Court documents provide new details and shed light on a possible motive behind a shooting earlier this month on Interstate 80 in Atalissa.
According to an application filed Jan. 18 in Cedar County District Court in support of a search warrant, accused shooter Charles S. Johnston told police after his arrest that he had become “enraged or obsessed over a family that was killed in an accident with a semi and that the motive behind his actions was to harm a truck driver or truck drivers in retaliation. “
The 60-year-old Belvidere, Illinois, man told officers that he was currently taking several prescription drugs and had recently been hospitalized, according to the application.
A spokesperson for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, which is investigating the case, could not be reached for comment Friday.
Johnston is charged in Cedar County with attempted murder, a Class B felony, and assault on a peace officer with a dangerous weapon, a Class D felony.
He will be arraigned March 2, according to online court records. Bond has been set at $1 million cash-only.
According to the application for the search warrant sought by the Cedar County Sheriff’s Office:
Around 2:15 p.m. Jan. 11, the Cedar County Sheriff’s Office started receiving multiple reports of a person shooting a firearm at vehicles on I-80. Reports also came from the area of 273 mile marker towards the Atalissa Pilot Station that shots were being fired from a small black car.
A semi driver was pulling out of the Pilot Station onto Atalissa Road when a person in a black Volkswagen was pulling in. The driver of the Volkswagen, later identified as Johnston, pointed a handgun out of the window and fired multiple shots at the semi driver.
The semi driver saw the car circle around behind him on the passenger side, and so he swerved and struck the Volkwagen, pinning the car under the trailer.
Johnston fired several more rounds into the passenger door of the semi. The semi then pulled onto Atalissa Road, just south of the interstate, and observed the black Volkswagen travel south on Atalissa Road and turn around and park.
Moments later, the black Volkswagen approached the semi.
A trooper with the Iowa State Patrol arrived on scene, and shortly after getting out of his patrol vehicle, Johnston fired two shots at the trooper, striking the squad car.
Officers fired shots on the Volkswagen. Several additional officers arrived and secured the scene while orders were given for Johnston to show his hands and get out of the vehicle.
After several minutes, he eventually exited the vehicle and followed commands of the officers and was taken into custody.
Johnston was brought to an ambulance to be checked out and then was transported to the Cedar County Jail. After his arrest, he mentioned that he was currently taking several prescription drugs and had recently been hospitalized.
Officers found several prescription pill bottles in plain view in the vehicle.
Johnston also said that he became enraged or obsessed over a family that was killed in an accident with a semi and that the motive behind his actions was to harm a truck driver or truck drivers in retaliation, according to the application.
No one was injured in the shootings. The search warrant application did not indicate why Johnston was in the area that day.
Offices searched the Volkswagen and found a metal marijuana pipe; a prescription bottle with marijuana inside; a prescription bottle with no label and with marijuana inside; a jar of "Explosion Pre-workout" with a glass pipe; a prescription bottle that held pills that did not match the label; and a box of cigarettes with a marijuana "joint" inside, according to a receipt for property that was filed with the search warrant.
Johnston said in court documents that he is employed by Harper College in Palatine, Illinois.
College spokeswoman Kim Pohl confirmed in an email Friday that Johnston has been employed by the college since 1996 and is an associate professor in the psychology department.
She said Johnston is “absent without approved leave” and that he has been barred from campus.
“Harper College is prepared to cooperate with authorities in whatever way possible,” Pohl wrote in an email.