A man suspected of throwing rocks at cars from highway overpasses and roadsides is being sought by Richland County authorities on charges of attempted murder.
The county Sheriffs Department has received 10 reports since Jan. 12 of someone tossing rocks and pieces of cinderblocks at cars, including eight incidents Sunday night in the Broad River Road area of northwest Richland County.
Most incidents have resulted only in damage to cars. But, in one case, at least two people were hospitalized after a rock smashed their vehicles window as they traveled under an overpass on Interstate 26, according to the Richland County Sheriffs Department. That rock-throwing incident occurred Jan. 12, the Sheriffs Department said Monday.
Before the window was smashed, an occupant in the car saw the suspects vehicle on an overpass, then heard a loud bang, according to a news release. The two injured in the incident subsequently were released from the hospital, Sheriffs Department spokesman Chris Cowan said.
This individual (or individuals) needs to be stopped before he seriously injures or kills someone, Sheriff Leon Lott said in the news release.
This months incidents arent the first of their kind in the Columbia area.
In late 1986, a 3-year-old died when a Lexington County teenager dropped a 187-pound piece of granite from an Interstate 26 bridge onto the busy freeway. The granite crashed through the car the boy was riding in, killing the youngster. A jury later convicted the 17 year old of causing the death and a judge sentenced him to life in prison. A second youth received a lighter sentence after cooperating with prosecutors.
More recently,14 vehicles were pelted with rocks thrown from the woods beside Interstate 26 in January 2002. Those vehicles had broken windshields, shattered windows or dents as a result of the rock throwing, the Sheriffs Department said at the time. At least one person received minor injuries.
The Richland County Sheriffs Department charged two Lowcountry teenagers with five counts of assault and battery with intent to kill and five counts of malicious injury to personal property after they were seen throwing rocks from a highway overpass in June 2002. A motorist chased the pair and caught one of them.
This years rock-throwing intensified Sunday night in the area of Broad River Road and Interstate 26 between 7 and 10 p.m., according to the Sheriffs Department. The locations where rocks were reported hitting cars included:
• Broad River Road and Sid Sites Road, twice
• Broad River at Lowman Barn Road
• I-26 at Broad River Road
• Mount Vernon Church Road and Broad River Road
Another incident Jan. 14 at Broad River and Bookie Richardson roads resulted in major damage to the front end of a car, the department said. The victim saw someone throw a rock at his car just before it hit the vehicle, the Sheriffs Department said.
The suspect is thought to a white male with blond or brown hair, age 20 to 35 and driving a white, older model pickup truck.
But Cowan said others may be involved in the incidents. The pattern appears to be of rocks being tossed from a truck at passing vehicles, he said.
Its imperative that we catch the individuals, Cowan said. This is not a prank. This is extremely dangerous. You could kill somebody doing this.