Police hunt gunman who terrorised drivers on US highway

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The Independent US

Police were closing in last night on a gunman who has plagued residents of the American Midwest with highway shootings in which one person has been killedand thousands more terrorised.

Police were closing in last night on a gunman who has plagued residents of the American Midwest with highway shootings in which one person has been killedand thousands more terrorised.

For almost a year he has been taking shots at motorists across four counties in central Ohio, triggering the same sort of panic that the Washington area snipers created in the autumn of 2002.

Now, after more than two dozen shootings, detectives have identified as their main suspect a troubled 28-year-old man who lives at home with his mother. Ballistics tests on a weapon found at his home matched bullet fragments from nine of the shootings.

"The key issue for us right now is to locate this guy," said Steve Martin, chief deputy in the Franklin County sheriff's office. "We believe he bought another gun."

Police have identified the gunman whose bullets killed a 62-year-old woman, smashed car windscreens and dented school buses, as Charles McCoy, who lives in Columbus, the state capital, close to where most of the shootings occurred. The national "all-points bulletin" issued to police said Mr McCoy was mentally unstable.

Many of the shootings, which began last May, happened on the I-270 interstate, which circles the city in a 55-mile loop. Initially police did not link the shootings, but then, in November, the gunman shot and killed Gail Knisley, who had been Christmas shopping with a friend and had got lost. Mrs Knisley and her friend heard the pop of the gun and looked up as the bullet struck her.

As the investigation was stepped up, police matched the bullet that killed Mrs Knisley with several from the other shootings. Suddenly aware that there was a serial shooter in their midst, residents began altering their routes and journey times, hoping the gunman might be working to a pattern that they could disrupt.

Jared Williams, whose truck was struck by one of the bullets on the day that Mrs Knisley was killed, said of the police announcement: "At least there's somebody they have that could potentially be the one. If it is that person, everyone should get in line and clock this person. I would like to blast him a couple of times."

Don Fitch, whose house was hit by a bullet in November, was stunned to learn that the suspect lived just two miles away. "Wow - that is real close," he said. "I have been in his sights the whole time. I just want to know why - why shoot cars on the freeway? Why put this community in fear and terrorise people? Now it's murder. Why didn't you quit?"

McCoy's father, also called Charles, is understood to have confiscated four guns and ammunition from his son after a shooting on 14 February, apparently convinced that he was responsible for the attacks. Sources told The Columbus Dispatch newspaper that on Monday police recovered a number of weapons and ammunition from Mr McCoy Sr, including two 9mm Berettas.

His son, said to drive a dark green Chevrolet car, is believed to have bought another 9mm weapon after the other guns were confiscated. Police said he should be considered "armed and dangerous".

Police have pulled over Mr McCoy for speeding twice since the shootings started. Last May he was stopped after driving at 82mph on the I-270.

Residents who have been living in fear hope the gunman will be caught quickly. Jeff Pollard, a truck driver who knew Mrs Knisley, said: "I liked her really well, and it hurt me. It was painful to me. The shooter was always in the back of my head. [The police] put out a lot of effort but it's a darn shame they've been unable to do anything until now."