It started as a simple attempt to get a tag number.
When a gold Chevrolet Suburban drove off after hitting a tractor-trailer near the Peachtree Industrial Boulevard exit on I-285 Monday evening, Matt Thebert slowed down to let it pass. He thought he would check out the license plate, pass the information along to authorities and continue home to Lawrenceville.
Then he caught a glimpse of the Suburban’s driver, the man DeKalb County police have identified as 31-year-old Eliazer Campuzano-Rojo. He was “brushing” a 2-foot-long knife against the steering wheel, said Thebert, who decided to follow the driver.
Over the next 10 to 15 minutes, Thebert said he witnessed Campuzano-Rojo crash into or sideswipe at least 15 vehicles as he made his way south on I-285. After crashing near Memorial Drive, the suspect jumped over the median wall and was hit by a tractor-trailer.
“After I saw that he was kind of in panic mode and had a weapon, I wanted to make sure that the police were able to find him and prevent him from doing crazier stuff to people,” Thebert told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Campuzano-Rojo, a resident of Columbia Heights, Minn., was in stable but serious condition Tuesday at Grady Memorial Hospital. DeKalb County police have officially confirmed his alleged involvement in only two crashes — one near Lawrenceville Highway and the final one near Memorial Drive — but Thebert told The AJC that the first of many incidents happened some 11 miles north.
Thebert said that, after colliding “nose to nose” with a tractor-trailer near Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, Campuzano-Rojo’s Suburban kept going. The vehicle weaved through traffic, getting a flat tire at some point before scraping against the median near Spaghetti Junction and sideswiping multiple vehicles, Thebert said.
The man identified as Campuzano-Rojo hit four or five cars near U.S. 78, then four or five more at Memorial Drive, Thebert said. Other vehicles were hit by debris falling from the Suburban.
“The whole way, there was just cars pulled over everywhere,” Thebert said.
The rampage came to an end around 6:50 p.m., when Campuzano-Rojo’s vehicle was disabled in a crash and he jumped the median wall into northbound traffic, police said. He was clipped by a semi-truck and taken to the hospital, where he was initially listed in critical condition.
Police have not released any further information about the crashes, a possible motive or potential charges against Campuzano-Rojo. No injuries were reported in the series of crashes, DeKalb police spokesman Capt. S.R. Fore said.
The incident did, however, force all lanes of I-285 northbound to be closed until about 8 p.m. — meaning Thebert’s efforts were rewarded with a two-hour drive back home.
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