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Man Is Accused of Shooting at Cars

March 19, 2004|William Overend | Times Staff Writer

SANTA BARBARA — A man accused of shooting at vehicles on U.S. Highway 101 and forcing closure of the main roadway through Santa Barbara County for six hours was arrested early Thursday on suspicion of attempted murder.

California Highway Patrol officials said Keith Tomlinson, 36, a maintenance worker in the El Capitan Ranch area north of Goleta, was arrested near his home by the Santa Barbara County sheriff's SWAT team about 1 a.m.

At least three cars were hit by rifle fire Tuesday and Wednesday, CHP officers said. No one was hurt by the occasional shots fired during the late afternoon and early evening rush hours, they said. Traffic on the 101 was diverted over the San Marcos Pass on California 154 without significant delays, they said.

Capt. Cliff Williams, area CHP commander, said law enforcement agencies began stepping up patrols in the El Capitan Ranch area early Wednesday. He said the 101 was closed and the sheriff's SWAT team deployed after undercover officers heard gunfire.

Williams said Tomlinson had been arrested last Christmas for throwing rocks at vehicles while intoxicated.

"During Wednesday's investigations, we had entertained the possibility that he could be the person we were looking for," Williams said.

"He was booked in county jail on charges of suspicion of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and shooting at moving vehicles.

"At the time we shut down the freeway, we had three cars with bullet holes, and there might be a fourth," he said.

"Tomlinson was arrested without significant incident, and a rifle was recovered."

Williams declined to speculate on whether there might have been a copycat factor in the Santa Barbara case, referring to recent sniper cases in Ohio and in the Bay Area.

Williams said he had no information about Tomlinson and his personal history except for the earlier arrest.

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