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Ohio closes highway to investigate shootings

Deputy: ATF agents will study ballistics while road is clear

Chief Deputy Steve Martin says two more shootings have been linked to the 12 others along or around I-270.
Chief Deputy Steve Martin says two more shootings have been linked to the 12 others along or around I-270.

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CNN's Martin Savidge has the latest on the string of shootings along a Columbus, Ohio, freeway. (December 6)
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNN) -- Ohio authorities closed the southern part of Interstate 270, which encircles the city, for more than two hours Saturday evening to investigate a string of freeway shootings.

The Ohio Department of Transportation shut down the 20-mile stretch of highway -- from the intersection of I-70 East to I-70 West -- at 5 p.m. EST and it remained closed until about 7:30 p.m. EST.

Chief Deputy Steve Martin of the Franklin County Sheriff's Department said investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms would take ballistics measurements while the road was clear. He said the work needs to be done at night but would not elaborate.

Martin said no one was injured in the most recent shootings, which occurred Sunday, November 30 and Monday, December 1. Investigators have linked them to 12 other shootings in recent months, including one that left a 62-year-old woman dead.

Ballistics evidence has conclusively linked five of the shootings, but Martin said all 14 are considered linked because of their location and circumstances.

"Anybody that would go out on a freeway and shoot at moving vehicles going 65 mph, I don't consider that to be an accident. I think that's intentional, because the possibility of somebody getting hurt is real when you do that," Martin told reporters Friday.

On November 30, a woman driving near the southern section of I-270 heard a noise and found she had a flat tire, investigators said. No bullet was recovered in that incident, but the paint on the car was scratched.

And late that day or early on December 1, a home bordering that highway in the city of Obetz was struck by a bullet. No one was in the residence at the time, Martin said.

The bullet recovered there matched the weapon that killed Gail Knisley on November 25 as she rode in a car on I-270.

"The very nature of these shooting incidents indicate that the person or persons responsible are willing to expose themselves to being viewed by the public," Martin said.

He asked again for help from the public to find the shooter or shooters, saying it's "not uncommon for a person to talk or brag about their activity with someone they know and trust."

Authorities have received more than 1,200 tips, and a $10,000 reward has been offered for information.

The chief deputy also repeated his daily plea to the perpetrator to establish a communication with authorities.

When asked why authorities are not calling the perpetrator a sniper, Martin said investigators are "not prepared to make that jump."

"Because collectively we still don't believe we should call this individual a sniper because one, that denotes a military person in camouflage, hiding and shooting from long distances, and that may or may not be the issue," he explained.

Martin said authorities theorize that the shooter or shooters are familiar with the small city of Obetz, which lies just inside I-270 on Columbus' south side, and that they may live, work or drive through that area.

Officials are also asking truckers on the highways near the southwestern corner of I-270, where most of the shootings have taken place, to keep their eyes and ears open if they notice anything suspicious.

A tip from a truck driver helped lead police to the two men arrested in the D.C.-area sniper case.

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