WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- Utah Highway Patrol personnel are looking for a man they say opened fire at a mother and her three children while they were driving on a freeway in West Valley City Friday night, and police said it was “very miraculous” no one was injured by the bullet that struck the car.
Officials said the incident occurred around 9 p.m. on State Route 201 in West Valley City, and police are looking for a dark-colored Ford Explorer that was last seen exiting SR 201 at 3200 West.
Sgt. Tom Schneiter of the Utah Highway Patrol said while aggressive driving is common, gunfire on Utah roadways is not.
“Daily we get aggressive, reckless type driver situations, but very seldom does it end with shots being fired,” he said.
Schneiter said the driver of that Explorer was driving erratically as he came up on the mother and her children.
“She was traveling in the number three lane and the Explorer was in the number two lane adjacent to her, right? And he pulled up alongside of her, rolled down his window and fired a shot at her," he said.
The bullet impacted the vehicle.
“You’ve got a passenger in the front seat, a driver in the driver’s seat; the bullet travels through the passenger side door, through the center console--does not strike either occupants--and lodges in the driver’s side door, so, yeah, it’s very miraculous that no one was injured.”
The victim, a mother driving her three children in a silver Pontiac, said there was no prior altercation with the driver or car, and investigators haven’t found a motive. The first time the victim saw the suspect was when he pulled up next to her and pulled out a gun.
“It was totally unexpected by the victim in this case, and it just goes to show you never know who is out there driving next to you,” Schneiter said.
UHP gets calls regarding erratic drivers on a daily basis, and Schneiter said the optimal thing to do is contact police and avoid engaging with the driver.
“The best thing you can do from the patrol standpoint would be not to engage them if you see something like this,” he said. “Don’t engage them. Contact us, let us go do our job, and contact them if we can.”
Friday night’s attack happened quickly, and, because it was dark, Schneiter said details regarding the suspect and his vehicle are scarce.
“The only information I have on the suspect vehicle is that it was a dark-colored Ford Explorer and there was some type of neon license plate lights, described as a purplish-blue, and we know that it exited off of 3200 West and traveled southbound," he said.
Anyone with information about the incident or the suspect is encouraged to contact the Utah Highway Patrol.