Prosecutor: Freeway shootings are acts of domestic terrorism

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$50,000 Reward Offered in Arizona Freeway Shootings

PHOENIX (AP) -- The top county prosecutor for metro Phoenix says a series of freeway shootings that has put this desert community on edge are acts of domestic terrorism, but he acknowledged there's no state terrorism law to bring against those responsible.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said Wednesday that the shootings qualify as terrorism in a general sense because they have caused fear among motorists and prompted them to change their driving routines.

"My reason for using that terminology, again, is to underscore how serious law enforcement is taking this threat to the public and recognizing what the impact has been," the prosecutor said.

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Prosecutor: Freeway shootings are acts of domestic terrorism
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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Arizona's terrorism laws enacted after the 9/11 attacks focus mostly on protecting public utilities from attack, but they wouldn't apply to the freeway shootings, Montgomery said.

Instead, those responsible for the shootings could face state endangerment, criminal damage and aggravated assault charges, said Montgomery, adding that nothing has surfaced to suggest the case would be handled by federal prosecutors.

Department of Public Safety Director Frank Milstead, whose agency is leading the investigation, has previously called the incidents "domestic terrorism crimes."

Danielle Wallace, an assistant professor at Arizona State University's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, disagreed with the characterization.

"It's a little extreme. We don't know what the motivation is of the shooter. It's kind of hard to say what it is until we know," Wallace said. "Who knows what this person is doing? They could just be mimicking another crime that's happened recently."

Authorities are investigating 11 confirmed vehicle shootings since Aug. 29, mostly along Interstate 10. Some involve bullets and others came from projectiles that could include BBs, pellets or rocks. No motive has been established.

Authorities announced Wednesday that they would be using 16 all-digital billboards across the metro area to advertise the $50,000 reward being offered for information leading to an arrest in the case. Officers handed out thousands of fliers in neighborhoods near Interstate 10 in hopes of getting a break in the case.

There has only been one injury. A 13-year-old girl's ear was cut by glass as a bullet shattered the window of the vehicle she was riding in.

There hasn't been a freeway shooting reported since Thursday, investigators said.

A 19-year-old Avondale man who was detained Friday remained jailed on a charge unrelated to the shootings. Investigators have declined to explain why the man was questioned about the case.

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Associated Press writer Terry Tang in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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