Driver Describes SR 163 Shooting - NBC 7 San Diego

Driver Describes SR 163 Shooting



    Ashley Simmons was driving to class April 5 when she realized she was having trouble breathing.

    She didn’t know it was a bullet.

    "I heard a very loud noise and it sounded like a firework, firecracker had gone off in my car," Simmons said.

    The 21-year old University of San Diego graduate called 911 and soon found herself in the hospital headed for surgery.

    Witnesses Testify in Highway Shooting

    [DGO] Witnesses Testify in Highway Shooting
    Stephen Dragasits, 58, faced his accusers Monday in a preliminary hearing. He allegedly fired -- at random -- a gun at state Route 163 morning traffic on April 25, injuring Ashley Simmons, a University of San Diego student, and striking Jeffrey Lloyd-Jones' vehicle.
    (Published Monday, July 11, 2011)

    The bullet went through her driver's seat into her rib cage.

    "It kind of startled me so I screamed really loud and right after I screamed I felt a pain in my side and the pain went away almost instantly, but immediately after that I had trouble breathing," she said.

    Simmons testified Monday in the preliminary hearing for Stephen Dragasits the man charged with shooting her from the side of State Route 163.

    Simmons had never met Dragasits before seeing him inside the downtown county courthouse. It was the first time she spoke publicly about her injuries.

    "I had had a collapsed lung, so I had a lot of difficulty just doing everyday things like laughing or sneezing,” she said. “It caused an extreme amount of pain."

    Dragasits. a 58 year old transient, was arrested two weeks after the shooting.

    Suspect Arrested in SR-163 Shootings

    [DGO] Suspect Arrested in SR-163 Shootings
    An arrest has been made in the highway shootings that injured one driver and damaged a second car in San Diego, according to officials.
    (Published Thursday, April 21, 2011)

    Investigators said they found a link to him through DNA evidence found on one of 10 shell casings recovered at the scene.

    His RV was seen on dashboard video parked in the area of the shooting along Engineer Road.

    It was a shooting that terrified thousands of drivers along the 163 as they wondered who might be responsible for randomly shooting at cars.

    Simmons was the only person hit by the gunfire but others testified they heard the sounds of the shooting.

    One driver even explained how he noticed a small hole in his car and later realized the connection.

    “I heard a noise, a jarring shake of my car, it startled me," said Jeffrey Lloyd-Jones who also had never seen Dragasists before the hearing.

    "And as I was filling up gas, I had to clean my windows and when I was cleaning my windows, that's when I noticed a hole."

    Others heard the shots from outside the Bridgepoint building clear across the freeway.

    "It was a consecutive popping sound, like pop, pop, pop, pop," said Liesel Fisher who works at the building.

    Tyler Didier testified that he heard something hit the building.

    The alleged shooter is facing two felony counts of attempted murder and the judge must decide whether there is enough evidence to send this case to trial.

    Dragasits could face more than 40 years in prison if convicted.

    Dragasits DNA was already on file at the crime lab from an arrest earlier this year after he received a misdemeanor for throwing rocks at vehicles in that same area near the 163.