COLUMBUS 'I'm highway shooter, ' 911 caller says
A dispatcher who brushed off the claim is now under investigation.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- In the first claim of responsibility, a man called police four times saying he was the highway shootings sniper, police said Friday.
The 911 calls, about a minute long in total, were made about 2:30 p.m. Monday to Columbus police. Muffled and difficult to hear, they include at least two disconnections.
Police were investigating the female dispatcher who took the calls, saying she mishandled the situation by not appearing to take the calls seriously.
Police allowed the emergency calls to be recorded but did not release a copy of the tape or a transcript.
The caller identified himself as the highway shooter twice and also twice claimed to have shot a car on Interstate 71. Police have no reports of highway shootings Monday.
The caller did not mention any specific incident involved in the Interstate 270 shootings police have connected to the case, including the death of a passenger in November. A task force investigating the 20 shootings at cars, school buses and homes is trying to determine whether the caller is the gunman, Franklin County sheriff's Chief Deputy Steve Martin said.
"We're taking it seriously," Martin said. "We're aggressively pursuing it."
In the first call, the man said, "I'm the highway shooter." Calling back, he said he had shot into a car on Interstate 71, which intersects the outerbelt around Columbus.
In a third call, he said, "I'm on I-71 and I just shot a car." The dispatcher took an apparent fourth call but the caller's voice is not heard.
The police dispatcher appeared to dismiss the caller, according to the 911 tape, saying "whatever" several times and later, "Yeah, yeah, yeah."
At another point she said, "You just want attention, don't you."
She also asked the caller to stay on the line while the call was traced. The call ended soon after.
The dispatcher's use of words like "whatever" in response to his claims was inappropriate, said Columbus police spokeswoman Sherry Mercurio.
"I don't want people thinking that if they call in they're not going to be taken seriously," she said. "If they think that, no one's going to call in with a tip that can solve this."
Gail Knisley, 62, died Nov. 25 as she rode in a car on the way to a doctor's appointment on Interstate 270, south of the city, since May. No one else has been struck.
No new shootings have been linked to the case since Jan. 22. A shot fired at a car on Interstate 71, which intersects with the outerbelt, became the 20th shooting in the series. The driver said he thought the gunfire came from a highway overpass and he saw someone standing in shadows.
Investigators have regularly asked the person responsible to call a phone tip line or contact authorities in writing. They set up a post office box for that purpose.
Martin said he didn't know why the caller used 911 instead of the tip line.
More than 3,800 people have called in tips on the case, and investigators are looking into numerous people named in the calls, Martin said. Local businesses are offering a $60,000 reward.