Suspect Arrested in SR-163 Shootings - NBC 7 San Diego

Suspect Arrested in SR-163 Shootings



    A man convicted a month ago for throwing rocks near a San Diego highway is under arrest, facing charges for shooting at cars, injuring one driver and damaging another car at that same stretch of highway officials said.

    Stephen Joseph Dragasits, 58, was arrested Wednesday at the WalMart in Kearny Mesa according to California Highway Patrol officers.

    Dragasits is suspected in two highway shootings on April 5, CHP officials said.

    In one, a 21-year-old University of San Diego student was traveling on southbound State Route 163 north of Balboa Avenue when she was shot in the abdomen.

    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)

    A second driver came forward after news reports of the Escondido woman's injury, reporting that his car was damaged by a bullet in the same area of San Diego on April 5.

    Hours after the first shooting was reported, investigators shut down SR 163 southbound from Interstate 15 to Balboa Avenue and searched the highway for evidence in the case.

    About 10 shell casings were collected to the side of the highway between Clairemont Mesa Boulevard and Balboa Avenue.

    CHP Announce Arrest in Highway Shootings

    [DGO] CHP Announce Arrest in Highway Shootings
    Shell casings found along the stretch of highway where two vehicles were shot in early April led investigators to arrest a 58-year old transient.
    (Published Thursday, April 21, 2011)

    CHP Capt. Rich Stewart said those shell casings contained potential DNA evidence that led them to Dragasits, a transient who lives in a motor home that is often parked on Kearny Villa Road. At the time of Dragasits' arrest, the motor home was parked near Ruffner Street and Balboa Avenue.

    Dragasits’ DNA was in the California Department of Justice DNA database which has profiles from 1.7 million convicted felons and felony suspects said Michael Grubb with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department crime lab.

    “Kudos to CHP staff for locating the fired cartridge casings in the first case,” said Grubb. “That’s key.”

    A match came from information from Dragasits known DNA sample that lives in the DOJ database Grubb said.

    Investigators believe a Winchester 190 rifle was used in both shootings on April 5.

    Dragasits was convicted about a month ago of a similar act involving rocks near the same stretch of highway, Stewart said.

    Officials said video surveillance suggested that Dragasits was at the scene of the shooting on April 5. A driver had a personalized video recording in his or her vehicle that helped in the investigation, Stewart said.

    Investigators found additional evidence in Dragasits’ RV but would not reveal more information.

    "It's an ongoing investigation but we believe at this time we have enough information both physical evidence and DNA evidence that ties him to the vehicle, ties him to the location and to the shooting,” Stewart said.

    Dragasits told investigators that he is a former county employee and has a Naval background but the CHP could not confirm that information or provide additional details on his position or years of service.

    Investigators are following up on leads involving other vehicles seen in the area at the time of the shootings but said they believe they have the suspect.

    Dragasits is scheduled to be arraigned Friday on charges including attempted murder, officials said.

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