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Drivers Get Break From Sniper Attacks

Investigation: No new incidents are reported in series that has seen more than 70 autos damaged on freeways. CHP continues probe but suspects and weapons remain unidentified.


After days of jittery driving on Los Angeles area freeways, motorists were given a reprieve over the weekend from a three-week spate of sniper attacks that shattered the rear windows of more than 70 moving cars and trucks.

The California Highway Patrol reported Sunday that no similar incidents had been reported since seven motorists were attacked Wednesday. As authorities continue their search for answers--so far, they have no leads on suspects, tactics or even the weapons used--they wonder whether those responsible are finished with the attacks or simply on hiatus.

"We hope that it's over, we just don't know," said CHP Sgt. Ernie Garcia. "We're not going to let our guard down."

Garcia said that a freeway shooting Saturday night, in which a man was wounded on the San Gabriel River Freeway near Irwindale, was gang-related and not similar to the slew of window-shattering shootings.

But even as the attacks have slowed, the CHP has redoubled its efforts. It has placed more patrol and undercover cars on the roads and enlisted the aid of other law enforcement agencies and state workers who regularly use the freeways.

"The next guy they attack might be one of our own," Garcia said. "And we're going to swoop down on them, arrest them and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law."

CHP officers have searched the brush, trees and crawl spaces along the freeway perimeters and have watched for suspicious vehicles.

Investigators originally hypothesized that the shooters were attacking from the sides of the roads. But they have been unable to find bullet casings or gunpowder residue--either along the roads or in victims' vehicles--or even pinpoint from where the shots were fired.

Most victims reported that the shots seemed to come from nowhere.

One leading theory is that the shots came from a BB gun, pellet gun or high-powered slingshot, fired from a vehicle traveling behind the victims' cars. A driver or passenger moving at a lawful speed could stick a weapon out the window, make a clean shot and drive away along with the rest of traffic, switching to another freeway to make another attack.

Since the first incidents the evening of Sept. 11--when cars were damaged on the San Bernardino, San Gabriel River and Santa Monica freeways--there have been days of quiet, followed by days of stepped-up attacks. But this was the first weekend with no reported attacks.

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