Police arrest suspect in rock-throwing cases

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

One week after the department announced the I-35 rock-throwing cases would be their top priority, the Austin Police Department made an arrest in the case.

APD arrested Patrick Eugene Johnson, a 59-year-old suspect connected to the over 80 rock-throwing incidents over the past two years. Johnson is being charged with attempted aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and is currently being held in Travis County Jail with bail set at $250,000, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The charge is a third-degree felony punishable with up to 10 years in prison.

"Proud to announce our APD team has made an arrest on the serial rock assailant case,” APD Police Chief Art Acevedo said in a tweet Thursday afternoon. “I’m grateful for the work of our men & women.”

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A tip from a University of Texas Police officer led them to the arrest of Johnson. According to the Statesman, a UTPD officer called APD after narrowly avoiding being hit by a rock just after 2 a.m. Tuesday. APD used the officer’s dash cam video to identify the vehicle — a 2015 Toyota four-door sedan — from which the rock was thrown.

When APD questioned Johnson and his roommate this past Wednesday, Johnson's 19-year-old roommate admitted to police he had been with Johnson on two separate occasions in which Johnson threw a rock out of his window and down to the overpass. According to his arrest affidavit, Johnson also admitted to throwing rocks on two different occasions — once near capital plaza and once near Texas 71 eastbound from South I-35.

“We have had about 94 cases leading to this event, and we believe that once we have finished making our case, that Mr. Johnson will be responsible a lion’s share, or a majority of these cases,” Acevedo said at a press conference Thursday. “In fact, we are very confident that by the time we are done putting together our investigation … we will be able to charge Mr. Johnson not just with many counts of attempted aggravated assault, but also … attempted murder.”

Earlier this month, police arrested another suspect in the case. Acevedo, however, has said investigators do not think the suspect, 44-year-old Marquel Raymond Boone, is involved in the dozens of cases reported since June 2014.

“To the victims of this case, it's very important that you understand that we are confident that Mr. Johnson not only attacked you...assaulted you...and tried to kill some of you, but he came back to the scene...acting as if he cared. I'm here to tell you that he didn't,” Acevedo said at the press conference.

At the press conference, Acevedo said APD would be releasing the suspect’s booking photo to the media and urged victims of the case to see if they could identify Johnson’s face.

“There is a high probability [Johnson] contacted the victims after each incident to try and act as a Good Samaritan [in attempt to cover up his tracks],” Acevedo said.

In some cases, Johnson even called 911 himself to report the crimes.

Acevedo also said APD have arrested an additional suspect in the crime — one who police believe isn't directly involved in the incidences reported this year, and are aware of two other “possible copy-cats.”

“We have a message for the copy-cats: We’re not going to stop,” Acevedo said. “Mr. Johnson’s likely going to spend the rest of his life in prison once we’re done with him. If you want to end up as a cell mate, go ahead and continue with your copy-cat.”

While the investigation is still on-going, Acevedo said APD is confident that Johnson is responsible for the majority of the cases in this investigation, most notably three cases which resulted in serious injury to the victims.

APD has advised travelers to remain vigilant on I-35, as more copy-cat crimes are likely. APD encouraged anyone with information on these cases to call APD’s hotline at 512-974-7999.