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2 bricks thrown off Whitemud Drive overpass part of disturbing trend at 53 Avenue overpass: EPS

Click to play video: '2 bricks thrown off Whitemud Drive overpass part of disturbing trend at 53 Avenue overpass'
2 bricks thrown off Whitemud Drive overpass part of disturbing trend at 53 Avenue overpass
Two men have been left rattled after bricks thrown off a southside overpass smashed into their vehicles on Whitemud Drive — two of nine such incidents Edmonton police are investigating. Kabi Moulitharan reports – Feb 23, 2024

Two Edmonton men have been left rattled after bricks were thrown off a southside overpass and smashed into their vehicles on a busy freeway during the start of the afternoon rush on Thursday.

It’s two of nine such incidents on Whitemud Drive that have been reported to the Edmonton Police Service in the past two months. All but one of them happened at the 53rd Avenue overpass.

Whitemud Drive and the 53 Avenue overpass on Thursday, February 15, 2024. Global News

Matthew, whose last name Global News is withholding due to the trauma he experienced, was driving west around 3:20 p.m. Thursday when he was approaching that overpass and saw what looked like a young man standing on the bridge.

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He witnessed an object being thrown off the bridge and hit a work pickup truck ahead of him. Then, he saw a second object hurtling towards his own vehicle.

“The brick was coming towards me but I swerved to the left to avoid it,”Matthew said.

The grey brick smashed through his windshield and landed on the passenger seat. It left a massive hole in the glass.

“If I’d had a passenger it would have hit them directly in the chest, probably killing them,” he surmised.

A brick smashed through the windshield of this car in Edmonton on Whitemud Drive at the 53 Avenue overpass on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. Supplied

Global News spoke to Matthew’s father, who agreed someone could have been seriously injured or killed.

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“Definitely not what you expect to happen when you’re driving,” the Edmonton man said, adding he hopes the freak incident is once-in-a lifetime occurrence.

Click to play video: 'Man caught on video throwing objects from 53 Avenue overpass to Whitemud Drive'
Man caught on video throwing objects from 53 Avenue overpass to Whitemud Drive

Video released Friday night by Edmonton police shows a man walking along the bridge before crouching behind a banner hung from the railing.

He then seen standing and throwing one object off the bridge to the Whitemud below and then, after a pause, throwing a second object before walking away.

Still from an Edmonton Police Service video of a man throwing an object from the 53 Avenue overpass onto the Whitemud Drive below. Undated. Supplied by Edmonton Police Service

The man appeared to wave at the traffic below after throwing the items.

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“(I) won’t forget the smile he had on his face as he threw it,” Matthew said.

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Edmonton police said the male suspect is believed to live in the area surrounding the 53 Avenue overpass.

He is described as being approximately 5’8” to 5’9” with a thin to average build and typically wears a black hoodie.

Matthew said the man who threw the brick at his car matched that description, and appeared to be a thin, young man — possible even a teenager — wearing a black or grey jacket with red trim around the hood and a red zipper.

A brick smashed through the windshield of this car in Edmonton on Whitemud Drive at the 53 Avenue overpass on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. Supplied

Matthew said he drives that stretch of the Whitemud nearly a dozen times a week and, given its proximity to his home, has no way of avoiding it now.

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“I guess have to pay attention to overpasses now,” he said, adding, “But at the end of the day — who would even think to look out for that?

While there were glass shards and dust all over the front of the vehicle, Matthew was wearing sunglasses so his eyes were protected.

Ahmed Hajjar was driving the truck that was hit first. He works as a glass installer for Durabuilt Windows and Doors and was heading home when a grey brick hit his work truck.

“I thought something exploded, actually,” he said.

The brick glanced off his windshield, smashed a light on the roof of the truck before landing in the box at the back of the truck.

A brick landed in the bed of this truck after being thrown onto Whitemud Drive from the 53 Avenue overpass in south Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. Supplied

Hajjar said he didn’t want to cause an accident so he kept driving and assessed the damage once he got home safely.

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“You can’t stop in the middle of the road. Just keep driving. Pull over whenever you can.”

He said he’s glad the brick landed in the bed of the pickup instead of hitting another vehicle. The damage to his truck wasn’t as extensive as the damage done to Matthew’s car behind him.

A brick damaged this truck after being thrown onto Whitemud Drive from the 53 Avenue overpass in south Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. Supplied

He said while he is going to stop driving on the Whitemud for now, incidents like this are impossible to avoid.

“You never know what might hit you one day. So just keep driving, keep going. You never know. It’s something that you can’t predict,” Hajjar said.

There have been several similar incidents at that southside overpass in recent weeks.

On Monday, Jan. 8, Edmonton woman Angela Wu-Kemp was driving west on the Whitemud near the 53 Avenue overpass when a rock came through her windshield.

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Click to play video: 'Rock through windshield on Whitemud Drive rattles Edmonton woman'
Rock through windshield on Whitemud Drive rattles Edmonton woman

While Wu-Kemp wasn’t injured, other people have been. Similar incidents happened earlier this month along the same stretch of the Whitemud.

Angela Wu-Kemp was driving on Whitemud Drive near the 53 Avenue overpass in south Edmonton when a rock came through her windshield on Jan. 8, 2024. Courtesy: Angela Wu-Kemp

Police were called to that overpass the afternoon of Saturday, Feb. 10. According to the Edmonton Police Service, a man was standing on the 53 Avenue overpass when he threw a concrete slab into westbound traffic below.

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The chunk of concrete hit the windshield of a grey Subaru Outback and a man in the passenger seat suffered minor injuries.

Police said a similar incident happened about an hour later further east, near 99 Street and Whitemud Drive.

In that case, police said the roof of a white Buick Enclave on the Whitemud was struck by rocks being thrown by a man on the 99 Street overpass.

No one was injured in that incident, but more than 20 years ago a man was killed when an object was thrown onto the Whitemud.

Robert Stanley, 75, died from a blow to his abdomen on June 1, 2002, when a 30-pound boulder the size of a basketball was dropped from a pedestrian bridge near 111 Street and crashed through the windshield of the school bus he was driving.

FILE: Robert Stanley, 75, died when a basketball-size rock was dropped from a pedestrian bridge near 111 Street and crashed through the windshield of the school bus he was driving on June 1, 2002. Global News

City councillor Tim Cartmell remembers Stanley’s death and said the recent incidents are unacceptable.

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“It’s very dangerous behaviour,” the Ward pihêsiwin councillor said. “It’s hard to say if this is youngsters thinking that this is funny, or if it’s actually people trying to cause harm.

Cartmell said while more cameras in the area would catch perpetrators after the fact, more police patrols are required to stop people in the first place.

In the Stanley case, the rock was dropped from a pedestrian bridge that was completely enclosed in chain-link fencing that the rock-throwers cut.

“If someone’s determined, no amount of fencing or barriers is going to stop them. It’s really about stopping them in the moment. And, you know, that’s a tricky thing as well. That’s like trying to catch a speeder, right? By the time you arrive, the person is gone,” Cartmell said.

On Friday, Edmonton police confirmed it is investigating nine reported incidents where objects, including concrete slabs, have been thrown off the Whitemud overpass onto moving vehicles.

Click to play video: 'Chunk of concrete, other objects thrown off Whitemud overpasses has Edmonton police seeking suspect'
Chunk of concrete, other objects thrown off Whitemud overpasses has Edmonton police seeking suspect

The first incident took place on Thursday Dec. 28, 2023, and the most recent was Thursday. Eight happened at the 53 Avenue and Whitemud Drive overpass, while the other was at the 99 Street overpass.

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“We understand there are citizens whose vehicles have been struck by large objects on Whitemud Drive who have not yet reported this to police,” says Det. Nina Di Sabatino with the EPS investigative response team.

“We urge those citizens to come forward as they may be able to assist us in identifying the suspect responsible.”

Hajjar filed a police report on Friday morning.

Matthew said he called Edmonton police, but said he was told a report was not necessary as police had received several other calls.

Anyone who has information about the suspect’s identity or video footage related to these incidents is asked to contact the EPS at 780-423-4567 or #377 from a mobile phone. Anonymous information can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online at www.p3tips.com/250.

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