Authorities in Arizona arrested three teenagers in what they called a “copycat” case that mimicked a string of shootings and other attacks in the Phoenix area over the last two weeks.
The three 18-year-olds used slingshots to shoot rocks at pedestrians and vehicles, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Frank Milstead said at a news conference Sunday.
Arpaio said the teens admitted to shooting at six pedestrians at State Route 24 and Ellsworth Road within four hours Saturday.
Among the victims was a couple whose car window was shattered, he said.
“The victims were smart enough to get the license plate of the vehicle that pulled up alongside,” Arpaio told reporters, adding that their vigilance led to the teens' arrests.
The Mesa Police Department, Arizona Department of Public Safety and Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office collaborated on the investigation.
Authorities said they found the suspects’ vehicle in a Chandler neighborhood. The driver, Aaron Nottingham, admitted involvement, the sheriff’s office said. Nottingham then identified two other suspects, Albert German and Christian Cook, the sheriff’s office said.
German and Cook admitted their involvement, officials said, and explained that they had been driving around the Mesa and Queen Creek area Saturday night, randomly firing at pedestrians and vehicles.
Arpaio said the attacks were “still serious” despite being copycat crimes.
Since Aug. 29, more than 10 vehicles have been shot at along a stretch of Interstate 10 from central Phoenix to five miles west of downtown.
One person, a 13-year-old girl, has been injured, though it remains unclear whether she was struck by a projectile or wounded by debris after the vehicle she was riding in was shot at.
Eight of the vehicles were hit by bullets, police said. Three were struck with “other projectiles.” Authorities would not comment on the caliber of ammunition or type of weapon used in any of the incidents.
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Times staff writer James Queally contributed to this report.