Three 18-year-olds were arrested Saturday night for using wrist-rocket slingshots loaded with granite rocks to target six pedestrians and seven vehicles in the Mesa and Queen Creek areas, law enforcement announced today.
The damage, which occurred between 3 and 7 p.m., initially was investigated for any possible connection to the recent shooting spree that has hit cars primarily along Interstate 10 in western Phoenix, but as of Sunday afternoon, authorities said they have concluded that Saturday’s events were “copycat” incidents.
“We don’t think what happened on the east side has anything to do with what we have going on on the west side. These were just some kids out, thinking that maybe they’d just come up with some good idea,” Frank Milstead of the Department of Public Safety said during a joint press conference with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and the Mesa Police Department.
Luckily, no one was hurt, but “don’t kid yourself,” he said. “What these kids were doing last night was absolutely lethal.”
Milstead explained that the three shooters — identified as Christian Cook, Albert German, and Aaron Nottingham — were caught after two different witnesses reported the license plate number of the vehicle they were driving within 10 minutes. The three admitted to targeting cars and pedestrians and were arrested shortly after. They remain in jail on charges of assault, endangerment, and criminal damage.
During the press conference, Milstead thanked the public for being vigilant and aware and for reporting suspicious behavior or incidents around the greater Phoenix area.
“We have an incredibly large footprint along the I-10 corridor,” he said, but it was two public tips that helped law enforcement find and arrest the three teens. More than 850 tips have been called into the hotline in the past few days, and the DPS is investigating each and every lead that seems credible or pertinent.
“We haven’t had a shooting since Thursday, [but] we continue to monitor our leads coming into the watch center,” Milstead said.
Thursday’s shooting on I-10 brought the total number of related incidents up to 11 — eight involved bullets shot from guns and three involved other projectiles. Beyond that, authorities say they don't know much more about the perpetrator (or perpetrators).
“I couldn’t tell you if it’s more than one person or it’s the same group of people, or it’s a guy changing what he’s doing,” Milstead said.
The DPS arrested one man on Friday morning, 19-year old-Oscar de la Torre Munoz, on unrelated charges, and continued today to question him as a possible “person of interest” in the shooting case.
A DPS spokesman says law enforcement is questioning many other individuals — “We’re not going to [release] every piece of information,” he added. “But it’s fair to say that we’re interviewing a lot of people, and we were led to them…by tips from the public and from good old-fashioned police work. And that’s going to continue.”