POSTED: 06:36 a.m. HST, Oct 31, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 06:38 a.m. HST, Oct 31, 2012
DETROIT » Officers have begun pulling over and questioning drivers in four Michigan counties in the hopes of catching a man suspected of shooting at other motorists nearly two dozen times over the past two weeks, including one driver who was wounded over the weekend.
Officers are searching for anything out of the norm during their traffic stops in Oakland, Livingston, Ingham and Shiawassee counties, where the suspect is believed to have fired on 22 other vehicles since Oct. 16, said Lt. Mike Shaw, of the state police post in Brighton.
Witnesses have described the suspect's vehicle as resembling a dark 1998 Oldsmobile Alero or a 1998 Toyota Camry. Police on Monday stopped the driver of a dark-colored Chevy Cavalier after a woman reported that something hit her car on U.S. 23 near Brighton.
Those initial descriptions may not be correct, Shaw told The Associated Press Tuesday.
"We've had 22 victims that have tried to identify a vehicle traveling at 60 to 70 mph," he said. "We're looking for more suspicious activities that go with four-door vehicles and those darker in color — somebody that's pulled over on the side of a road or coming out of a wood line on the side of a freeway. Or if you see the same car driving around with no sense of purpose.
"We'd rather check that out and err on the side of caution."
Shaw didn't have any totals on the number of cars stopped, but said drivers "have been more than cooperative."
More than 100 local police, sheriff's deputies, state troopers and federal agents are involved in the investigation, which began with reported shootings in Wixom, about 25 miles northwest of Detroit.
A western Michigan man was shot in the buttocks Saturday while driving to Detroit along Interstate 96 in Livingston County. He is the only person wounded so far, but the suspect is believed to be shooting at people — not just their vehicles, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said Tuesday.
"It's been more of the grace of God than the guy intentionally missing people," Bouchard said. "We've had people who have been missed (by) inches. One bullet was lodged in a driver's seat."
The suspect is believed to be shooting at vehicles approaching from the opposite direction, Shaw said.
Some motorists didn't realize their vehicles had been hit until a quarter-mile or more later.
A task force put together to investigate the shootings has received more than 800 tips, including 200 that came in after the reward money for information that leads to an arrest was increased Monday from $12,000 to $102,000, Bouchard said.
Authorities say it's imperative that they catch the suspect not only to protect lives, but to stop the spread of fear affecting everyday life.
"For Halloween, we are going to do special patrols in each of our subdivisions so kids can have a normal Halloween," said Clarence Goodlein, Wixon's public safety director. "We're not going to be in the business of letting a thug and hoodlum bully us and change the course of our lives."