Washington State Police seeking answers after car struck by bullet on SR-14

“Shot in the dark, quite literally.”

VANCOUVER — A 27-year old Vancouver woman was injured last week when a bullet struck her vehicle traveling eastbound on State Route 14 near Leiser Road, according to Washington State Patrol.

Jessyca Sweeten suffered cuts to her face and left eye from glass shattered by an apparently random bullet that hit her car while driving along SR-14 in Vancouver. Photo courtesy Jessyca Sweeten

Jessyca Sweeten says she was headed home from seeing a show in Portland just before 11:30 p.m. last Tuesday night when the driver’s side window of her red 2018 Subaru Impreza suddenly exploded.

“I just heard a really loud noise coming from my left. It was so loud I thought the airbag had actually gone off,” Sweeten said Monday afternoon outside the Washington State Patrol (WSP) office in Vancouver.

“Ms. Sweeten is very lucky,” said WSP Trooper Will Finn. “Speaking with the detectives, a few more inches and we might be having a very different conversation today.”

The apparent bullet impacted the frame of the driver’s side door, just above the window, leaving a dent and sending glass spraying into the left side of Sweeten’s face, leaving numerous lacerations.

“I noticed the blood dripping down,” she says.

Damage from a bullet that struck the upper part of the driver’s side door on a 2018 Subaru Impreza last week, driven by Jessyca Sweeten of Vancouver. Photo courtesy Jessyca Sweeten

Sweeten says it was lucky there were no other vehicles nearby. She managed to bring the car to a stop on the shoulder of the highway and call her husband before calling 9-1-1. First responders rushed her to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center where she was treated for the cuts, along with glass and lacerations to her left eye.

“I’ve been to an eye specialist and they checked everything out and I’m not gonna have any, like, long lasting damage,’’ Sweeten says. “Everything’s gonna heal up okay, so I was really lucky.”

Stephen Greenwood, a forensic scientist with WSP’s Vancouver-based crime lab, said they examined the car last week and determined on Friday that fragments found inside did, in fact, come from a bullet. At this point it’s too early, he says, to determine the type of bullet.

State Police seeking answers after car struck by bullet on SR-14 in Vancouver
WSP Forensic Scientist Stephen Greenwood talks about how they determined it was a bullet that struck Jessyca Sweeten’s car on SR-14 EB last week. Photo by Chris Brown

“We examine the exterior of the vehicle, looking for any defects that could be a bullet impact. If we see a defect, we’ll test it for the presence of copper or lead, or copper and lead,” says Greenwood. “When a bullet strikes an object it often leaves a residue of copper or lead, as these are the main constituents of bullets.”

Trooper Finn says they know the bullet came from the north side of the freeway, somewhere between Evergreen Boulevard and Lieser Road.

“We are looking at our other law enforcement partners within Clark County to see if they have any other reports that maybe we’re not aware of,” says Finn.

Sweeten says the car belongs to her husband, so she actually felt somewhat guilty about what happened to it. Sunday was the first time she’d gotten behind the wheel since the incident happened.

State Police seeking answers after car struck by bullet on SR-14 in Vancouver
Jessyca Sweeten is still recovering from cuts to the left side of her face suffered when a bullet struck the driver’s side door of her vehicle on SR-14 in Vancouver last week, shattering the glass. Photo by Chris Brown

“Even if, rationally, you know the odds of this happening again are, like, none, just your brain associates,” she says. “And it’s just, you know, you get anxious for sure.”

While there’s no evidence to support someone intentionally targeting Sweeten’s vehicle, Finn says it seems unlikely this could be something like a hunting accident.

“You’re surrounded by homes through that area,” says Finn. “It’s not like we’re traveling out to Camas, or past Washougal when you’re starting to travel into Skamania County where something like this could potentially happen due to the fact of the rural location.”

There is a small wooded area north of the highway near where the incident happened, and people online have been quick to point fingers at a couple of houses along French Road, which runs north of SR-14, but Finn says they’re trying to be as thorough as possible in their investigation.

“In this type of situation we don’t have any other vehicles around,” says Finn. “We’ve spoken to our victim, who has been a very great witness, but at this point, we don’t have really anything to go off of. So to say that it’s unusual is absolutely the case.”

For her part, Sweeten says she’s just hoping it was a big mistake, and not something intentional.

State Police seeking answers after car struck by bullet on SR-14 in Vancouver
Jessyca Sweeten talks about being injured when a bullet struck her vehicle last week on SR-14 in Vancouver. Photo by Chris Brown

“I mean, it’s definitely scary,” she says. “I’ve lived in Vancouver most of my life. I really feel like overall, it’s a pretty safe place to live. I’ve never had anything like this happen before. I mean, even remotely.”

Finn says if you know anything, or you heard or saw anything, be sure to call 9-1-1 or contact Detective Jen Ortiz at 360-449-7948 or Jennifer.Ortiz@wsp.wa.gov.

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About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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