The Greater Austin Crime Commission is offering a reward of $10,000 to anyone who can provide information about potential suspects in repeated instances of rocks being thrown at vehicles along Interstate 35, according to an Austin Police Department public information officer.
According to APD records, there have been 52 reported incidents of rocks thrown at cars along the interstate throughout the last year and a half. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said the department has dedicated a total of approximately 15,000 hours to the issue and trying to identify those responsible for the attacks.
“The Austin Police Department is very aggressively pursuing all leads,” Acevedo said during a press conference. “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.”
Rather than waiting until several hours after the incident has occurred, Acevedo said it is critical for victims to pull over to a safe location and call 911 immediately. He said a fast response time from victims helps officers respond quickly while assessing the area of the crime.
Acevedo said the top priority for officers responding to these incidents is to gather as much information as possible by writing down license plate numbers and investigating the area within several miles of the scene.
Acevedo said APD takes this issue seriously, but will not provide information to the public about methods used or progress made during the investigation. This is because the attacks scattered beyond the original location after information was made public that the department was using cameras in the area where attacks were happening.
While no fatalities have occurred in relation to these incidents, Acevedo said two individuals have suffered serious injuries. According to an article by Fox San Antonio, a Williamson County ambulance was affected by a rock attack in January.
“If it hit the window when we were patient loaded, [it] very obviously could’ve caused a significant collision,” said Ed Tydings, Williamson County EMS Division Commander, in the article.
If identified, Acevedo said those responsible for the attacks will be arrested and convicted.
“Somebody out there knows something and I urge you to step forward and say something,” Acevedo said. “The last thing we want is the blood and the loss of life because someone did not make the right choice by stepping forward.”
Acevedo said the circumstances in these cases are challenging to investigate because of the speed at which each instance occurs and limited witness information. He said the attacks are not discriminatory and anyone can be a potential victim.
Sasha Parsons, marketing and Plan II junior, said the reports of rock-throwing at vehicles shocked her, and her first reaction was to be afraid to drive on I-35.
“Driving on 35 is dangerous enough without having to worry about projectiles crashing through your window,” Parsons said. “I think that drivers can be so distracted that something like that could easily cause a fatal multi-car crash.”