PHOENIX – Phoenix police renewed pleas to the public Thursday for information that could help catch a serial killer who has been stalking predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods.
"We collectively know somebody out there has information about the suspect involved in these crimes, and we desperately need that information," Police Chief Joe Yahner said.
The chief was joined at a news conference by the mayor, the Arizona attorney general and officials from the FBI and the U.S. Marshal Service.
"We also know that serial killers like to brag about the atrocities that they commit," U.S. Marshal David Gonzales said. "We don't think that this is any different."
Dubbed the "Serial Street Shooter," by police, the gunman is suspected of killing seven and wounding two in nine drive-by attacks since March. Most of the incidents took place at night as the victim was standing or sitting in a car outside a home. They occurred in two mostly Hispanic, working-class areas. In most of the cases, witnesses did not get a good look at the suspect's face or the vehicle leaving the scene.
It has been a more than a month since the last attack on July 11. Unlike other victims, the man who survived that shooting got a clearer glimpse of the suspect.
In a recently released police report, authorities say the 22-year-old victim was driving home in central Phoenix after spending the afternoon at the laundromat. His 4-year-old nephew was sitting in the front passenger seat.
According to the victim, he came to rest at a stop sign at a four-way intersection when a black BMW made a right turn. At that point, their vehicles were facing each other. The man told police he looked over at the other driver, who then pointed a handgun at him.
The driver fired once.
The victim said he immediately ducked and reached for his nephew. He heard more gunfire and sped away. He made it home, where he called police.
Investigators found three bullet holes on the victim's car, according to police records. They also recovered five shell casings from the intersection.
The victim described the suspect as a light-skinned Latino, in his 20s and with short black hair. He was also believed to be alone in the BMW.
Police have canvassed the neighborhood and obtained footage from surveillance cameras in area businesses.
Despite an overwhelming amount of physical evidence including ballistics, investigators said they believe their big break will come from the public. The Arizona Attorney General's Office has increased a reward for information leading to an arrest to $75,000.
The top prosecutor for metro Phoenix also said that witnesses or victims fearful about their immigration status should not be afraid to come forward. Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said his office does not file charges in cases where someone's immigration status is discovered as a result of being a witness or a victim of a crime. So far, immigration status has not been in issue in this case, he added.
"For heaven's sake, I don't want anyone to be reluctant in coming forward with information whether they think it's significant or not and then be concerned because they shared that information, they could get in trouble," Montgomery said.