Victim in Beeline shooting: 'I was really lucky'

Posted at 9:41 PM, May 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-26 01:28:56-04

A victim who found himself in the line of fire as a suspect started shooting at cars along Beeline Highway Tuesday night said he is counting his blessings because he walked away from the whole ordeal with only a few scratches.

Good news for sure. His car on the other hand caught fire from being hit and was completely destroyed.

Chris Ellis was on his way home to Fountain Hills driving along the Beeline Highway, also known as State Route 87, after a long day at work. He schedules ambulances for AMR/Rural Metro.

Soon enough, he was literally caught in the cross-fire from a man equipped with assault rifles, body armor and a lot of ammunition. 

"I heard a pop, pop, pop, pop," said Ellis.

Soon after his car burst into flames.  

"I get out of the car and put my hand behind my head and feel blood," he said. "I think I've been shot!"

He was lucky. The bullet just grazed his head. A few more inches over and it could have been deadly.

"I was really lucky," said Ellis. "I got a scratch. It was just a scratch."

The Department of Public Safety said the man responsible for the shootings is 36-year-old James Walker, of San Tan Valley. They allege he used an AR-15 to shoot at innocent cars and law enforcement along the freeway. 

In total, DPS has identified a total of 13 victims and six vehicles shot.

"I have no idea, for someone to just go out and shoot at people," said Ellis. "I've never met this person in my life."

ABC15 went to the home where Ellis reportedly lives with his wife in San Tan Valley. No one answered the door, but there were clearly people inside. 

It's a family-friendly neighborhood. One neighbor said the couple mostly kept to themselves, but said police have been down the street in the past.

"There are easily 10 to 15 kids here," said neighbor Chase Bellows. "You just don't want someone like that around."

Walker was booked into the Fourth Avenue Jail on Wednesday. He faces a long list of charges, including attempted homicide, aggravated assault and endangerment.

A look at his past shows that Walker was convicted of second-degree murder in 1997 and sentenced to 16 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections. He served his sentence and was released in 2014.

In March, he was arrested on charges of resisting arrest and possession of drugs. His trial in that case was scheduled for August.

For Ellis, right now he's still reliving the night he managed to survive.

"I never thought it would be me," said Ellis. "I could hardly believe it was happening when it was happening."

Because his car was destroyed in the fire, he needs a new one to get to and from his job at Rural Metro. His colleagues set up a Go Fund Me account to hopefully raise $5,000 to help Ellis with a down payment for a new car.

If you are interested in donating, here is a link to the Go Fund Me account.