Investigators seeking the killer of a Maine man in a roadside shooting a week ago said Friday that a remarkably similar shooting incident 60 miles away was unrelated.
They also revealed that the attacker followed Timothy “Asti” Davison for several miles from Maryland into Pennsylvania, then fled back in the direction of Maryland.
Davison, a 28-year-old Poland resident, was driving north on Interstate 81 near the Maryland-Pennsylvania border before dawn on Jan. 4 when he called 911 twice to report that he was being chased and shot at by someone in a dark-colored pickup truck.
A few minutes later, shortly after 2 a.m., the pickup’s driver ran Davison off the road and someone in the truck shot him multiple times, including in the head.
Seven hours earlier, at 6:45 p.m. on Jan. 3, a motorist in Monaghan Township, Pa., reported that the driver of a dark pickup truck had tailgated him, driven alongside him and fired several shots into the cab of his pickup. The man was not injured, although one of the slugs lodged in his headrest.
Police said initially that the two shootings in rural south central Pennsylvania were connected, and expressed concern that there would be more violent encounters.
Authorities formed a task force that includes local police, the FBI and state troopers from Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia, which border each other near where the shootings occurred.
But at a news conference Friday in Chambersburg, Pa., Pennsylvania State Police Capt. Steven Junkin said that after comparing physical evidence and witness statements, including the 911 calls from both victims, similarities between the two incidents are only coincidental.
“We believe with a reasonable level of certainty the two incidents are not related,” Junkin said.
The task force continues to search for clues and has not rescinded its warning to the public. The conclusion that separate gunmen were responsible indicates that two people in the region have used deadly force on other motorists.
“Any motorist who finds themselves involved in a road rage incident or observes a road rage incident, call 911,” Junkin said.
Police would not elaborate on the differences between the two shootings, and said they plan to withhold some of the details on the recording of Davison’s 911 calls. They would not describe what physical evidence they analyzed. Ballistic testing can determine whether bullets were fired from the same gun.
Police held Friday’s news conference to draw a distinction between the two shootings and focus the public’s attention on the truck involved in Davison’s killing.
The victim in Monaghan Township reported that the truck involved in the attack was a Nissan. Police were adamant Friday that they are looking for a Ford Ranger XLT with damage to its driver’s side in connection with the shooting of Davison.
They have advised body shops and dealerships to look out for a vehicle matching that description.
Police also released new details Friday about the movements of the suspect before and after the shooting.
Junkin said police are sure that witnesses saw the truck and Davison’s sport utility vehicle at the point where Interstate 70, which runs west from Baltimore through Hagerstown, Md., meets I-81, which runs from Virginia north through Harrisburg, Pa.
The route covered 13 miles – 10 miles in Maryland and three in Pennsylvania. After Davison was shot, the Ford Ranger crossed over to the southbound lanes and went south, Junkin said.
The shooting has made people in that area wary.
John Phillippy, police chief of Greencastle Borough, just north of where the shooting occurred, said this week that there is “a sense of anxiety, sort of the fear of the unknown kind of thing.”
“Everybody wants to know what happened,” he said. “Until we do that, concern is sort of going to be lingering out there.”
Phillippy is not involved in the investigation but said people have provided leads, and officers have been alert for trucks matching the description of the suspect’s truck.
The search for the dark Ford Ranger evokes memories of when John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo terrified the Washington, D.C., area in October 2002.
Initially, police believed that someone – the so-called Beltway sniper – was using a white van, Phillippy said.
“I think I stopped every white van that was on the move for several months,” he said.
Police are likely compiling a list of all the Ford Rangers registered in each state and cross-referencing them with owners who have violent criminal histories, say law enforcement officials who aren’t involved in the investigation.
The FBI maintains a database of unique ballistic markings that various weapons, typically those used in crimes, have left on the bullets they fired. If investigators find a match, that could provide more clues.
Police said Davison’s shooting appears totally random.
“There is nothing to indicate Mr. Davison did anything in any way to provoke this,” Junkin said.
Police say random attacks are the hardest to solve because there is no relationship that investigators can trace, and no clear motivation for violence.
Anyone with information is asked to call (800) 472-8477.
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: