An Illinois man accused of shooting at vehicles on Interstate 80 in Atalissa in January 2018 has pleaded guilty in Cedar County District Court.

Charles S. Johnston, 61, of Belvidere, pleaded guilty to four counts of intimidation with a dangerous weapon, a Class C felony each punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and one count of assault on a peace officer, a Class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

According to the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend a sentence of up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced June 7. 

Prosecutors also will dismiss the most serious charge, attempted murder, a Class B felony, at sentencing.

Around 2:15 p.m. Jan. 11, 2018, the Cedar County Sheriff's Office started receiving multiple reports of a person shooting a firearm at vehicles on I-80, according to court documents. Reports also came from the area of 273 mile marker toward 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, 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.

Iowa State Patrol arrived on scene, and Johnston fired two shots at a trooper, striking the squad car.

Officers fired on the Volkswagen. Additional officers arrived and secured the scene.

Johnston was brought to an ambulance to be checked out and was transported to the Cedar County Jail. After his arrest, he mentioned he was taking several prescription drugs and had recently been hospitalized.

Officers found several prescription pill bottles in plain view in the vehicle.

Johnston also said he became enraged or obsessed over a family supposedly killed in a crash 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.

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.

At the time of his arrest, Johnston was employed by Harper College in Palatine, Illinois, as an associate professor in the psychology department.

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