Patrol Investigates Shootings At Vehicles On I-71

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - State Highway Patrol investigators haven't ruled out the possibility that shots fired at two vehicles on Interstate 71 could have been the work of a sniper copycat, a spokesman said.

"Nothing has been ruled out," including the prospect that the shooter is a copycat inspired by the recent sniper killings in the Washington area, Lt. Gary Lewis said Wednesday. "We don't know if it was kids, farmers, hunters or if it was intentional."

The shootings occurred Tuesday evening on I-71 near the Ohio 95 interchange in Morrow County, about 50 miles north of Columbus.

A car and a tractor-trailer rig traveling northbound both had passenger side windows shot out, but nobody was hurt. State and Morrow County investigators combed the area for clues on Wednesday.

The driver of the car, Jeffrey Vanloon, 50, of near West Salem in Medina County, said when his window exploded he thought at first it had been hit by a rock or deer.

But he said he quickly ruled that out as he slowed down and passed a truck with its passenger window shattered.

Truck driver Kathleen Roeland, 55, and her passenger, Harry Bailey, 51, both of Rochester, N.Y., were hit first.

"It was pretty scary," Roeland said. "Traffic is bad enough; you don't need someone shooting at you."

Vanloon and the truckers found bullet holes in the doors of the semi and the car.

"I think he was shooting at our windows. One inch over on the truck, and he would have hit the passenger in the heads," Vanloon said.

Vanloon, who had been driving home after a staff meeting at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in Columbus, arrived about three hours overdue. He had called his wife to tell her he would be late -- and why.

"She was flabbergasted, as you could imagine, and quite shook up," he said. "She just grabbed me and said she was glad to see me and have me home."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)