Pickup driver shot out car windows on 101 Freeway with slingshot and marbles, authorities say

A 52-year-old man has been arrested in connection with a string of attacks on vehicles on freeways around Monterey County, authorities said.

Charles Kenneth Lafferty, 52, was arrested Wednesday after a nearly yearlong investigation into projectiles striking dozens of cars as they traveled along Highways 101 and 156 in the Prunedale area.

Investigators said Lafferty committed the attacks from behind the wheel of a pickup truck, using a slingshot to launch glass marbles at the driver’s side windows and windshields of oncoming vehicles.

A total of 69 attacks have been reported since Feb. 19 in Monterey and San Benito counties, and five people, including a child, suffered minor injuries from shattered glass. On one Saturday in mid-December, six cars were struck in as many minutes.

Lafferty was arrested on suspicion of being involved in 10 of the attacks, but investigators said they’re working to link him to more.


Charles Kenneth Lafferty's mugshot.
Charles Kenneth Lafferty, 52.
(Monterey County Jail)

The inquiry, which officials termed the “projectile alley investigation,” had bedeviled authorities for nearly a year, prompting the California Highway Patrol to form a task force to find who was responsible.

“Understandably, the affected communities and those traveling these stretches of roadways were concerned and scared for their and their families’ safety,” Chief L.D. Maples, commander of the CHP’s Coastal Division, said at a news conference Thursday. “Finding whoever was responsible was a priority to the California Highway Patrol. In our minds, it wasn’t a matter of if but when there would be more serious consequences, including loss of life.”

Investigators were tight-lipped about exactly how they caught up with Lafferty but said a break in the case came shortly after the most recent attack Jan. 5. Authorities identified a GMC Sonoma pickup as the vehicle used in some of the attacks and then linked Lafferty to the truck, they said.

On Wednesday, law enforcement authorities from the CHP and the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office executed several search warrants on homes in San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties. Using items they found, they were able to positively identify Lafferty as the suspect and link him to some of the attacks, officials said.

Authorities would not speculate on a possible motive but said Lafferty is believed to have worked alone and appears to have targeted vehicles at random.

He was booked into the Monterey County Jail on suspicion of 10 counts each of throwing an object at a vehicle and assault with a deadly weapon, as well as one count of felony possession of a silencer. He remained there Friday in lieu of $250,000 bail. Investigators said that although he was found to be in possession of a silencer, Lafferty is not believed to have used a firearm in any of the attacks.

“Those of us who have been prosecutors … you know when you have senseless random acts of violence where you have no pattern, no motive, no witnesses, occurring over a substantial period of time, over a substantial area — 10, 15 miles — it’s quite difficult to ever develop enough evidence to bring it forward and to make an arrest,” Monterey County Supervisor John Phillips said at Thursday’s news conference. “And we feel really fortunate that there wasn’t a greater injury and we were able to make the arrest.”