The Austin Police Department and local partners are offering up to $25,000 in exchange for any information that results in an arrest or conviction as they investigate the mounting number of rock-throwing cases along Interstate 35.
Since 2014, 83 rock-throwing incidents have been reported. Thirty-three of these cases occurred this year alone, causing vehicle damage and injury to drivers, including a broken collarbone and brain damage, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
“I’ve never heard of this incident happening on such a large scale before,” finance junior Zahra Jaffer said. “The cases reported have already had the potential to cause multiple deaths.”
In response to 13 cases that occurred the weekend of May 20, the Greater Austin Crime Commission offered a $10,000 reward in the case. This was added to a $6,000 reward from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office in conjunction with the Capital Area Crime Stoppers and $9,000 to APD in anonymous donations, raising the total reward to $25,000.
“The resulting effects of rock-throwing can not only lead to damage of vehicles, but it can cause accidents between cars who are not hit by the rock,” recent UT graduate Nadine Ginithan said. “I can’t believe this is happening on such a big highway. People [are going to have to] learn to be more aware.”
Last Friday, police arrested Marquel Raymond Boone, a man suspected of throwing rocks and other objects off of I-35. The 44-year-old has been charged with attempted aggravated assault with a deadly weapon — a third-degree felony punishable with up to 10 years in prison — according to the Statesman. His bail is set at $50,000. As of last Friday, it was unclear whether the witnesses in this case will receive any of the reward money, according to the Statesman.
According to a press conference held the weekend after the May 20 cases, APD is currently unsure if the perpetrator is a group of people or a single person. APD is still investigating cases dating back to 2014, and because of the gravity of the incidents, those responsible could be charged with aggravated assault and potentially, attempted murder.
“While I can’t provide details regarding the cases, what I can tell you is this — thousands and thousands of man hours have gone into this investigation,” APD Assistant Chief Chris McIlvain said at the press conference. “We are working diligently to solve the case and find the person or persons committing these heinous acts.”
In order to ensure the safety of travelers, APD has discussed posting signage, temporarily closing the deck during target hours — between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. — and creating a specialized task force for the investigation, but no immediate plans have been made.
APD has advised drivers to be aware of their surroundings, use the outside lanes of the lower deck if possible, or travel on the upper deck and scan all surrounding areas when driving, and find alternate routes during target hours. Victims should pull over and call 911 as soon as possible, McIlvain said, and avoid moving any potential evidence — including the rock.
As the investigation into these cases continues, citizens can provide tips through APD’s mobile app or by calling 512-472-TIPS.
“We know someone out there knows something,” McIlvain said. “Before someone dies, we are encouraging and pleading for that someone to come forward and provide any additional information.”