Jonathan McDougald got a rude awakening Tuesday, when a 5 a.m. knock at his door first tipped him off that he was a crime victim.
A Gainesville Police officer asked him if the Ford Escape, and Ford Explorer parked outside his town home at Chicopee Crossing were his. Both had their back windows shot out, apparently with a pellet rifle.
McDougald, 25, became the latest victim in a string of vandalisms by an air-gun wielding person or persons who has shot out the windows of dozens of cars and several businesses since Nov. 1.
Sometime around 3 a.m. Tuesday, 14 rear car windows were shot out in the newer residential complex across from the Chicopee Woods golf course on Atlanta Highway."It’s really aggravating," said McDougald, who estimates he will spend $500 to have his and his wife’s car windows replaced. "I don’t know if this could be some
kind of gang initiation. It’s just crazy."
Since Nov. 2, Gainesville police have taken reports of 37 car windows and four business windows being shot with pellets, Lt. Brian Kelly said. The estimated dollar amount of damage now stands in excess of $12,000.
The shootings generally have occurred overnight and on the weekend, and have been reported on Oak Street, Tower Heights Road, Dawsonville Highway, Browns Bridge Road and Atlanta Highway.
Cars have been damaged at Milton Martin Toyota, Gainesville Motors, Jim Hardman Motor Company and Juan Diego Auto. On Tuesday morning, a window was shot at the Gainesville Bank and Trust branch on Atlanta Highway.
So far, police have been unable to discern any particular pattern in the vandalism, Kelly said.
"There seems to be no rhyme or reason — it’s scattered," Kelly said. "We don’t know if it’s one set of persons or separate vehicles doing this."
McDougald said he was told that the suspects might be driving a black Honda Accord or Honda Civic with a loud muffler. Kelly said police had not confirmed whether that was the make or model car involved.
Kelly said it was the most widespread case of vandalism he had seen in his 12 years in the department.
Hall County Sheriff’s Maj. Jeff Strickland said his agency was also seeing vandalism in car lots, particularly on Browns Bridge Road, and was investigating.
Kelly said police would be increasing patrols in certain areas to try to catch whoever is responsible.
"It looks like there’s some individuals with nothing better to do than cause damage to property," Kelly said. "They think they’re having fun, but they’re really not realizing the consequences."
Kelly encouraged anyone who sees suspicious activity to call police.
Said McDougald, "I just hope somebody knows something about this. Next time it could be a real gun, a real bullet going into somebody’s house."