A lone shooter armed with a rifle fired on vehicles at random as he drove on highways and major roads in North and Central Austin starting about 2 a.m. Saturday, striking vehicles and wounding four people, Austin police said.
One of the injured is a 7-year-old girl who remains in critical condition at Dell Children’s Medical Center.
Police say they have a suspect in custody and that “there’s no continued danger to the public,” but they are not releasing his name. He appeared to be intoxicated, authorities say.
“We do not have a motive for the shootings,” said Joseph Chacon, an assistant police chief. “It appears the shootings are random in nature.”
The shootings began shortly before 2 a.m. and continued for about an hour on multiple roads, including Interstate 35, U.S. 183 and Lamar Boulevard, among others. Police said it appears the suspect was driving and simultaneously shooting at vehicles on the road.
“I’m going to be honest. It’s a little convoluted,” Chacon said. “We have a lot of crime scenes. We have several people who were injured in this.
“There are a lot of victims and witnesses that we have to interview and obtain statements from and evidence we have to process. This is going to take days and weeks for us to get through this investigation.”
Those injured are a young man who was shot sometime after 2 a.m. near U.S. 183 and North Lamar; and three people in the same vehicle, a 29-year-old man, a 31-year-old woman and the 7-year-old girl, who were riding near Masterson Pass and North Lamar when they were shot around 2:25 a.m.
Other victims reported that the shooter pulled alongside their vehicles and pointed a gun at them but did not fire. One 24-year-old woman said she was near I-35 and 51st Street when the suspect was driving erratically and began to chase her before hitting her vehicle from behind, pulling alongside her and then pointing a weapon at her before driving away.
Shortly after 3 a.m., an officer with the Texas Department of Public Safety found an abandoned black vehicle matching the description provided to police near U.S. 290 and I-35. As the DPS vehicle approached, the officer saw a man “a good distance away” walking away from the vehicle. The officer saw a weapon in the vehicle and notified Austin police. Police searched the area but could not find the suspect and called in the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force.
The Lone Star Fugitive Task Force about 3:45 a.m. found the suspect at a residence that was not his home and took him into custody without incident, Chacon said.
The vehicle is registered to people with whom the suspect is associated, Chacon said.
Chacon said he had no information on the weapon or to whom it was registered, but witnesses described it as a rifle and an assault rifle.
Chacon said the suspect “appeared to be intoxicated on some kind of substance,” and that remains part of the investigation.
“We feel like we have the correct person in custody,” Chacon said. “This person is the only person involved in this and there’s no continued danger to the public at this time.”
Shooting timeline, according to Austin police:
Shortly before 2 a.m.: Victim driving on Interstate 35 exits at Braker Lane and calls police after multiple car windows were shot out.
Shortly after 2 a.m.: Multiple 911 callers report shots fired. Reports of shots fired near North I-35, near Ohlen Road, on U.S. 183; in the 500 block of Grady Drive and the 8000 block of Gessner Drive. But there’s no vehicle or suspect description.
2:27 a.m.: A 911 caller reports an assault at a gas station at Braker Lane and I-35. Police vehicle is also flagged down at gas station. A victim parked in a vehicle at the gas station reports a man stepped out of a black car and pointed an assault rifle at the victim’s vehicle, but did not shoot. The suspect got back into his vehicle and left the scene. A surveillance camera recorded the incident, according to police, who said the video will be released at a later date.
About 2:30 a.m.: Officers dispatched to Masterson Pass and North Lamar Boulevard. A 29-year old man, a 31-year-old woman and 7-year-old girl were all shot while in a moving vehicle, but reported they did not see the shooter.
2:33 a.m.: Multiple gunshots hit a vehicle driving in the area of I-35 and Wells Branch Parkway.
2:49 a.m.: Witness calls 911 from a Walgreens, reports that as he was driving on I-35 near downtown, he saw a vehicle speeding. The witness exited quickly and said as he was traveling northbound on the frontage road, multiple shots fired from a small black car hit his vehicle.
3 a.m.: A person makes 911 call from the 5800 block of I-35, saying the driver of a two-door black car pulled alongside and pointed a rifle at the person but did not shoot.
3:07 a.m.: A 24-year-old woman driving near I-35 and 51st Street reports a small black car driving erratically and chasing her. The car pulled alongside her vehicle and struck it from behind. The woman reports the man pulled alongside her and pointed a gun at her but did not fire.
About the same time: A man walked into a local hospital with a gunshot wound, saying he was shot about an hour earlier near North Lamar and 183.