DPS ID's person of interest in freeway shootings

Posted at 6:21 AM, Sep 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-12 09:21:07-04

Police swarmed a convenience store near Interstate 10, detained a man and seized his white Chevrolet Tahoe on Friday, raising hopes of a resolution to the freeway shootings rattling Phoenix.

Department of Public Safety Officials have identified the man as Oscar De La Torre Munoz, 19, of Avondale. 

SPECIAL SECTION: Latest information on freeway shooting investigations

De La Torre Munoz and the woman were taken into custody for questioning, but DPS spokesman Bart Graves said De La Torre Munoz was only a "person of interest" in the case.

Graves had said earlier Friday that investigators were questioning De La Torre Munoz "about a number of things" besides the freeway shootings, but declined to disclose what that entailed.

De La Torre Munoz was later booked into jail for possession of marijuana.

De La Torre Munoz made his initial appearance in court Saturday morning around 5 a.m. ABC15 got exclusive video of the judge reading the marijuana charges against him.

"You have a second case that has come in," the judge told him. As of 6 a.m., she has yet to give details on the second announced case.


DPS officials also said De La Torre Munoz's SUV was being examined for any evidence that might connect it to 11 confirmed shootings on the city's freeways in the last two weeks.

Witnesses said law enforcement officers seemed to be waiting for De La Torre Munoz to appear and moved in quickly, surrounding his SUV with unmarked vehicles.

"What you saw occur today is a result of a lot of troopers on the road, a lot of detectives on the road, a lot of undercover and marked vehicles, just a lot of work by our detectives trying to solve this case," Graves said.

De La Torre Munoz who was later questioned for hours by authorities complained that officers had been aggressive with him, aggravating his back injury. Speaking from the back of a squad car after being apprehended, he said officers surrounded him and his mother, guns drawn, after he bought a pack of cigarettes and a drink.

Store clerk Sara Kaur said she was the one who sold De La Torre Munoz cigarettes, at about 9:15 a.m., moments before between 15 to 20 cars swarmed in and officers handcuffed him. She described him as being a regular customer, and said she's "never had a problem with him."

Graves said officers investigating the shootings will remain on patrol and his agency will keep posting freeway billboard messages urging the public to come forward with any tips. "This is an ongoing investigation," he said Friday.

Earlier Friday, DPS eluded there might be multiple shooters, but later stated that's not what they intended to say.

Phoenix drivers have been unnerved since the shootings began Aug. 29, mostly along Interstate 10, a major route through the city. Many drivers have avoided freeways since then. Eight of the cars were hit with bullets and three with projectiles that could have been BBs or pellets. One girl's ear was cut by glass as a bullet shattered her window.

Authorities appealed for help through social media, news conferences, TV interviews and freeway message boards, whose messages morphed from "report suspicious activity" to "shooting tips" to the more ominous "I-10 shooter tip line."

Many of the thousands of tips proved to be false leads. In Arizona, windshields are frequently cracked by loose rocks sent airborne by the tires of other vehicles.

The shootings haven't fit any obvious pattern. Bullets have been fired at various times of the day, striking a seemingly random assortment of vehicles, from an empty bus to tractor-trailers to pickup trucks, cars and SUVs.

The public should still report all emergencies related to shootings via 911. The public should also call 602-644-5805 with any information that can help solve these incidents.

Silent Witness is offering $20,000 for information that leads to the arrest of those responsible for these shooting incidents. The number for Silent Witness is (480) WITNESS - 480-948-6377.