Carjacking, shootings snarl busy Phoenix-area freeway

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PHOENIX (AP) — A man carjacked a driver at gunpoint in Phoenix then wounded two people after the vehicle crashed on a busy Arizona freeway and he tried to commandeer other cars to get away before he was shot and taken into custody, authorities said.

The mayhem on Monday evening forced a nearly 12-hour closure of Interstate 17 — the main road from Phoenix to Flagstaff — as police conducted an investigation.

The road finally reopened early Tuesday.

Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Jonathan Howard said it was amazing that more people weren't hurt, given the gunfire and potential for more traffic collisions.

"Things could have been much worse," he said.

Police said the 31-year-old suspect, whose name was not released, was trying to get to Mexico when he spotted the first victim and forced him to drive onto the interstate that was already clogged with holiday traffic.

The vehicle crashed into concrete dividers on the highway as the two men struggled over a gun and the steering wheel, Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Jonathan Howard said.

The driver ran away without injury when his vehicle was disabled in the crash.

Howard said the gunman then tried to steal at least three other cars at gunpoint after the collision brought traffic to a near halt.

The driver of a van was shot before managing to drive away. His injuries weren't life-threatening.

Police said the suspect also jumped on the hood of a car and that driver was shot, causing the car to collide with another vehicle. The injuries suffered by the driver were critical but not life-threatening.

Officers initially thought they were responding to a traffic collision but soon learned the crash was tied to something more serious.

Finally, officers from the Arizona Department of Public Safety confronted the suspect after he climbed onto the opposite side of the interstate and tried to steal other vehicles. Two officers fired shots, wounding the suspect.

The man, who suffered serious injuries, is expected to be booked on charges related to the shootings and carjacking attempts once he is released from a hospital.

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