Witness says both cars dueling in road rage incident

RENO, Nev. (AP) - A California woman remained in serious condition after being shot in the face on Interstate 80 and a new account surfaced Tuesday of the apparent act of road rage on the outskirts of Reno.

Police continued their search for the driver of the other vehicle, a red or maroon pickup with Idaho plates, as a witness came forward to say she thought the car with the woman who was injured may have contributed to the dispute.

Stephanie Pierce, 30, of Truckee, Calif., underwent several hours of surgery after her husband drove her to Saint Mary's Regional Medical Center following Monday's incident.

''I think in this case the victim driver didn't know he did something to (anger) the other driver,'' Reno police Sgt. Jeff Partyka said. ''The truck was tailgating him, then it pulled around to the side. They look over and this guy has a gun.''

Partyka said the couple in a white Suburu passed the pickup using the right-hand lane while traveling from Truckee to their jobs in Reno.

The driver then followed closely behind in the left-hand lane before pulling alongside and firing the shot that shattered the passenger's door window and hit the victim.

The truck then exited the freeway.

A woman who was traveling on I-80 and witnessed part of the incident on Monday said the two vehicles were passing each other at high rates of speed.

''They were going well over 80 mph,'' Cookie Hawley of Reno told KRNV-TV.

''What we saw was the white car aggravating the maroon truck,'' she said.

At one point, the white car pulled out in front of the truck and slowed down, said Hawley, who did not see any shots fired.

''We knew then there was going to be a problem. ... The white car really had an opportunity to move over,'' Hawley said.

The search for the pickup truck and its driver continued Tuesday.

''We have what amounts to every available unit combing the I-80 corridor for this guy,'' Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Jeff Bowers said. ''We're keeping a real good eye on the highway. When you have someone who is disturbed enough to pull out a gun and shoot someone, they are capable of doing anything.''

The suspect's description and that of his vehicle was sent to law enforcement agencies across the western United States.

He's described as white, middle-aged, with salt-and-pepper hair and mustache and wearing glasses. He was driving a full-size red or maroon GMC or Chevrolet pickup with Idaho license plates and black mud flaps with silver eagles.

Although road rage incidents occur in large cities, police said such incidents rarely erupt into violence in northern Nevada.

''I can't remember the last time we had a shots fired call,'' Bowers said. ''We do get a number of brandishing calls, where someone gets mad and shows someone else a firearm.''

In January 1997, a Cold Springs carpenter shot to death a U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service agent before killing himself on the Rock Boulevard Interstate 80 off-ramp in Sparks after a road rage incident.

Rather than engaging angry drivers, Bowers recommends backing off and giving them the road. ''Frequently road rage can be diffused by a person just being courteous and getting out of the way,'' he said.


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