“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 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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.