COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The day after the chief investigator said authorities were closing in on a serial highway shooter, a man stood in plain view on an overpass and fired a handgun at the cars below. He then walked to his car and slipped into traffic.
Ballistics testing has confirmed that the Saturday morning shooting was the 24th in a series in the Columbus area, investigators said yesterday. No one was injured in that shooting.
The bullet recovered from the battery of a sport utility vehicle struck on Interstate 70 matches eight others recovered during the investigation, including the one that killed a woman in November, according to a release. The others have been linked by factors including location and circumstances.
Specialists said the shooter is becoming bolder after evading capture for three months, when authorities first established a pattern in the shootings.
"He's sending a message to police: `You're not as close as you think you are. I can shoot in broad daylight, and you still won't find me,' " said Jack Levin, a criminologist and director of the Brudnick Center on Violence at Northeastern University.
On Friday, the chief investigator, Franklin County Chief Deputy Steve Martin, said he felt confident in the investigation's progress. "We feel that we're getting closer all the time," Martin said. "We are doing exactly what we need to do."
The next day, the shooter escaped despite police aircraft dispatched within moments of the victim's cellphone call. The shooter even appeared "casual" and indifferent to witnesses, Martin said.
Witnesses said a man stood on a county road over the freeway and fired a handgun at a Chevy Suburban. They described him as a clean-shaven white male in his 30s with dark hair, wearing a hat and sunglasses, and driving a small black sedan.
"He wasn't in a hurry," said Joe Joan, who was driving in front of the SUV that was shot and saw the shooter. "He didn't speed up or nothing. He just got in and took off real slow."
Saturday's shooting is the farthest east the shooter has struck. The serial shootings began in May, though most have occurred since mid-October. Until last month, the gunfire at vehicles and buildings was scattered along Interstate 270, a busy highway that circles Columbus. The previous four shootings, including two last Sunday, had moved progressively farther southwest on Interstate 71.