Arraignment for accused 163 freeway shooter - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Arraignment for accused 163 freeway shooter

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A trial date could be set Tuesday for a transient accused of firing a rifle at freeway traffic in Kearny Mesa, wounding a college student and damaging a motorist's car.

Stephen Joseph Dragasits, 58, is charged with two counts each of attempted murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle and assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury. He faces 43 years to life in prison if convicted.

After a preliminary hearing earlier this month, Judge Melinda Lasater ruled that enough evidence had been presented for Dragasits to stand trial.

The defendant, 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 said the 7 a.m. shootings were unprovoked.

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

Dragasits 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.

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

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