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Ex-UPS driver sentenced to 20 years in prison for I-5 shootings

A Roseburg man will serve 20 years in prison for shooting at motorists on Interstate 5 in Southern Oregon last summer — including a woman who was injured — while he was behind the wheel of a semitrailer working for UPS.

Kenneth Alan Ayers, 49, was sentenced Tuesday in Jackson County Circuit Court to 20 years for his admitted role in eight shootings along I-5 in Jackson, Josephine and Douglas counties, according to the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office.

Ayers’ eighth shooting injured a woman the evening of Aug. 19 while she was traveling northbound on the freeway near Central Point.

According to Deputy District Attorney Virginia Greer, the bullet is still lodged in the victim’s shoulder.

“She indicated she still has limited range in her arm,” Greer said, recounting the victim’s statement during the sentencing hearing.

The victim told the court that six and a half months after the shooting she is still working with a physical therapist to improve her shoulder’s range of motion, and is looking into ways to remove the bullet.

Five shooting victims spoke at the hearing, according to Greer, and each had their own perspective about the emotional impact in the aftermath of being shot at on the freeway.

Ayers made no statement and did not reveal a motive behind the shootings, which occurred between May 12 and Aug. 19.

The freeway shootings perplexed OSP investigators for months, according to news reports prior to Ayers’ arrest.

The shootings occurred at different locations in Jackson, Josephine and Douglas counties during the day and night and victimized vehicles traveling north and south.

OSP put out press releases July 14 and Aug. 11 asking for tips from the public.

In many of the freeway shootings, victims told police they heard a loud noise but did not immediately realize that their vehicle had been shot. Some motorists only discovered damage to their vehicle later, such as a punctured tire, a damaged semitrailer coolant hose and lost power steering.

At about 9:45 p.m. Aug. 19, a motorist traveling northbound was rushed by ambulance to a nearby hospital after sustaining a gunshot wound to the shoulder near milepost 37.

Witnesses told police the woman’s vehicle had been near a UPS double- or triple-trailer freight truck merging on the freeway from Exit 35 in Central Point.

OSP stopped Ayers while he was driving a UPS semi that matched witness descriptions later that night, took Ayers in for questioning and arrested him. Jackson County Jail records show that Ayers has been held in jail since Aug. 20.

Inside the truck, OSP investigators found a Hi-Point Model JHP .45-caliber handgun.

A UPS spokesperson stated at the time that firearms are prohibited in company vehicles.

OSP matched casings collected from shooting victims to Ayers’ handgun, and GPS data from an electronic logging device showed that Ayers’ semi was in the location of each of the reported shootings, according to Greer.

Ayers pleaded guilty last week to three counts of attempted second-degree murder, five counts of unlawful use of a weapon, two counts of first-degree criminal mischief, two counts of second-degree criminal mischief and three counts of recklessly endangering another person in the shootings that occurred 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 in Central Point.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Charles Kochlachs sentenced Ayers to 240 months in prison. According to court documents filed last week in Ayers’ case, the 20-year prison sentence is the maximum penalty.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat. Web editor Ryan Pfeil contributed to this report.

Kenneth Alan Ayers faces attempted murder, assault and weapon use charges surrounding a string of Southern Oregon shootings from Central Point to Canyonville. Oregon State Police photo.