An Arizona teenager suspected of killing one person and injuring a dozen others during a 90-minute series of drive-by shootings in the Phoenix metro area told police he believed people were involved because of his involvement. Another shooting was after him, according to court documents released on Friday.
Ashin Tricarico, 19, is accused of opening fire on vehicles and pedestrians from a white SUV on Thursday in at least eight separate shootings in three towns that have fueled fear in the region. Four people were shot dead, including a man whose van crashed into a canal next to a highway.
A witness told police he saw the suspect pull up behind the truck and in the lane next to it, then heard a gunshot. Police later found the man’s body in the truck with a gunshot wound to the neck and streaks of blood on his head, face and body, court documents show.
Police said Tricarico admitted to some of the shootings and refused to talk about the others, but denied shooting a woman or killing the man the police did not identify. Tricarico told police he was involved in another shooting in Phoenix a month ago while he was a security guard and thought judicial documents indicated he was being followed by people.
“Ashin believes that every vehicle and person he passes will have a gun pointed at him,” the police wrote.
Phoenix police did not immediately return a message from the Associated Press requesting confirmation of Tricarico’s report of a previous shooting.
Tricarico, who was arrested on Thursday, appeared remotely on Friday for a court hearing and was instructed to contact a public defender. The Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office did not have a designated attorney for Tricarico, whose next trial will be on June 24. He is charged with first degree murder, gunfire in a vehicle, grievous bodily harm and endangerment.
There was no immediate response to a message left at a given number for a parent in Tricarico.
Documents filed by police in the Maricopa County Superior Court allege that Tricarico shot more than a dozen people in what appeared to be arbitrary. In some cases, he stopped next to vehicles, stuck the barrel of an assault rifle through his window and fired several shots, police said.
A 3-year-old child was in a vehicle with his mother when the windshield and driver’s door were hit but not injured. The mother told police she heard three gunshots while driving and immediately felt pain in her arm, stomach and head. She was covered in blood and, according to witness statements, she cried “Oh my God”.
Others were injured by bullets or shards of glass. The injured were between 19 and 56 years old, authorities said.
Police said Tricarico left his home in the town of Surprise with an AR-15 rifle and then purchased four boxes of ammunition that filled two 30-round magazines. Matching cartridge cases were found in some places, police said.
Richard Valencia, 34, said he spent Thursday afternoon in hospital after being shot in the shoulder while leaving a Surprise supermarket. He told the KSAZ-TV news channel in Phoenix that he fired three times with his own rifle.
“I don’t even know the guy,” he said. “It was completely random.”
Victims and witnesses were able to provide authorities with a description of the suspect’s vehicle – a white Volkswagen SUV – and the license plate. A local fire department spotted the vehicle and called the police, who flooded a mall with restaurants, a nail salon and a walgreens.
Neil Betrue, a pastor from Surprise, was alone in his church office when he spotted a few police officers and heard a helicopter buzzing above him. He peeked out the door to see other cops getting around the suspect’s car and started recording the commotion on his cell phone.
“I didn’t know it was a shooting at the time,” Betrue told The Associated Press on Friday. “I just thought there must be a lawsuit or something.”
As the police drew their guns, the suspect, who wore a black jacket, black pants and white shoes, raised his hands in the air. He was then handcuffed without incident, as shown in the betrayed video.
“I’m just thankful that he didn’t try to put officials or businessmen or anyone else at risk,” Betrue said.
Police do not believe other people were involved in the attacks.
Tricarico was also accused of pointing an assault rifle at a man in the parking lot of a grocery store on Wednesday evening while the two were in their vehicles, court documents show. Tricarico then followed the man, who slipped away when he heard a gunshot but was not injured, police said. However, Tricarico claimed not to have left his home that day.
Police said they would not release any further information until Monday, as the investigation was complex.
There have been more fatal drive-by shootings in the Phoenix metro area.
In 2005 and 2006, the area was terrorized by two serial shooters who walked around and fired at random targets, killing six people and injuring 19 others. After their final arrest, airport warden Dale Hausner and his roommate Sam Dietman, a petty criminal, were sentenced to life imprisonment. Hausner committed suicide in prison in 2013 from an overdose.
A similar series of car shoots began a decade later. In 2015 and 2016, nine people were killed and two injured in the so-called “Serial Street Shootings”. In 2017, police arrested Aaron Saucedo, then 23, on allegations that he arbitrarily shot people, often at night, as they returned from work or in their backyard. He has pleaded not guilty to numerous indictments and is awaiting trial. The prosecution calls for the death penalty.