Two New I-35 Rock Throwing Incidents Revive Investigation

Interstate 35 has become the home to one of Austin’s more serious crimes — rock throwing. The chain of incidents started in June 2014, and over the course of the last year and a half, there have been over 50 confirmed incidents, with the most recent having occurred in the morning of April 3. The police have taken several steps to catch the rock throwers but, so far, none have been successful.

“First and foremost,” Austin Police Chief Mr. Art Acevedo said, “I want this community to know that this police department, from the onset of these series of attacks, has taken this incident very seriously. We have dedicated approximately 1,500 hours…of investigative time trying to identify, capture, and refer to prosecution the person or persons who are responsible for these callous, cowardly attacks on innocent motorists here in the city of Austin and in the Austin area.”

So far, the rock throwing incidents have been sporadic, and the authorities are still unsure if it is a single offender or a group acting together. It is also debatable whether it is the same offender(s) committing the crimes, or if it is multiple unconnected people joining in on the crime. The possibility that the offenders are juveniles has also been discussed, as news reported a similar case in Waco in 2013 where two children (ages 11 and 13) were arrested for the same crime. However, the evidence has been analyzed and on Tuesday, Feb. 9 the Austin Police Department (APD) released a statement revealing that the offenders are not targeting passing cars from the overpass, but are instead committing the crime from inside their own vehicles.

“…I want to make sure that people understand that we take it seriously, that we’re aggressively utilizing every investigative tool at our disposal to identify the person or persons,” Acevedo said.

The rock throwing incidents have certainly left their mark, cracking windshields, denting hoods, doors, and trunks, as well as injuring passengers and even drivers — an extremely dangerous action. Among those injured, Kenneth Johnson may have had it the worst. He sustained a severe head and brain injury, and has been recovering slowly ever since a rock smashed through his windshield and struck him in 2014.

“…One of the things that is my greatest hope is that we are able to accomplish our mission to capture the person or persons responsible for these callous, cowardly attacks before somebody gets killed,” Chief Acevedo said, “because sooner or later my biggest fear is a person or persons will be killed out of a chain of events that will occur when somebody gets a projectile thrown at them at a high rate speed, at a high rate freeway.”

To combat the offenders, security cameras have been installed on various overpasses to monitor the activity in the area and in order to further attract attention to this crime, the APD has offered a reward of 10,000 dollars for information regarding this case. The police encourage anyone who is hit by a rock to pull over immediately and call 911. If victims call right away, it gives the police the maximum time to get to the location of the crime and survey it for any offenders.

“This is not a simple set of circumstances to investigate,” Chief Acevedo said. “Imagine how difficult it is to investigate crimes that occur in a fraction of a second…One of the things that we need the public to do for us is this — if you are a victim of this type of attack, do not go home and call several hours later or wait till the next day. It is critical if you are a victim that you pull over to a safe location but immediately call 9-1-1 because we want to be able to respond quickly, we want to respond aggressively, and we want to respond as many assets to the area of the crime…as we can when the incident occurs[.]”