Truck Driver Injured in Shooting on I-395

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 20, 2006

No one wants to use the term "sniper." The word has some fairly ugly connotations in the Washington area.

But someone took a shot at a dump truck rolling down northbound Interstate 395 in the Alexandria area yesterday morning, piercing a passenger-side window and driving a shard of glass into the driver's right arm, state police said. The driver was not seriously hurt.

Beyond that, the shooting just before 7 a.m. yesterday, near the Edsall Road exit of I-395, is something of a mystery. Investigators from the Virginia State Police and Fairfax County police could not find any fragments of a bullet inside the cab of the dump truck, driven by Carlos D. Guzman, 60, of Alexandria, and no bullet struck Guzman.

And although they used helicopters, search dogs and high-tech laser sighting equipment, police could not find a shell casing or any evidence of anyone shooting from a clump of trees along the highway, where the shot probably came from, state police Sgt. Terry W. Licklider said.

But based on the hole in the window of Guzman's truck, "they still feel it was some type of small-caliber gun that was fired," Licklider said, rather than debris kicked up from another vehicle or a roadside lawn mower.

"Right now, we're just going to say it was some sort of random apparent shooting at this vehicle," Licklider said. But he specifically did not want to pin the incident on a sniper, indicating someone with a specific intent to kill.

In October 2002, a sniper shot 13 people, 10 fatally, over a three-week period in the Washington region. None of the victims was in a moving vehicle. The shootings caused schools to lock down, events to be canceled and fear to dominate the area, before John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were arrested.

Guzman was driving a white, four-axle dump truck for S.P. Trucking of Falls Church. Erick Palomino, a co-owner of the company, said that Guzman was offered the rest of the week off but that Guzman planned to return to work today. Guzman could not be located for comment.

Guzman's truck was in the far right lane of I-395 at 6:56 a.m. He told police that he had not had an altercation with any other driver and that no one was driving on the right shoulder, the only place on the highway where a shot could have come from, Licklider said.

Guzman heard the sound of glass breaking, then felt pain in his upper right arm, Licklider said. He pulled over just before the Edsall Road exit. There was one hole in the lower middle of his passenger-side window, Licklider said.

Police focused on a clump of thick trees along the highway, across from the Marlo furniture and Public Storage buildings. Licklider estimated that the area was no more than 40 yards by 30 yards.

"We don't think it came from the businesses," Licklider said. "It almost had to come from the wooded area," which is bounded in part by six-foot fences and has a deep, overgrown ditch in the middle. No witnesses were found, Licklider said.

While police combed the area and rush-hour traffic backed up on I-395, Guzman went to Inova Fairfax Hospital with something under his skin, Licklider said. Investigators had hoped it was a bullet or bullet fragment, but it was a piece of glass from the window, Licklider said.

Palomino, who visited Guzman at the hospital, said the glass sliced through Guzman's jacket and left a round hole in his shirt but did not seriously hurt him. He said Guzman was out of the hospital by noon.

Whatever hit Guzman's window was powerful enough to drive a piece of glass through two pieces of clothing and into his arm, leading investigators to believe it was launched from a real gun rather than a BB or pellet gun, Licklider said.

Guzman's driver-side window was open at the time, so the bullet could have passed out of the truck onto the highway, investigators theorized after they couldn't find it in the truck's cab.

"This is the first report we've had of anything like that," Licklider said, hoping to limit any fears of a serial shooter haunting the area again.

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