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Shot Fired At Policeman, 10 Windshields Smashed in Latest Highway Violence

July 30, 1987

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A shot was fired at a policeman on one freeway today and the windshields of 10 vehicles, including a police car, were smashed by rocks on another highway in the latest violence on Southern California’s crowded roads.

Four people have been killed and three injured in a series of shootings by irate motorists, and police were out in force today on roads in the county in an effort to stem the violence.

An officer with the suburban Claremont police department was shot at on the San Bernardino Freeway about 8:30 a.m. as he was preparing to write a ticket for a traffic violation, department Cmdr. Ted Whitall said.

As Officer Denny McClain stood beside the stopped car on the westbound freeway 30 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, a green 1970s Volkswagen Bug drove by and a passenger leaned out the window and fired one shot from a pistol, Whitall said.

The bullet missed McClain, the driver he had stopped and the driver’s car, Whitall said.

Earlier in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, rocks apparently hurled from an overpass smashed the windshields of 10 vehicles, including a California Highway Patrol car, on the Golden State Freeway, police said.

The rock-throwing prompted the Los Angeles Police Department and the California Highway Patrol to close three miles of the freeway to look for suspects, but none was immediately found.

No one was injured in the windshield smashings, which occurred at 4:50 a.m. A tractor trailer also had a mirror damaged.

Police shut down the highway for 40 minutes.

All 48 local police departments in Los Angeles County, as well as the sheriff’s department, are asking their officers to spend more time on the county’s nearly 600 miles of highways, authorities announced Wednesday.

The roads are normally the domain of California Highway Patrol officers.

The Los Angeles Police Department, for example, has asked its 317 motorcycle officers to take the highways to and from work and whenever possible.

Meanwhile, worried motorists continued to flood CHP offices with phone calls, and experts reiterated warnings to drivers to keep calm behind the wheel in the wake of more than a dozen roadway shootings since June 18.

So far, eight people have been arrested, including five taken into custody after the slaying of a Pomona teen-ager on the Corona Expressway last weekend.

As many as four of the recent shootings, including the Pomona slaying, are believed to have been triggered by something other than roadway warfare, police said.

″If we could give any single piece of advice, avoid the confrontation, do not allow it to escalate, do not pursue and notify us about any information you may have,″ said CHP official Edward Gomez.

Sheriff Sherman Block, asked why highway violence has erupted in Southern California rather than somewhere else, alluded to the region’s reputation as the birthplace of bizarre trends.

″It always starts here,″ Block said at a news conference to announce the cooperation of the county’s police agencies with the CHP.

Gomez, southern section chief for the CHP, said a survey of the shootings of the past six weeks found two-thirds had occurred on weekends, at least nine involved handguns and all but one took place between the early afternoon and late evening. The shooters were all men aged 25 to 35, he said.

Two more attacks occurred Wednesday in the San Fernando Valley, although there were no injuries reported.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters announced its driver members will be asked to help law enforcement by using the vantage of high tractor- trailer cabs to look into cars and check for weapons.

Teamsters President Jackie Presser, at the union’s quarterly meeting in San Diego, vowed that if any guns were spotted they would be reported.

Block said that while highway killings may be a new phenomenon in Southern California, freeway violence is not. He said reports have increased as the trend has gained notoriety.

Gomez urged people not to arm themselves against freeway gunmen.

″That’s the last thing they should do,″ he said. The person could be arrested for carrying a concealed weapon and any confrontation could quickly escalate into violence.

″One New York radio station asked me: ’What is this, the wild, wild West?‴ said CHP spokesman Michael Maas. ″I didn’t have a good answer.″

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