Shooter apprehended near Atalissa rest stop

Jacob Lane · Tuesday, January 16, 2018
An active shooter incident along Interstate 80 near Atalissa on Thursday, Jan. 11, resulted in direct officer action to detain the shooter.

Iowa State Patrol exchanged fire with, and then arrested, Charles Johnston, 60, of Illinois after a 911 call at 2:24 p.m. from a rest stop east of the 267 milemarker, Department of Criminal Investigations Special Agent Ryan Herman said.

Hansen said Johnston allegedly stopped at the rest stop, fired some shots, then drove westbound on I-80 to the Atalissa exit, County Road X46, and headed into the Pilot Travel Center, “where he fired more rounds at motorists at the BP gas station.”

“Troopers encountered the suspect on County RD X46 where they engaged him and exchanged gunfire,” read a DCI press release. “After a brief stand-off Troopers/Officers were able to take the suspect into custody.”

Johnston on Friday afternoon appeared before Cedar County Magistrate Trey Sucher, who ordered him held on $1 million bond.

The indictment states that Iowa State Trooper Sgt. David Saldiver approached Johnston sitting in his black Volkswagon, Johnston aimed a handgun in his direction and fired. Saldiver returned fire.

Additional charges may come later. A preliminary hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. Jan. 18.

Police took Johnston to the Cedar County Jail and charged him with attempted murder, a Class B felony, and assault on a peace officer with a dangerous weapon, a Class D Felony.

No injuries were sustained by the suspect or law enforcement. However, bullets struck one or two vehicles, Special Agent Herman said.

Members of the Iowa State Patrol, Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement, Cedar County Sherriff’s Office, Scott County Sherriff’s Office, Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office, West Branch Police Department, West Liberty Police Department, Department of Transportation and Emergency Medical Services assisted in this incident.

“We did send one officer, he is fine” said West Liberty Police Chief Kary Kinmonth.

“‘Active Shooter’ is one of those calls that gets the adrenaline pumping. Thankfully it is not a real common call, however when it does come out it is ‘all hands on deck’ to assist, said Chief Kinmonth.

The incident, while near the Atalissa exit, was still a fair distance from the City of Atalissa.

“Thankfully no one was seriously hurt,” he said. “Our officer assisted then was able to get back to our community. I believe our two West Liberty ambulances responded.”

It was reported that the West Branch Community Schools diverted a bus route to avoid the area as it occurred on Thursday.

West Branch School Transportation Director Tammy Oaks said that the Iowa State Patrol alerted the bus drivers to avoid I-80 near Atalissa.

Oaks said the ISP contacted the school “before we were anywhere near there.”

“I don’t think the kids ever knew about the danger,” she said. “It’s nice we had the extra communications.”

Bus driver Bob Cahill drives the route that takes children home to the Atalissa area. He says there are about 10 children on the bus when he reaches that point on his route.

The diversion added about 20 minutes to his route, Cahill said

However, according to West Liberty School Superintendent Joe Potts, no busses or routes needed to be diverted at the time.

“Our transportation services indicates that it did not have an effect on our transportation services for students,” he said.

Unlike West Branch, the West Liberty school routes would have no need to travel near the I-80 Exit
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