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Shootings on I-81 stun community shocked by violence on roads

Installing more cameras on interstates could be used to track criminals
Installing more cameras on interstates could be used to track criminals
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Early yesterday morning another shooting on I-81 in Franklin County, PA made the headlines. Initial reports were vague only alerting the public that the interstate was closed in between exits 17 through 20 while police investigated a shooting of a state trooper. The reaction from the public was a mix between fear and curiosity. Considering that the alleged road rage fueled murder that happened right after the start of the new year remained unsolved, the public wondered how safe they were driving on the highways. With I-81 being closed down yesterday while the incident was being investigated by police, rumors circulated that a serial murderer similar to the DC sniper was targeting drivers travelling from Chambersburg area into Washington County, MD. Later it was released in the news that on Sunday, January 26 that Sean P. Sellers of Mifflinsburg was taken into custody and charged with criminal attempted homicide, criminal attempted homicide of a police officer, theft, carrying a firearm without a license, and other related charges. Because of the severity the crimes he is alleged to have committed, Sellers, who is only 16 years old, is being charged as an adult and was denied bail by the district magistrate.

What began as a routine traffic stop for state trooper Michel Quinn accelerated into a shoot-out between the officer and Sellers who fired the first shot. The juvenile was taken into custody without further incident and no injuries were reported. The 22-caliber pistol that Sellers used to shoot at Quinn along with the black Chevrolet Impala he was driving were both determined to have been stolen from a home in Mifflinsburg. At this point in time, there is no known connection between Sellers and Davison's unsolved murder that occurred on January 4. The driver that rammed Davison off the highway and shot and killed him was reportedly driving a dark-colored Ford Ranger XLT. A $10,000 reward was offered for any information that would lead to the capture of Davison's killer. To date, Davison's killer remains at large and the crime unsolved.

It would be too easy to assume that capturing Sellers will lead to solving Davison's murder. Although the DC sniper case involved an interesting situation of serial murders being committed by adult and a juvenile working together, there is no indication that this was repeated in Pennsylvania. The state police could find no connections between Davison's murder on the interstate and one that happened in York in the same time period. They also could not find any connections between the I-81 shooting on January 4 and one that happened on May 25, 2013 in Kentucky. Most likely the only connection between any of these highway shootings is that it continues to be more common for people to resort to using violence solve their problems. In the Sellers case, the only way he could see to get out of the situation was to shoot Quinn. In the fatal shooting on January 4, Davison frantically called 911 report that a person in the vehicle next to his was shooting at him. The driver of the Ford Ranger eventually ran Davison off the road, shot him and left him for dead. Even though emergency responders were immediately dispatched to the scene to intervene and render aid, it was too late for Davison.

Some studies report that for the second year in a row that after a twenty year decline that violent crime is rising. In another study, a different group of researchers found that gun violence in the movies continues to increase to the point that it is expected anymore in every action film. Pulling out a gun or any weapon for that point of the matter often is just the way that many people learn to resolve the conflicts. While groups who advocate for increased gun control may use these incidents of gun violence on I-81 as reasoning to convince legislators to vote for stricter gun laws, removing all guns is not the answer. The saying goes that guns do not kill people that people kill people. With that logic, it also takes a person to pull the trigger on a gun to make it fire. Although guns were used in crimes committed by Sellers and the unidentified person who killed Davison, their weapons were not as much of the problem as it was their response to the situations. Not every gun owner is going to shoot a person who makes them angry, so more gun restrictions are not going to stop people from getting shot on the highways. People must learn that there are other non-violent ways to resolve their conflicts.

Even if the incident on January 4 was fueled by a road rage exchange between Davison and the other driver, a reasonable person does not kill someone just because they were inconsiderate on the road. Unfortunately, not every person is reasonable when they get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Recognizing that there may hostile drivers out on the roads, there are certain ways to potentially diffuse the situation such as not engaging the other driver. Highway cameras captured some images near exit 3 on I-81 where Davison was found gravely injured in his vehicle but not enough visual footage to identify the other driver or their vehicle. To capture the DC snipers, police monitored cameras positioned on the highways to track the assailants. Should more incidents like these occur on the interstate, the state police and PennDOT may want to consider adding more cameras for tracking purposes to aid in finding the perpetrators.