More questions than answers in I-71 shooting, crash

BELLVILLE — Law enforcement officials are still trying to figure out why a man opened fire on another man late Sunday morning in a Delaware, Ohio rest area, severely injuring the man, and then took off north on Interstate 71, where he crashed his vehicle and died, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

As of Monday night, the gunman’s victim, Alexander Melchert, a freshman at the College of Wooster, remained in critical condition at a Columbus hospital.

The suspect in the shooting, Shawn A. Johnson, 25, of Westerville, was being chased by troopers on I-71 when he apparently lost control of his vehicle after, running over some road spikes placed across I-71, and crashed into a guardrail.

Troopers reportedly surrounded the man in the crashed vehicle, and after not hearing anything from him, approached the vehicle and discovered Johnson dead, reportedly of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead shortly after 3 p.m.

The alleged shooting occurred in an I-71 rest area in Delaware County shortly after 11 a.m. According to the highway patrol, the suspect fired several shots at Melchert, hitting him more than once. Troopers think Johnson chose Melchert at random.

WBNS TV Channel 10 in Columbus reported that court records suggest Johnson was angry with a family member, which may have precipitated the shooting.

According to those court records, 10TV reported that a “woman told police Johnson screamed at her, ‘you’re a (expletive) you don’t care about me’ and says he threatened ‘I’m going to kill somebody.’”

The same court document says Johnson “punched a hole in the hallway door” and left, and that Johnson “broke the front window screen” to get back inside the home and then attacked a family member, “punching her in the head repeatedly.”

Also, according to 10TV, family members told investigators Johnson was struggling with mental health issues.

The vehicle pursuit and crash ended near mile marker 172. The Ohio 13 exit off I-71 is at mile marker 169.

Staff report