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UPS driver charged in Southern Oregon freeway shootings

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The suspect in a months-long string of shooting incidents on Interstate 5 — including one that injured a woman near Central Point — is a UPS driver who allegedly shot at motorists while he was on the job.

Kenneth Alan Ayers, 49, is in the Jackson County Jail facing attempted murder and assault charges following a Wednesday night shooting on I-5.

Oregon State Police Capt. Tim Fox said Ayers is a suspect in at least seven other shootings in three Southern Oregon counties over the past three months.

Police believe Ayers fired a gun at other vehicles while driving a UPS semi May 12 in Josephine County, June 2 in Jackson County, June 15 in Douglas County, June 22 in Josephine County, July 7 in Douglas County, July 9 in Josephine County and Aug. 19. The shooting Wednesday was the only one that struck a motorist.

In addition to driving on I-5 between Jackson and Douglas counties, Ayers’ UPS route since May included portions in Jackson County along highways 62 and 140.

“There may be more victims or possible witnesses,” Fox said.

OSP started looking for a UPS vehicle after a woman was struck at about 9:45 p.m. Wednesday between Central Point and Gold Hill. Roughly an hour later, police stopped Ayers’ UPS semi near Canyonville, some 60 miles north of Milepost 37 where the shooting occurred.

“The math fits,” Fox said.

The woman shot Wednesday was traveling northbound on the freeway.

After serving a search warrant on the truck, Fox said OSP forensic investigators found a firearm believed to have been involved in the shooting among other pieces of evidence.

Ayers allegedly used a .45-caliber handgun in at least two incidents, July 9 and Aug. 19, according to documents filed Friday by the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office in Jackson County Circuit Court. The type of firearm believed to have been involved in other shootings has not yet been identified.

Fox said UPS is cooperating with OSP, and the company has been “great partners” in the investigation. After police served a search warrant on the truck, UPS worked with police to arrange another truck to deliver Ayers’ cargo.

A UPS spokesperson said the company is “appalled.”

“We are appalled to hear about these allegations and are fully cooperating with the responding authorities. Firearms are prohibited at UPS facilities and in our vehicles, and we are extremely concerned for the other motorists and individuals who have been affected. We’ll defer further comment to the investigating authorities,” a email statement from UPS said.

Ayers was arrested shortly after 11 p.m. Thursday in Roseburg and lodged in the Jackson County Jail, according to Fox.

Ayers appeared Friday afternoon in Jackson County Circuit Court on charges of attempted second-degree murder, second-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon, recklessly endangering another person and second-degree criminal mischief.

At the hearing, Judge Laura Cromwell ordered no early release unless Ayers posts 10% bond on bail she set at $1 million. In the event Ayers posts bond, he will be required to wear a GPS monitoring device, he can’t possess any firearms, he can’t consume alcohol or intoxicants, he must comply with any polygraph testing, and he can’t contact or attempt to contact any of the alleged victims.

Oregon court records show no recent criminal history for Ayers. He was indicted by a grand jury on second degree burglary and car theft charges out of Douglas County in 1988 when he was 17, but the case was dismissed and transferred to juvenile court.

The string of at least nine shooting reports on I-5 began in mid-May, according to earlier news reports. Several drivers reported hearing a sound while driving and discovered damage farther down the road. The reports extended from Roseburg to Gold Hill. Police said there was no pattern to the incidents, with vehicles traveling north and south reportedly being hit, and the incidents occurring during the day and night. Damage included flattened tires, a pierced coolant hose and the loss of power steering.

Reach web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanPfeil. Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Oregon State Police look for casings along the I-5 entrance off Blackwell Rd, exit 35 in Central Point Thursday afternoon.{ }Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Ayers allegedly fired a gun at motorists in Southern Oregon while behind the wheel of this UPS freight semi tractor, according to Oregon State Police. OSP photo.