3 arrested in copycat incidents of Phoenix freeway shootings

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Arizona Highway Shootings Spawn Copycats


PHOENIX (AP) — Three teenagers were arrested Sunday for allegedly shooting at cars with a slingshot, but the incidents were not related to a recent string of Phoenix-area freeway shootings, authorities said.

Three men, all age 18, were in jail after admitting to flinging rocks at pedestrians and vehicles, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said.

Arpaio also told reporters Sunday that a couple whose car window was shattered Saturday east of Phoenix noted a license plate number of a vehicle that allegedly pulled up alongside them. Deputies and the state Department of Public Safety located the vehicle.

DPS Director Frank Milstead said the incidents are copycats and there was nothing linking them to any of the 11 incidents his agency has been investigating.

The agency also detained a 19-year-old man Friday for questioning in the shootings.

The shootings have left the city on edge for two weeks. Many Phoenix drivers have avoided freeways since the 11 confirmed shootings began Aug. 29, mostly along Interstate 10, a major route through the city. Eight of the cars were hit with bullets and three with projectiles that could have been BBs or pellets. One girl's ear was cut by glass as a bullet shattered her window.

See photos of the unfolding situation in Arizona:

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Shootings along Arizona freeway
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3 arrested in copycat incidents of Phoenix freeway shootings
Arizona Department of Transportation Live Traffic Operations Operators Lisa Supplee, rear, and Chuck Wood monitor over 200 freeway camera's throughout the Phoenix Metro area, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015 in Phoenix. Numerous shootings of vehicles along I-10 over the past two weeks have investigators working around the clock to find a suspect in a spate of recent Phoenix freeway shootings that have rattled nerves and heightened fears of a possible serial shooter. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Arizona Department of Public Safety officers inspect a tractor trailer with a bullet hole in the passenger door shortly after it was shot near 67th Ave and I-10, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015 in Phoenix. Numerous shootings of vehicles along I-10 over the past two weeks have investigators working around the clock to find a suspect in a spate of recent Phoenix freeway shootings that have rattled nerves and heightened fears of a possible serial shooter. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Map shows locations of 10 recent incidents on Phoenix-area freeways involving bullets or unspecified projectiles; 3c x 4 1/2 inches; 146 mm x 114 mm;
Leslie Allen Merritt Jr., makes his way to appear before a judge at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Phoenix. The landscaper is the suspect in a series of Phoenix freeway shootings and was arrested Friday after trying to sell a gun at a pawn shop. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic via AP, Pool)
An Arizona Department of Transportation sign gives a hotline number for information on the recent freeway shootings on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015 near Phoenix, Ariz. A bullet shattered the rear window of a truck on I-10 between 43rd Ave. and 35th Ave. in Phoenix earlier Wednesday. (AP Photo/Traci Carl)
This undated photo released by the Arizona Department of Public Safety shows a bullet hole in the windshield of a vehicle in Phoenix. Four vehicles traveling on the same freeway in the heart of Phoenix have been struck by gunshots in the last week, and the state police agency is appealing for information from the public as it conducts what it says is a robust investigation. (Arizona Department of Public Safety via AP)
This Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015 photo provided by The Arizona Department of Public Safety shows a SUV window shattered by a gun shot in Phoenix. Authorities say shots were fired at several vehicles on Interstate 10 in Phoenixover the weekend, with bullets striking three vehicles and injuring one person. (The Arizona Department of Public Safety via AP)
An Arizona Department of Transportation sign gives a hotline number for information on the recent freeway shootings as motorists pass under at the 202/I-10 intersection, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015 in Chandler, Ariz. Authorities are investigating nine shootings of vehicles over the past two weeks along I-10 in Phoenix. A truck's passenger window shattered on a Phoenix freeway Wednesday as Arizona authorities investigated a string of highway shootings that have rattled nerves and heightened fears of a possible serial shooter.(AP Photo/Matt York)
Danger on the freeway. Why @Arizona_DPS has doubled a reward to catch a shooter. Details on #GMAZ at 430am http://t.co/d54CEvr64W
INFO: @Arizona_DPS investigating NINE incidents in 10 days tied to freeway shootings. http://t.co/K0wDPE8mwD #abc15 http://t.co/EW9l7cNuFe
More than 100 calls coming in during the past 24 hours: http://t.co/rQGZaI69Nl
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Police have been seeking tips, with freeway message boards across the city continuing to flash a tip-line number.

The shooting scenarios have varied. Some involved bullets fired at random cars, others involved projectiles and one was apparently road rage.

Longtime residents still remember a string of random shootings that terrorized Phoenix a decade ago. Nearly 30 people were shot then, and eight killed, including a cyclist who was riding down the street and a man who was sleeping at a bus stop. Two men were eventually caught and convicted.

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