Washington State Patrol Still Hoping for New Leads a Year After Centralia Road Rage Shooting on Interstate 5

By Natalie Johnson / njohnson@chronline.com

Detectives with the Washington State Patrol are renewing a call for tips on a 2015 Centralia road rage incident.

Despite statements from two witnesses and one anonymous tip, detectives have not yet identified a suspect.

“It’s been a year. As police officers, we don’t like cold cases,” said Trooper Will Finn, who met with members of the media to discuss the case Thursday. 

The incident was reported at 11:04 a.m. Dec. 30, when the victim reported that a man fired a gun at him while on southbound Interstate 5.

At the time, the State Patrol told reporters that the altercation reportedly began at milepost 93 near the Scatter Creek Rest Area. Finn said Thursday it could have been further south.

The 25-year-old victim, from Spanaway, was heading to Chehalis in a gray Mazda 2 hatchback on southbound I-5 traveling in the fast lane. He reportedly came up behind a black 2005 to 2010 model Jeep Grand Cherokee, which brake-checked him. 

The Spanaway man sped around the Cherokee and brake-checked the SUV in return. 

The man then looked in his rearview mirror and saw the driver of the Cherokee, described as a white male, aged 60 to 70 with gray hair and beard, aim a handgun out the driver’s side window and fired an unknown number of rounds at the Mazda, one of which entered the back window and exited just above the driver’s head in the windshield.

“As soon as that happened, a chase ensued,” Finn said. 

The Mazda’s driver managed to lose sight of the Cherokee at about Exit 80. He drove to the Lewis County Law and Justice Center, which was his original destination, and called police.

Law enforcement officers attempted to intercept the Jeep at Exit 76, but never saw the vehicle. Finn said investigators believe the driver exited the freeway between Exit 80 and Exit 76.

The State Patrol does not plan to release the name of the victim at this time, for fear of retaliation against him by the suspect.

The Jeep’s passenger was described as an elderly white female wearing oxygen tubes on her face. The vehicle was described as an early 2000s black Jeep Cherokee with Washington plates and untinted windows. 

The State Patrol’s crime lab tested the Mazda and was able to confirm the presence of lead, proving the damage was caused by a bullet. 

“It came really close to the driver,” Finn said. 

Finn noted that hundreds or thousands of vehicles registered in Washington could match the relatively vague description provided by witnesses of the suspect’s Jeep.

Detectives interviewed two witnesses who also called 911 while the chase was in progress, but neither was able to provide information identifying the suspect. 

“We did have one caller who called in and gave us a lead,” Finn said. 

Detectives interviewed the person of interest, but the victim did not identify that person as the suspected shooter. 

To report any information about the incident, call Detective Jen Ortiz at 360-449-7948.

“Sometimes it’s the littlest things people tell us that’s able to crack a case,” Finn said. 

He added that detectives will never know the full story of what led to the road rage shooting until they find the man in the Jeep.

“There’s two sides to every story,” he said. “Who knows what really happened out there.”