$2M bail set for transient accused of opening fire on SR-163 - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

$2M bail set for transient accused of opening fire on SR-163, wounding college student

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    A 58-year-old transient accused of opening fire on freeway traffic in Kearny Mesa two weeks ago, wounding a college student and damaging another motorist's car, pleaded not guilty Friday. 
    A 58-year-old transient accused of opening fire on freeway traffic in Kearny Mesa two weeks ago, wounding a college student and damaging another motorist's car, pleaded not guilty Friday to four felony charges and was ordered held without bail. 

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Bail was set at $2 million Tuesday for a transient accused of opening fire on freeway traffic in Kearny Mesa, wounding a college student and damaging another motorist's car.

Stephen Joseph Dragasits, 58, faces more than 19 years in prison if convicted.

The defendant had been held without bail since his April 22 arraignment, but on Tuesday Deputy Public Defender Euketa Oliver told Judge Theodore Weathers that Dragasits was entitled to have bail set.

Citing the defendant's lack of a felony record, Oliver argued unsuccessfully that his bail be set at $1 million.

A readiness conference was set for May 31 and a preliminary hearing for June 13.

Dragasits, who was living in a motor home near the site of the April 5 shootings on state Route 163, was arrested April 20 at a Wal-Mart in the area, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Deputy District Attorney Chandelle Konstanzer told Judge David Szumowski at Dragasits' arraignment that he is a flight risk who also represents an "extreme danger" to the community.

Dragasits is charged with two counts each of shooting into an occupied vehicle and assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury.

Konstanzer said the 7 a.m. shootings were completely unprovoked,

The wounded 21-year-old student, Ashley Simmons, unaware she had been shot, called her mother and told her she was having trouble breathing, authorities said. A bullet had come through the rear passenger door of her Toyota Matrix and pierced her rib cage.

Konstanzer said Simmons suffered a collapsed lung and the .22-caliber bullet lodged in her liver, leading to a one-week stay in a hospital.

Authorities learned a second vehicle had been hit by a bullet on the same stretch of freeway about the same time Simmons was shot. On April 6, a 42-year-old Rancho Bernardo resident reported that his southbound car was shot near the junction of state Route 52.

Dragasits, a New York native who told investigators he was a former Navy man and one-time employee of the county of San Diego, allegedly was linked to the shootings through surveillance and DNA evidence found on a bullet casing picked up after the shooting, CHP Capt. Rich Stewart said.

The gun that fired the rounds, believed to be a .22-caliber Winchester 190 rifle, has not been recovered, Stewart said.

He said that prior to the shootings, Dragasits had been arrested and convicted for throwing rocks at cars on the freeway in the same area.

Stewart said it remained unclear exactly where the gunfire came from, though investigators do not believe the shooter was inside a moving vehicle.

Deputy Public Defender Salvatore Tarantino said the defendant has lived in San Diego County for 35 years.

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