State Highway Patrol says rest stop shooting on I-71 was a random act

Posted at 5:38 PM, Oct 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-03 17:38:39-04

A College of Wooster freshman remains in critical condition following a shooting at an I-71 rest stop in Delaware County Sunday.

The victim has been identified as Alex Melchert. Ohio State Highway Patrol said the shooter was 25-year-old Shawn Johnson of Westerville. The patrol said he shot himself following the shooting then chase.

“I can’t really describe it," said Jack Henshaw, a childhood friend of Melchert's. "It’s so random. It’s unbelievable.”

Melchert is from Neenah, Wisconsin. On Sunday, he was driving with a friend from Columbus on I-71 north and stopped at a rest stop. Melchert used the restroom, and when he came out, troopers said Johnson confronted him.

"Oh my God, my friend was just shot," said Melchert's friend in a 911 call. "I'm at a rest stop. He's laying on the ground."

The patrol said Johnson shot Melchert six times. Then Johnson got into a Toyota Camry and sped away on I-71 north. Troopers said they chased him on the highway from Delaware to Richland county until they threw out road spikes, and the car came to a stop. Troopers surrounded the car but said they found Johnson dead with an apparent self-inflicted gun shot wound.

“We gave the news to his roommate directly and talked to his faculty so people knew what was coming down the pike," said Scott Brown, vice-president of student affairs and dean of students at the College of Wooster.

Court documents reveal Columbus police had issued a warrant for Johnson one day prior to the shooting after he was charged with domestic violence and assault. Johnson allegedly punched his mother Friday night, threatened to kill someone and took her car. It's the same car involved in the shooting and chase. 

Meanwhile, Melchert's childhood friends from Wisconsin are making plans to come to Ohio to be by his side as he struggles to survive.

“I want people to know just want an amazing person he is and how unbelievably selfless he is as well, how he would put others’ needs before his," said Kevin Kuehn.