First victim in serial highway shootings describes slow wave of terror

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A slow wave of terror washed over the first victim in a series of random shootings west of Highway 99 late last year.
"We were just going straight and then we heard a loud BAM," said the woman we aren't identifying at the request of the judge.

Prosecutors say hers is one of two incidents in Madera County that helped Fresno County sheriff's deputies tie the crimes to Jorge Gracia.

On a remote stretch of Highway 145, the elementary school teacher carpooling to work became a serial shooter's first victim.

"It was early in the morning," she said. "It was the first day back from Thanksgiving break. So we were both kind of trying to wake up and then we heard a loud 'BAM.'"

A bullet crashed through the car door just behind hers, but she didn't see any damage right away, so she didn't call the police until hours later.

Investigators say the shooter hit another car that night, and at least five more in the next two months -- all on the west side of Fresno or Madera Counties.

They arrested Jorge Gracia in January after an off-duty correctional officer said Gracia pointed a gun at him at the Kerman Walmart, but prosecutor Katherine Plante says by that point, investigators already knew where to find Gracia.

"They were tracking the defendant's movements up until the time of his arrest and there was a tracker on his vehicle at the time of his arrest," Plante said.

Fresno County detectives got a warrant to track Gracia after a Madera County man said he pointed a gun at him along Highway 99. He got the license plate of the pickup truck the guy was driving.

But defense attorney Emily Takao says the evidence doesn't line up as perfectly as it may seem.

"There are inconsistencies from one report to the next," Takao said. "Different models, different colors, different makes."

The school teacher, for instance described a burgundy pickup truck passing her right after the gunfire.

Gracia's pickup was gray.

Prosecutors may also have a smoking gun, though.

When deputies arrested Gracia, they found a semiautomatic handgun at his house.

Testing on the recovered bullets showed the same gun fired them all, and the gun was the one they say was Gracia's.

If he's convicted, Gracia would face life in prison.
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