The Birmingham Police Department is being especially watchful of the Highland Avenue overpass over the Red Mountain Expressway after reports of several vehicles being hit by objects thrown from the overpass earlier this month.
“The plan is to try to be proactive,” said Lt. Sean Edwards, the police department’s spokesman. “Patrol officers are being a little bit more visible.” In addition, a department task force of plainclothes officers is keeping closer watch in the area.
“We actually concentrated on it this past weekend,” he said.
The issue centers around four incidents within two hours late March 14 to shortly after midnight March 15.
About 10:30 p.m., a woman driving a car with Mississippi license plates reported that something hit her windshield and then another object struck her rear window and a passenger window, Edwards said. All three of the windows were broken.
The second report came in at 11:30 p.m., when a woman called police to say three windows on her car had been broken out in the same area of the highway, Edwards said. The officer sent to the scene reported that the damage indicated the objects may have come from the side of the road, rather than the overpass, he said.
The third incident was reported at 11:40 p.m., when a man said that someone had thrown an object from the overpass, breaking a window and denting a door on his car.
The final incident reported to the police came at 12:05 a.m. from a woman in a car with New York license plates. Edwards said she told police “she heard what could have been a gunshot” near the overpass. He said a back passenger window on the car was broken, but the officer who investigated found no evidence of a gunshot.
Although broadcast reports have said other cars have been damaged in similar incidents, Edwards said he is unaware of any others being reported to the police. “A lot of times citizens don’t notify police and we don’t know anything about it,” he said.
No one has been arrested in the incidents, Edwards said. “We don’t know if it was an individual or a group of individuals” involved, he said. The culprit could face charges of criminal mischief and throwing a missile or projectile if caught.
No one was injured in the recent incidents, but there have been several cases in the past where motorists have been severely injured or even killed by objects thrown from overpasses.
In September 2012, Tuscaloosa County officials charged two Cottondale teenagers with throwing a brick from an overpass on Interstate 20/59, hitting a car. The 40-year-old driver, Melissa Jones, sustained serious injuries and underwent several surgeries as a result.
According to a report in the Tuscaloosa News, Shane Adam Herren and Jordan Isaiah Price, who were both 16 at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty last month and were given youthful offender status.
Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama were shocked in 1999, when Professor Julie Laible was killed when her car was hit by a 72-pound concrete block thrown from an overpass in Florida. Laible, who was 32, sustained a fatal head injury when the block came through her windshield. Three teenagers were found guilty of murder in the case.
As this story went to press, another incident in the Birmingham area was being investigated. Additional concerns have been raised by a woman who was driving her car near the 31st Street overpass on Interstate 20/59 Monday when her car was damaged. Edwards said the victim called police but, when an officer responded, she declined to make an official report.
“That’s our challenge,” he said. “Things happen out there on the freeway and we don’t know about them.”