Ballistics expert ties suspect to Idaho freeway shootings

jsowell@idahostatesman.comMay 16, 2014 

Lajai Jamar Pridgette

Stuart Jacobsen, a forensic examiner for the Idaho State Police, says bullets fired into two cars driving last October on Interstate 84 came from the gun found in a car driven by Lajai Jamar Pridgette, according to a document filed Thursday in federal court in Boise.

Jacobson concluded that the bullets found in the other drivers' vehicles were "positively fired" from a loaded 9mm Smith & Wesson pistol taken from Pridgette after he was taken into custody in Gooding County.

Pridgette, 29, from Sacramento, Calif., is charged with possession of counterfeit credit cards, equipment used to make the cards, transportation of a stolen vehicle and illegal possession of a firearm by a felon.

He was originally charged with multiple offenses in Ada, Elmore and Gooding counties. Those charges were dropped to allow the federal case to proceed. Firing a gun is not a federal offense, and charges related to the shootings could be refiled later in state court.

Pridgette was scheduled to go on trial Monday, but U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge on Thursday reset the trial for July 14 to allow the defense time to examine a large stack of prosecution documents recently turned over.

Defense attorney Dennis Benjamin filed a motion to withdraw as Pridgette's attorney, but Lodge denied that motion in a ruling Tuesday. A document listing Benjamin's reasons for wanting to withdraw was filed under seal and is not publicly available.

Esteban Montano and two business associates were driving east on I-84 between the Boise Airport exit and Broadway Avenue on Oct. 30 when their car came alongside a 2013 Ford Mustang driven by Pridgette. Montano told police he looked at the driver and saw Pridgette glaring at him.

The Mustang, which had been on Montano's right, changed lanes and came up on him on the left. Moments later, a shot rang out, shattering the rear windows of Montano's 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, according to a second court document.

Montano was struck in the face and mouth by glass shards.

The Mustang sped off. An hour later, Andrew Coe was returning from a hunting trip in a 1995 Toyota pickup and was going down a long grade before Hammett when he saw a car speeding toward him. The Mustang slowed down when it came alongside Coe's pickup and the driver shot through an open passenger side window toward him.

Coe pulled over as the Mustang sped off and found a bullet hole near his left door post.

ISP Trooper Amanda Hansen spotted the Mustang about a half-hour later on the freeway east of Tuttle. She followed the car, which left the freeway at Wendell and pulled into a convenience store. Pridgette was apprehended without incident as he exited the store.

Along with the gun, police found a credit card embosser, a computer and 59 counterfeit credit cards in the names of Pridgette and two other people. A sock found in the car contained $3,100 in cash.

The car was rented by Pridgette in Anaheim, Calif., using a counterfeit credit card. When the Mustang wasn't returned, the rental company reported the car stolen.

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service