April 7, 2011 (San Diego) – California Highway Patrol officers are on heightened alert after two shootings around 7:10 a.m. this morning on Highway 163 in Kearny Mesa. One shot wounded a USD student and another bullet lodged in a vehicle owned by a Rancho Bernardo man.
Police shut down the freeway and found about 10 shell casings from a small-caliber gun along the side of the freeway between the Clairment Mesa and Balboa exits. There is no evidence to indicate that either victim was targeted.
Ashley Simmons, a USD student who resides in Escondido, was driving southbound on 163 in her Toyota when a bullet pierced the rear passenger door, went through the driver’s seat and lodged in her torso. She called her mother to report she was having trouble breathing, and the mother called 911. Medics took her to a hospital for surgery on her rib cage, but doctors were unable to remove the bullet.
A Rancho Bernardo man, 42, heard in the news about Simmons and called authorities to report that his car was also shot on southbound 163 near State Route 52 around the same time. He heard a loud noise at the back of his car. After haering about Simmons, he checked his vehicle and found a single bullet lodged in the left rear window pillar of his black 2010 Volkswagen Passet.
ECM news partner 10 News interviewed Alexa Hosn, a classmate and friend of Simmons. “By no means do I think she was targeted,” Hosn said. “She’s a great girl…I know her. I think it’s just somebody crazy out there.”
Drivers interviewed by 10 News and the San Diego Union-Tribune expressed concerns over the sniper incidents, with some indicating they may change routes. “I hope they find who’s doing it…quickly,” said driver Cynthia Burke.
“Until you have more information, it’s unnerving and scary,” said Tony Hess of Normal Heights, whose wife travels the route regularly for work.
CHP officer Allen Reyes told the Union-Tribune that “all avenues and possibilities of getting evidence will be visited.” He said it’s too early to know if there is a pattern or if the shootings were random, but added that there is “nothing to cause panic on the part of the motoring public.”
San Diego’s last fatal freeway shooting was in 2008, when Brandon Johnson, 16, and Donnell Davis, 15, were killed on state Route 54 in Bonita after leaving a bowling alley in Chula Vistas. The shooter has not been arrested and a $51,000 reward is offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.