CHP Warns of ‘Hysteria’ After 3 More Shootings
Three more traffic-related shootings were reported on Southern California highways Monday, and the California Highway Patrol warned motorists against overreacting to the violence and “blowing the hysteria out of proportion.”
In unrelated incidents, shots were fired at a tractor-trailer rig about 1:30 a.m. on the Golden State Freeway, one shot was fired about two hours later at a motorcyclist on the Hollywood Freeway and a pickup truck’s headlight was shattered when three shots were fired about 2:30 p.m. on the Ventura Freeway near the Glendale Freeway interchange.
There were no injuries; the only arrest occurred after the motorcyclist followed his alleged assailant to an apartment in Van Nuys and called police.
Late Sunday, authorities reported that a gunman fired shots from a van at a car and, moments later, at a pickup truck on the Golden State Freeway.
16 Shootings in a Week
The latest incidents raised to nearly 30 the number of roadway attacks since mid-June. Four people have been killed and five injured. Sixteen shootings have occurred in the last week.
“We’re doing all we can to track down the shooters, but I seriously wonder if we’re not losing all perspective with the incidents,” CHP Chief Edward Gomez said Monday in a telephone interview.
“You know something is terribly wrong if people are calling up from other states wondering if it’s safe to travel to Disneyland,” he said. “People are simply freaking out. Every time a pebble flies up off the pavement and hits a windshield, someone calls up and reports another freeway shooting. It’s getting ridiculous.”
Gomez said motorists are more likely to be killed by a drunk or speeding driver than by a freeway shooter. In 1986, drunk drivers killed 332 people and speeders killed 702 people in Los Angeles County, he said.
“You take a chance every time you drive on the freeway,” Gomez said. “Many people are ignoring our advice. Defensive driving is the key to staying alive. Always be aware of what’s going on around you and don’t provoke anyone. Don’t yell and don’t chase them down.”
Gomez blamed many of the incidents on copycat shooters who read or watch media reports of the roadway shootings.
“They have to be reported, but unfortunately this inspires bravado guys to think they can take out their frustrations by pulling a trigger at someone,” he said.
Fear over the rash of roadway violence continues to prompt a flood of calls to a special CHP hot line as frantic motorists report encounters with aggressive drivers. CHP officers report more motorists appear to be carrying guns in their vehicles as an extra precaution.
In one of Monday’s attacks, motorcyclist Reunald Parker was fired upon on the Hollywood Freeway near Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue, Los Angeles Police Detective Russell Kuster said.
Parker, 28, of North Hollywood, told police he was driving his motorcycle when a car made a U-turn in front of him, Kuster said. When Parker attempted to write down the license plate number, the car followed him onto the Hollywood Freeway and the driver fired a shot that missed, Kuster said.
Parker followed the car for about 12 miles to an apartment in Van Nuys and then notified police, who arrested Robert Salas, 21, for investigation of attempted murder, Kuster said. “This guy was pretty damn determined,” Kuster said of Parker.
Sprayed With Gunfire
Earlier Monday, a tractor-trailer rig driven by Jerry Sharp of Whittier was sprayed with gunfire at about 1:30 a.m. on the northbound Golden State Freeway near Lankershim Boulevard in Sun Valley, CHP Officer Ralph Elvira said.
Sharp was uninjured, but officers dug from the side of his truck three bullets that appeared to be from a .357-Magnum revolver, Elvira said. Sharp told police that the shots were fired from a green Chevrolet van that had sped up from behind and cut in front of him, police said.
“He was one lucky driver,” Elvira said. “One of the bullets hit the cab not too far away from the guy’s head.”
Authorities were unable to confirm an earlier report by another motorist who claimed that he was fired at on the Golden State Freeway by a gunman, also in a green van.
In the Ventura Freeway incident Monday, Gary Noller of Los Angeles said a brown car carrying three people pulled alongside his pickup truck and three shots were fired from a small-caliber handgun, breaking Noller’s left headlight, according to Los Angeles Police Sgt. Paul Hermann.
2 Other Shootings
Two other shootings were reported late Sunday night, police said Monday. Sherry Marie Bonnell of Northridge said someone in a brown van with tinted windows fired at her about 7:30 p.m. as she attempted to pass the vehicle on the San Diego Freeway in the San Fernando Valley, Elvira said.
When Bonnell pulled alongside the van, someone pointed a dark object out the passenger window and apparently fired a shot, Elvira said. She moved behind the van and a man in a pickup truck attempted to pass and was also fired on, Elvira said.
There were no injuries in the two shootings.
Also Monday, police were seeking Thomas Robinson, 18, for questioning in the Saturday night shooting of Henry Kingi, ex-husband of actress Lindsay Wagner and a stunt man on the television shows “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “The A-Team.” Kingi was shot in the arm and side after arguing at a traffic light in Studio City with seven youths in a Jeep.
Kingi’s 4-year-old son, Dorian, was with him when the attack occurred but was unhurt. Kingi was in stable condition on Monday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a hospital spokesman said.
Times staff writer Mayrene Barker in the San Fernando Valley contributed to this story.