The person throwing rocks at cars on the interstate in the Broad River Road area is possibly just a teen looking for cheap thrills who doesn’t realize he might take a life.
“I feel like it’s a high school student out to scare the devil out of drivers. They just think it’s cool to damage a car and don’t realize they could wind up killing someone,” Richland County Leon Lott said Tuesday. “The rock doesn’t have to hit the driver – it may just scare him so he runs off the road and crashes.”
But “if we catch someone,” Lott said, “we’re going to charge them with attempted murder.”
Since Jan. 12, the county has had 10 reported incidents in which vehicles were hit by rocks thrown from overpasses, another vehicle or from the roadside at cars, most on the I-26 Interstate corridor in the Broad River Road/Chapin area. One took place on Broad River and Bookie Richardson roads. Two people have been injured. Most have taken place at night.
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In some incidents, rocks were thrown at interstate drivers by the driver of a white pickup that was also on the interstate, the sheriff’s department said.
On Tuesday, the department issued an alert to Midlands residents – and area car repair and body shops – to be on the lookout for a white pickup with a damaged left side that may have been used by the rock-thrower.
“The pickup may have grey or silver paint on the driver’s side,” Richland County Sheriff’s spokesman Curtis Wilson said Tuesday.
Wilson said that truck sideswiped another vehicle on the interstate during one of the rock-throwing incidents.
In that Jan. 14 incident, at Broad River and Bookie Richardson roads, the victim saw someone in a white pickup truck throw a rock at his car just before the two vehicles sideswiped each other, the sheriff’s department said.
The suspect is thought to be a white male with blond or brown hair.
Only a few of the rock-throwing incidents since the start of the year have involved an interstate overpass, Lott said. In most incidents, rocks have been thrown either from a passing vehicle or from wooded roadsides.
With Richland County’s many miles of highways and rocks coming from different directions, the incidents are almost impossible to prevent, Lott said. He’s asking the public for help.
Lott said his department has two veteran detectives assigned to the case. And the department’s school resource officers are working to educate high school students on how dangerous it is to throw rocks at cars. Officers in those schools will also see if students know about any incidents.
The objects thrown at cars have been all types of rocks, as well as pieces of cinderblocks and bricks, Lott said.
Wilson said Tuesday the white pickup may have been an F-150 full-sized type of pickup.