Motive sought for fatal string of Phoenix-area freeway shootings

Shooting scene in Surprise near 115th Avenue and Bell Road on Thursday, June 17.
Shooting scene in Surprise near 115th Avenue and Bell Road on Thursday, June 17.(3TV/CBS 5)
Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 11:49 AM MST
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PHOENIX (AP) - Investigators on Friday, June 18, were trying to determine why a gunman opened fire on vehicles and pedestrians for some 90 minutes across suburban Phoenix, leaving one person dead and a dozen others injured in the string of drive-by shootings.

Authorities believe a man they arrested Thursday acted alone.

There were at least eight separate shootings in three cities that stoked fear throughout the region and shut down parts of major freeways as police gathered evidence. Four people were shot, including the person who died.

According to an AZ Family report, the eight shooting locations included:

  • 103rd Avenue / West Northern Avenue
  • Loop 101 / Thunderbird Road
  • 109th Avenue / West Union Hills Drive
  • 111th Avenue / West Union Hills Drive
  • 113th Avenue / West Bell Road
  • 118th Avenue / West Bell Road
  • 21800 North El Mirage Road
  • Loop 303 / Happy Valley Road

Read the entire AZ Family report and see the scenes plotted on an interactive map HERE.

Others were injured as bullets shattered glass or as their vehicles crashed. Authorities said the injured victims were all adults and expected to fully recover.

Richard Valencia said he spent Thursday afternoon in the hospital after being shot in the shoulder as he walked from a convenience store in the city of Surprise. The 34-year-old told Phoenix news station KSAZ-TV that he fired back three times with his own weapon.

“I don’t even know the guy,” he said. “It was completely random.”

Another victim was able to give authorities a description of the suspect’s vehicle - a white Volkswagen SUV - and the license plate number. A local fire department spotted the vehicle and called police, who swarmed a retail area.

As officers drew their weapons, the shooter, who has not been identified, raised his hands and did not resist arrest, video recorded by a bystander showed. Police don’t believe anyone else was involved in the attacks.

“We don’t know the nexus, we don’t know what the motive was,” said Brandon Sheffert, a spokesman for police in the city of Peoria. “We don’t have an idea of what this person was thinking when he went out and did this.”

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