FHP: Car crashes after pellet shots fired on I-295

Troopers report 3 car-to-car shootings Saturday night

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Chevrolet Aveo was involved in a rollover crash Saturday night after it was shot at on I-295 near Philips Highway, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Troopers later confirmed the shots fired were from a pellet gun, and the pellets never penetrated the windows of the victim's car. They said no pellets were found. 

Police said someone in an unknown vehicle fired several shots from the passenger side and struck the driver's side of the Aveo at 10:28 p.m.

The driver of the Aveo, a 27-year-old man from St. Augustine, ran his vehicle off the road and onto the shoulder to avoid the gunfire. His vehicle struck a light pole and flipped several times. He had three passengers with him, a 22-year-old man, a 27-year-old woman and a 27-year-old man.

News4Jax spoke to the driver of the Aveo and another woman who was in the car. They provided pictures of the crash but asked not to be identified.

All four victims in the car were hurt, but their injuries were described as minor.

Earlier Saturday night, a Chevrolet Trailblazer and a Toyota Sienna were shot at in the area of I-295, near Gate Parkway, the FHP said.

Officials told News4Jax the shots may have been fired from the same vehicle in all three incidents.  

The stretch of I-295 was given the moniker "Highway from Hell" in the 1990s because of rocks being thrown at drivers on the highway, which prompted the National Guard to patrol the area.

"It's a very scary thing that is happening. Actually, I do remember this happening years ago when I turned 16," said Lesley Harvey, a concerned driver. "I can remember starting to drive and my parents telling me to be careful and always be aware of your surroundings. But I don't think there's any way you can prepare yourself to react appropriately in that situation."

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith advised that if a driver is in a situation and trying to stay alive, get away from the person shooting. Smith also said he suggests slowing down and letting whomever is shooting to just keep driving. 

But Harvey said there's no way to be prepared for something like that.

"I definitely think you would be caught off guard and it would be hard to act appropriately," Harvey said.

Even though troopers said the shots were from a pellet gun, Smith said the person who fired the shots would still face charges.

"For the person (who) was shooting, we're looking at aggravated assault, at least," Smith said. 

Smith said it will be difficult to track down the shooter or shooters, given there was no vehicle description.

"I'm sure they'll try to locate the shooters and try to locate the vehicle through the DOT cameras that may be there on the highway, if they had DOT cameras there in the area," Smith said. "I'm sure what FHP will be doing right now is talking to the witnesses, talking to the occupants of the three cars to see if they can get some consistent identification of the suspect vehicle."

Anyone with any information about the shooter's vehicle is asked to contact the Florida Highway Patrol at 904-695-4115.