Windows have been shot out of at least 35 vehicles traveling on Interstates 15 and 10 in San Bernardino County since Sunday, leading to the creation of a California Highway Patrol task force to capture those responsible, authorities said.
CHP investigators suspect that a group of youngsters has been firing a pellet gun at cars along a 30-mile stretch of the interstates, terrifying motorists and creating a deadly hazard on some of the area's busiest freeways. So far, no injuries have been reported.
At least two witnesses told authorities they saw a group of young people traveling in the vehicles that fired the shots, an SUV on one occasion and a sedan during the other, said CHP spokesman Ron Seldon. A pellet was found in one of the cars that had a window shot out, Seldon said.
"We don't think they're targeting people," he said. "We think they're doing it to get their joys or something, but this is definitely dangerous. They could hit someone in the car, or they could cause a crash by shocking the driver. There is definitely a lot of risk to what they are doing."
The shootings have taken place along a section of the freeways stretching east on Interstate 10 from the Euclid Avenue exit to Interstate 15, then north on Interstate 15 to the Highway 138 exit on the Cajon Pass.
A rash of similar shootings in that area occurred in October. On Sunday, CHP officials started receiving new reports of shot-out, shattered windows. Three incidents were reported Tuesday, including one from a Rancho Cucamonga mother driving an SUV with her child in a car seat.
The CHP has beefed up its freeway presence with more patrol and undercover cars, and with airplanes and helicopters. Officers are encouraging motorists to be "a little more vigilant, to look around at their surroundings more than they usually do," said Rancho Cucamonga CHP officer Tony Nguyen.
If caught, the suspects could be charged with discharging a firearm at an occupied vehicle, a felony, Seldon said.
Rear and side windows have been targeted, CHP officials say. The incidents have occurred "against various vehicles primarily during daylight hours," CHP spokesman Lee Nuez said.
"Obviously, any projectile can inflict injury, even if a person is not targeted," Nuez said. "This is cause for alarm, not only because of injury or someone losing control of their car, but the fact this could elicit a road rage incident."
Anyone with information is encouraged to call the CHP Dispatch Center at (909) 388-8000.