OAK GROVE, Mo. — Following a reported road rage shooting on Interstate 70 that left one man dead Wednesday afternoon in Oak Grove, the Missouri State Highway Patrol has taken one man into custody.
On Thursday, MSHP also identified the victim of the shooting as 53-year-old Gary L. Denham of Oak Grove, Missouri.
Troopers released a photo of the suspected shooter Thursday morning and said he was in custody about a half-hour later.
Investigators were looking for 18-year-old Charles J. Smith, of Cape Girardeau. The highway patrol released two photos, including one from surveillance video at a motel in Sweet Springs, which is east of Kansas City on I-70 in Saline County.
Just before 10 a.m., highway patrol says troopers took Smith into custody.
Troopers found Smith shoeless in the bushes of an American Legion in Sweet Springs, about 40 miles east of where the road rage situation happened.
“All the cops were standing were standing around this area. There were like 4-5 cop cars over here, probably about 10 over there,” Savanna Bullock said. Her family runs the hotel next door to the American Legion.
“We got told that the dogs smelt his scent because they found his shoes like in the woods over there where they first were looking at,” Bullock added.
Bullock said the 18-year-old had holes in his socks from running.
“We think he stayed the night [at another hotel], went to Casey’s ’cause my grandma is actually the one who sold him the stuff a Casey’s because we didn’t know what he looked like. Then it turned out he was found over here,” Bullock said.
Smith is suspected in a deadly shooting that happened around 4 p.m. Wednesday.
“To me it’s senseless that it could ever escalate to that level of violence,” Sgt. Andy Bell with the Missouri State Highway Patrol said.
Investigators said both drivers were heading east on the interstate toward the exit to Oak Grove when a driver in a white car, believed to be Smith, shot the driver of a black pickup truck.
“Basically they’re side-by-side. You can’t see the gunfire actually occur. But what you can see is, as soon as that vehicle was parallel to the victim, the victim immediately ran off the highway,” Bell said.
Troopers found Denham at a gas station after the shooting, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
“We believe that that gunfire caused a severe life-ending wound, and he simply lost control of his vehicle. And that’s why it drove down an embankment, up a hill, across the outer road, and crashed into the parked semi truck,” Bell said.
Troopers found Smith and tried to pull him over, but he sped away before eventually running from his car. Officials spent hours Wednesday and Thursday searching for him.
Details of the search that followed are incomplete, but it’s clear where the suspect ended up.
“Turns out he was in the bushes back there. And so they arrested him, took him to the car, and had all the dogs circling trying to find all the evidence,” Bullock said.
Smith has not yet been charged, but charges are expected to come down in Jackson County by Friday. The weapon in this case has not been recovered yet, Bell said.