensions still high after a spate of recent shootings of cars along Phoenix freeways, a 36-year-old Arizona man fired on the driver of a Honda Civic on Loop 101 in the West Valley, authorities say.
Christopher Joel Hoffman tailgated the Honda for miles before unleashing his road rage on its driver, they say.
Hoffman, suspected to be high on methamphetamine at the time, according records of his arrest, rolled down his car window and fired a Glock .40-caliber handgun he'd taken from his stepfather earlier in the day, shattering the Honda's driver's-side rear window.
Police say he peeled out from behind the Honda and drove alongside it for a few seconds, unleashing at least three more rounds of ammunition at the driver, Ernesto Gutierrez.
Gutierrez, who had noticed Hoffman's tan Chevy truck driving erratically behind him, managed to duck just in time. Court documents say there were three bullet holes in the driver's-side front window and another bullet hole in the vertical support behind the window.
As Hoffman was shooting, Gutierrez accelerated. He and another witness told police they saw the Chevy truck pull off the highway at Bell Road. Gutierrez was not injured despite the shattered glass from the gunfire, and he called police from a QuikTrip parking lot in Peoria.
The incident occurred about 11 a.m. Saturday, Initially, law enforcement wondered whether the incident could be connected to the freeway shooting spree that terrorized Phoenix drivers from late August through mid-September. But as more information came in throughout the weekend, the Arizona Department of Public Safety declared it an isolated situation.
A man is in custody for four of the car shootings along Interstate 10, but the DPS says other incidents in the spree could have been the work of a copycat.
Describing the Saturday shooting, Peoria Police Department Detective J.M. Delgado wrote in a statement: “Ernesto [Gutierrez] did not know why he was shot at. He never saw the suspect before, and he did not have any problems with anybody,”
Gutierrez told police the shooter was a white male with a shaved head who looked to be in his late 30s to early 40s, and until an anonymous person called Peoria police at 8:30 p.m. and gave the dispatcher Hoffman's name, this was all the information available.
After speeding away from the scene, Hoffman drove to his mother's house, reloaded the gun with extra ammunition, and stashed it in his former bedroom, according to police. He bragged about the shooting to his mother and stepfather, and his mother found her husband's missing gun in her son's old room.
She hid it in her own bedroom, police say, and turned in her son later that night.
When Peoria police arrived at her house, she led them to Hoffman, who was passed out on the living room couch.
Initially, Hoffman denied shooting Gutierrez's car but admitted he probably had meth on him, police say.
After his arrest, officers found a clear, plastic baggie of meth in his front shirt pocket.
Later that night, during a second interview at the Peoria police station, investigators say, he admitted to driving what turned out to be his mother's tan Chevy and to shooting his stepfather's gun.
Hoffman, who told police he started snorting meth when he was 14, was living in a halfway house for recovering drug addicts in North Phoenix.
He remains in the Fourth Avenue Jail on suspicion of disorderly conduct, aggravated assault, and dangerous drug possession.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.