What’s the Deal with the Phoenix Highway Shootings?

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Residents of Phoenix, Arizona, and its suburbs are on edge after a series of shootings, possibly by a sniper, on busy Interstate-10. In the past 11 days, there have been 10 shootings, and although no fatalities have been reported, the pressure is on to find the culprit, or culprits.

The odd series of shootings began on August 29, when three different vehicles were struck by bullets while traveling down Interstate-10. Then, another vehicle was hit the next day. Shootings have continued at a relatively consistent rate since then–convincing most onlookers and the law enforcement in the area that these aren’t just random occurrences.

So far, there has only been one reported injury. A 13-year-old girl was cut by glass after a bullet pierced the window of a car she was riding in, shattering the window. But, that doesn’t mean that these attacks should be viewed as benign–potential future harm is a big concern.

For many, news of a “sniper” brings immediate memories of the DC, or “Beltway” Sniper, John Allen Muhammed, and his accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo. The DC Sniper terrorized the greater Washington D.C. area in 2002, killing ten people and injuring three more. However there are important differences between the two cases–so far the Phoenix shooter has been aiming at cars only, along the highway, while the DC Sniper went after pedestrians and those outside of vehicles as well. While that doesn’t mean that the Phoenix shootings aren’t incredibly concerning, they don’t warrant too serious of a comparison.

Officials who investigated the DC Sniper have also noted some serious differences between that case and the current Phoenix mystery. Arthur Roderick, who was involved in the DC Sniper investigation pointed out to CNN that whoever is shooting in Phoenix appears to have used different weapons, indicating that there may be multiple shooters, or a copycat. In addition, the stretch of Interstate-10 on which the shootings have occurred is much smaller than the region in which the DC Sniper operated, indicating it might be easier to narrow down suspects.

That being said, pressure is certainly on to find the shooter, or shooters, if the theory of a copycat being involved is true. The shootings are being labeled as “domestic terrorism” by Arizona authorities, with Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Frank Milstead stating:

Anytime that you have multiple shootings against American citizens on a highway, that’s terrorism. They’re trying to frighten or kill somebody.

Given that there doesn’t appear to be any connections between the victims, besides the fact that they were all traveling along the same stretch of highway, it’s difficult to guess any sort of motive. Milstead’s assessment that these shootings are being committed from the motivation of causing fear or unrest seems likely. But for now, this remains an odd, open case, that will hopefully be solved soon to bring peace of mind to the greater Phoenix area.

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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