Police say the roadways are safer now that a suspect has been arrested in connection with a number of projectiles shot at vehicles traveling on Highways 156 and 101 through San Benito County and Prunedale.
The California Highway Patrol Monterey office announced at a Jan. 23 press conference that officers have arrested Charles Kenneth Lafferty, 52, in relation to at least 10 of the projectile incidents over the last year. CHP commanders said Lafferty used a slingshot to shoot glass marbles at moving vehicles, resulting in window damage and a total of five injuries since February 2019.
Lafferty was arrested Jan. 22 on suspicion of 10 counts of felony assault with a deadly weapon, 10 counts of felony throwing an object at a moving vehicle one count of felony possession of a firearm silencer, according to authorities.
More charges could be forthcoming as police continue to investigate Lafferty’s involvement, according to CHP Capt. Kyle Foster. Investigators are “confident” that they will be able to link Lafferty to more of the 69 victims whose vehicles were struck by projectiles in the region.
Lafferty is in custody at Monterey County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bail, police said.
Investigators with the CHP and Monterey County Sheriff’s Office served multiple search warrants at residences in San Luis Obispo and Monterey County before they arrested Lafferty for the crimes, authorities said. Lafferty is known to have ties in Monterey County and surrounding communities.
Police do not think Lafferty used a firearm in any of the incidents.
Lafferty likely acted alone in carrying out the projectile attacks, police said.
Since February 2019, a total of 69 vehicles have been struck by projectiles while traveling along Highways 156 and 101 through San Benito and Monterey counties, according to authorities. The latest incident occurred Jan. 5.
All incidents resulted in damage to the vehicles—mostly to the driver’s side windows or front windshields. Five people—four adults and one child—suffered minor injuries after being struck by broken glass in some of the incidents, according to authorities.
“In our minds, it wasn’t a matter of if, but when there could be more serious consequences,” said CHP Coastal Division Chief L.D. Maples.
Last year, the CHP Monterey office established a task force solely for the purpose of investigating the ongoing projectile incidents. The task force included officers from two CHP posts and the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office.
Maples said this investigation at one point determined a GMC Sonoma pickup was connected to at least some of the attacks. Through a “multi-faceted process,” investigators linked the GMC to Lafferty.
“As we process and analyze our evidence, we are confident we will be able to add more counts based on what we have,” Foster said at the Jan. 23 press conference.
CHP investigators declined to offer more details about how they gained enough information to connect Lafferty to the crimes, and what else they found during recent searches of the suspect’s residences.
When asked what the suspect’s motive was, Maples replied, “Only Mr. Lafferty is going to be able to answer that.”
U.S. Congressman Jimmy Panetta spoke briefly at the press conference, thanking the CHP and sheriff’s office for “making us safer (through) this dogged, determined investigation.”
Monterey County Sheriff’s Deputy Chief John Thornburg added, “People can travel the freeways and highways of Monterey County in relative safety” with Lafferty in custody.