On most days, if not all days, when you get in your car and pull away from your house, you’re not usually thinking, “Wow. I hope I don’t get shot or shot at while driving today.” You can bet that those who WERE shot while driving on May 4th, 2019 on Highway 365 in Georgia weren’t expecting it. This event, like the “Beltway Sniper” shootings in Washington DC in 2002, isn’t an active shooter event as we traditionally think of them. There was no confined area of potential victims. There wasn’t even a building involved. On that morning, a shooter positioned himself near the highway and fired at vehicles as they drove past. It’s difficult at best to classify this as an “active shooter” event, and perhaps a “sniper” classification could be given, but in reality it was a mass random shooting that resulted in two injured and the shooter himself dead.
On Friday, May 4, 2018, the shooter – identified the next day as 26-year-old Rex Whitmire Harbour of Snellville, Georgia – walked through the woods reportedly wearing two handguns and positioned himself near the side of Highway 365 in the Gainsville area. Harbour began firing at cars as they passed by, hitting seven of them and wounding two victims. The first victim was identified as 74-year-old Joe Welborn who was shot in the lower left leg. The second victim was identified only as a 54-year-old man who was shot in the hip. A third victim, a 49-year-old woman, suffered injury from broken glass when her windshield after being hit by a bullet but wasn’t struck by any rounds herself.
In looking at this incident and the injuries, it appears – although it was reported either way – that Harbour positioned himself so that he was firing at the driver’s side of vehicles as they went by. Shooting at roughly the center of the driver’s door, he’d be likely to hit driver’s either in the left side of their left leg, arm or torso / head. It’s probably a testament to Harbour’s lack of familiarity with shooting at moving targets (something true snipers are trained to do) that he hit only two victims, each at the hip or lower, although he did manage to put bullet holes in a total of seven cars.
After observing a suspicious vehicle pulling out of the wooded area where the shots were reported to have come from, law enforcement officials ended up in pursuit of Harbour after he performed the attack, but the pursuit ended with Harbour pulling his car into the median section of Highway 365. When police approached Harbour’s car they found him unresponsive and suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital but died of his wound.
Post event investigation revealed no specific motivation and no affiliation with any given hate or terrorist group. A review of some of Harbour’s writings after the fact revealed that he admired Nikolaz Cruz, the attacker who performed the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The same writings also revealed a general hatred for anyone and anything American. Investigators said that Harbour didn’t target any given demographic, race or gender in his shooting attack, but appeared to have just shot at any vehicle driving by.
Also released from the investigation was information on other weapons Harbour had in his vehicle. While he performed the attack with a 9mm handgun, and was reported to have had another on his person, in his vehicle there was another (that makes a total of three) 9mm hangun, a .22 caliber rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and a BB gun. There was reportedly 3,000 rounds of ammunition for the .22, 350 rounds of 9mm and 150 rounds of 12-gauge. No further information is available on the 12-gauge ammo, but unless it was slugs or double-aught, it would not likely have created significant injury or damage on a vehicle or the passengers as it was passing by at highway speeds.
The use of the term “sniper” by the mainstream media in relation to this event has to be not only questioned by refused. A sniper… by definition, a precision marksman who stalks his prey and fires from a position of distance and concealment and then subtly extracts himself from that firing position without detection, doesn’t randomly shoot at vehicles as they pass by, using a handgun no less. Snipers are selective in their targeting and precise in their shot placement. In general, it appears the uninformed media will refer to anyone who shoots from a position of ambush or hiding a “sniper.” Such improper use of this term is insulting to those true precision marksman who do a difficult job in the line of duty.