By L.L. Brasier Detroit Free Press (MCT)
The Salem News
---- — DETROIT — A gunman who authorities believe is randomly targeting people — including a man taking out his trash and several drivers — has residents on edge and police scrambling to form a task force to catch the person before someone gets injured or killed.
At least 15 shootings in Oakland, Livingston and Ingham counties during a 24-hour span this week are believed to be connected.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said police have not found a pattern in the shootings and asked that people be careful.
“It’s only been under the last 24 hours that it became clear the scope of this thing,” Bouchard said at a 2 p.m. news conference yesterday. “We’re taking this extremely serious for a lot of reasons.”
Police, who will be working overtime this weekend on the investigation, are looking for a dark older model Cavalier or Mustang.
The shootings started in Wixom on Tuesday about 7 p.m. and then moved west through Livingston and Ingham counties along Interstate 96.
No one has been injured, but police described several “very close calls,” including a man in Wixom who was almost shot taking his trash out and a bullet lodging into a car as the motorist was driving.
At least 15, and possibly 16, incidents have been reported during that time, with the most recent at 6:40 p.m. Thursday. At least five shootings occurred in Wixom, five in Ingham County and one in Livingston County on Wednesday.
Yesterday, police were investigating a report by a woman who said her back window shattered while she was driving Tuesday on I-96. She assumed it was a rock, but contacted police when she learned of the random shootings.
The crimes have residents on edge.
“You can’t have somebody out there taking potshots at people,” said Ed Sienkiewicz, who sits on the village council of Wolverine Lake, bordering Wixom.
Sienkiewicz, who has been on the council since 1964, remembers the Lakes area of Oakland County as quiet and serene and a nice place to hunt.
“This has to stop or we’re going to see a fatality,” he said. “Either we’ve all been very lucky because he’s not a very good shot, or he is intentionally trying not to hit somebody but we’ve got to take him off the streets.”
It’s unclear what type of gun is being used. Officials said the Oakland County crime lab is currently analyzing ballistics evidence.
Bouchard said sheriff’s deputies in all three counties, along with two Michigan State police posts, are working overtime on the case and will continue. Investigators also are using helicopter surveillance to try to spot trouble from the sky.
Bouchard said people should be vigilant but not panic.
“What we’re asking for is a much higher awareness,” Bouchard said.
Bouchard said he fears the shootings could escalate into the kind of crime spree that terrorized Washington D.C., Virginia and Maryland in October 2002. During a three-week span, 10 residents were killed and three were seriously injured in random sniper shootings. Two men were eventually arrested and convicted.
Bouchard, though, stopped short of calling the current shooter a sniper, noting the term implies a skilled gunman.