YEAR IN REVIEW
COUNTING DOWN AUSTIN’S 10 BIGGEST STORIES
We’re counting down Austin’s 10 biggest stories of the year as chosen by American-Statesman reporters and editors. We’ll unveil one story each day through Jan. 1.
Today: We announce No. 6 | Previously in our countdown: No. 7
For two years, the case bedeviled Austin police. Reports of rocks being thrown through windshields on Interstate 35 would arrive sporadically. Over the years, 94 incidents were reported as the mystery of rock throwing continued.
In May 2016, the rock throwing began to spike — nearly 30 reported incidents that month — and police doubled their efforts. In the end, a bit of luck resulted in the arrest of rock-throwing suspect Patrick Eugene Johnson.
The break in the case came when a University of Texas police officer driving on I-35 saw a rock being thrown and activated his patrol car’s videotape system, allowing police to identify the rock thrower’s model of car.
The 59-year-old Johnson already had lengthy criminal record and was well known to police and others for his interest in the enforcement of the towing industry; he occasionally even appeared before the Austin City Council to rail about abusive towing. He was also known for making serial reports to police, calling 911 more than 1,000 times. Johnson was also charged in an unrelated sexual assault of a child. He was later convicted and received a 99-year sentence for that crime.
In a letter to the Statesman, Johnson said he was willing to confess to throwing the rocks to avoid another trial.
Interactive: Map of rock-throwing incidents