If the Shoe Fits: Distinctive Prints Point Arizona Deputies to Man Suspected of Shooting Cars

The sandals worn by Hipolito Rodriguez, made from recycled tires.
The sandals worn by Hipolito Rodriguez, made from recycled tires. Courtesy of MCSO
Diligent detectives are taking credit for nabbing a West Valley man suspected of shooting at power-plant employees driving to work near the rural town of Arlington.

Yet this case didn’t exactly need the services of Hercule Poirot, the fictional detective from the reboot of Murder on the Orient Express.

click to enlarge Hipolito Rodriguez, 18, is suspected of shooting at cars near Palo Verde. - COURTESY OF MCSO
Hipolito Rodriguez, 18, is suspected of shooting at cars near Palo Verde.
Courtesy of MCSO
The mystery, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, when deputies responded to reports that somebody in Arlington was shooting at moving vehicles early Sunday morning.

Arlington is a remote community at a fork in the road near the southward bend in the Gila River, near the even-smaller community of Palo Verde. It’s also near where Salt River Project’s Mesquite Generating Station and Arizona Public Service’s Redhawk Power Plant are located.

Two power-plant employees, one at each site, told their security teams and the MCSO that bullets struck their cars, but did not injure them.

The MCSO’s gumshoe detectives went to the scene. They found bits of damaged cars and some distinctive shoe prints.

This is the part of the drama where Poirot would annoy everybody by revealing the prints could only have come from a particular shoe made only is some exotic place we’ve never heard of. He’d be mostly right, too.

It turns out, the suspect, dressed entirely in black, with a black bandana over his mouth and chin, decided to craft sandals out of old tires. The numbers from those tires stuck out from the soles of the sandals, producing what MCSO called “a distinctive print.”

Sadly for the suspect, his ingenuity extended only as far as his feet. Detectives were able to follow the unique print right to the doorstep of his house. He was still wearing the sandals.

The suspect, 18-year-old Hipolito Rodriguez, then told detectives he was carrying some unknown quantity of meth.

They searched his house and found a shotgun that they say was used to blast away at the commuters.

Rodriguez was booked into jail and faces two counts of aggravated assault and a drug charge. Investigators do not think he had it in specifically for power-plant workers.

“It took a committed and expert team of detectives and MCSO evidence technicians to link the print to the suspect. I’m extremely proud of their work on behalf of the people we serve and grateful that the suspect was caught before anyone was injured,” Sheriff Paul Penzone said in a prepared statement.
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Sean Holstege is a freelance reporter with a 30-year career in print news. He was an investigative reporter at The Arizona Republic and the Oakland Tribune. He won a Sigma Delta Chi award for investigative reporting. He’s covered transportation, terrorism, the border, disasters, child welfare, courts, and breaking news.
Contact: Sean Holstege