Sun, Nov 30, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Link found between mysterious highway shootings

NO ACCIDENT Authorities have warned people to keep an eye on their neighbors after tests linked a woman's death to a spate of random shots being fired at vehicles

AP , COLUMBUS, OHIO

Gail Knisley was headed to a doctor's appointment on a freeway ringing Columbus when a bullet ripped through the driver's door.

"What was that?" she asked the friend driving, then she slumped forward, fatally wounded.

Authorities said for the first time Friday they had linked Knisley's death to at least one of nine other reports of shots fired at vehicles along about a 8km stretch of the same highway -- and they said the shooting was not an accident. Police won't use the term "sniper," but they say more of the shootings could be connected.

The first reported shooting on the southern section of Interstate 270 or in its immediate area was in May. The rest have been in the last seven weeks. The shots have been fired at different times of day, piercing trucks, cars, vans and pickups, shattering windows and flattening tires -- and killing Knisley. One of the vehicles hit was a UPS delivery truck.

Authorities have released few details, saying only that tests on the bullets connected Knisley's shooting on Tuesday to one of the others, though they wouldn't identify which one. They declined to speculate on the type of weapon used.

Franklin County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Steve Martin said it's unclear whether one shooter or more was involved.

"I'm not in a position where I can tell you exactly what happened, whether someone was stationary or mobile when any of these shots were fired," he said.

Authorities on Friday asked whoever is responsible to call the sheriff's office. Martin also said the public should watch for changes in the behavior of friends and relatives, such as missing work or appointments, showing excessive interest in the shootings or changing appearance.

Extra patrols have been assigned to the leg of the highway. The route runs through a sparsely populated area that includes woods frequented by hunters and people practicing target shooting.

Edward Cable was headed home to southern Ohio through that area on Nov. 21 when he heard a noise in his minivan. He found a bullet hole and shell fragment about 40cm behind the driver's seat.

Trucker William Briggs was hauling two empty trailers back from Roanoke, Virginia, about 11:30pm on Oct. 19 when his driver's side window exploded. He kept driving, assuming he had been hit by a rock, and turned on his dome light to search for the stone but couldn't find it. A few minutes later, stopped at a truck terminal, he discovered the bullet.

Knisley, a homemaker who lived about 64km away from Columbus, didn't like to drive in the city and was being chauffeured by her friend Mary Cox. After Knisley's checkup following minor surgery on skin cancer lesions on her nose, the two had planned to go to lunch and go Christmas shopping.

They were talking when they heard a pop.

"What was that? What was that?" Knisley, 62, said before slumping forward.

Hours later, a pickup truck was hit on US 23, not far from its intersection with I-270, deputies said.

People who live, work and travel in the area say they are nervous.

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