VIDEO: I-35 rock throwing attack on UTPD patrol car

Rock threw a windshield (Austin Police Department Photo)
Rock threw a windshield (Austin Police Department Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — For the first time, we’re seeing the video that ultimately helped police catch the man who terrorized and injured drivers along Interstate 35 for two years.

KXAN obtained dash camera video showing the moment Pat Johnson hurled a rock at a University of Texas at Austin patrol car in May of 2016. Johnson, who was sentenced to 40 years in April as part of a plea deal, is responsible for the bulk of the rock attacks on I-35.

UTPD’s Sgt. Eric Johanson was on his way home from his job around 2:34 a.m. going northbound on I-35 when something struck the front of his patrol car near the E. 51st Street exit.

“I saw it coming towards me and it seemed like it had skipped up off the ground,” said Johanson. “It’s not uncommon for there to be debris on I-35 and I was nowhere near a bridge so the rock thrower wasn’t anywhere on my mind.”

Newly released video from his dash camera shows what looks like a snowball flying across the concrete barrier. In the video, you can see the rock come flying out of a car traveling in the southbound lanes and strike the patrol unit.

Johanson was on the phone and immediately turned on his microphone. “Something just flew across the highway. I gotta go, call you back,” Johanson can be heard saying on the dashcam audio.

While the incident happened on May 14, 2016, Johanson didn’t immediately report it to his supervisor because the patrol car didn’t sustain any damage. Once the chief at UTPD sent out an email to his staff on June 10, 2016 about the rock throwing cases, the officer then brought the video to his attention.

When detectives interviewed Johnson about the rock attacks, he showed them how he would throw the rocks. He said he would flick the rocks “out like a cigarette.”

During the investigation, police also found GoPro video shot by Johnson himself. Johnson can barely be heard in the background mumbling about wanting to target drunk drivers for fun.

Investigators eventually zeroed in on their culprit after they reviewed all the data and 911 calls. Police say Johnson called 911 numerous times to report rock attacks as well as being in the vicinity where attacks were reported.

Johnson even called in to report the rock attack on the UTPD patrol car. During the call, he said, “It’s gonna be large, it’s probably 4 to 3-and-a-half-foot wide by probably 6-foot long.”

“After committing his crimes, his cowardly crimes, he came back to the scene acting as a Good Samaritan, acting as a witness,” says then-Chief of Police Art Acevedo of Johnson’s modus operandi.

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