Two days before he shot a College of Wooster freshman at an Interstate 71 rest stop in Delaware County, apparently at random, Shawn A. Johnson had been charged with domestic violence in Columbus for beating his mother.
According to a Columbus police criminal complaint, Johnson hit his mother repeatedly in the head and told her “I’m going to kill somebody. I don’t give a (expletive),” before stealing her purse and leaving their apartment Friday night in his Toyota Camry, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
After police went to the scene, an arrest warrant was issued for Johnson, 25, in Columbus on charges of domestic violence and assault. Valerie Rhasiatry, Johnson’s mother, had told him she was planning to move out of the apartment.
Just after 11 a.m. on Sunday, according to the State Highway Patrol, Johnson fired several shots into a vehicle parked at the rest stop along I-71 just south of Routes 36 and 37, striking Alexander S. Melchert, 18, a first-year student at the College of Wooster. He is from Neenah, Wisconsin.
Melchert was taken to OhioHealth Grant Medical Center, where he underwent surgery Sunday for multiple wounds to his abdomen, authorities said. He was upgraded Wednesday to stable condition from critical.
Using vehicle descriptions from 911 callers, authorities pursued Johnson’s car north on I-71. He crashed and they found him dead of a self-inflicted gunshot inside his car.
Melchert and a friend stopped at the rest area on the way back to Wooster from Columbus. Several people called 911 after shooting, including Matt Gothard, of Columbus, who was beginning a vacation with a friend and had parked nearby.
“We saw him with the gun shooting,” he told a dispatcher.
Monday, he called the chaos “surreal.”
“We were not completely sure what we were experiencing when we called 911,” he said. “You can’t believe something like this is happening.”
In Wooster, students and faculty gathered for a vigil Monday afternoon in support of Melchert. Grief counselors were available.
State Highway Patrol investigators will continue to seek details and a motive, even though Johnson can’t be prosecuted, said Sgt. Vincent Shirey. “It’s important to see exactly what happened. We want to know that so we can inform the public.”