Vigilante 'Bolt Force' Trying to Solve Ariz. Shootings

But Phoenix cops investigating freeway shootings want Bolt Force to back off
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2015 8:26 AM CDT

(Newser) – They bill themselves as "the nation's first and only armed volunteer crime fighting force that specializes in law enforcement and preservation of order." And this week, members of Bolt Force are turning their attention toward solving an Arizona mystery that's been frightening residents and puzzling police: a spate of shootings along a stretch of Interstate 10 in Phoenix, reports the Arizona Republic. "If they're trying to kill somebody, they're a horrible shot," Bolt himself (real name: Tony Rowley) tells the paper. "If they're trying to scare people, they're doing a good job." A good enough job, anyway, to have spurred the homespun vigilante group—whose unpaid members include ex-law enforcement, security, and military workers who dress in all-black body armor and sport semi-automatic and "non-lethal weapons"—to patrol Phoenix neighborhoods near the I-10 freeway.

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Among Bolt Force's advantages over regular law enforcement, per the group's website, is that police's patrol vehicles "are easily visible," meaning suspects are more apt to hide, as well as the fact that cops are "more reactive than proactive" in handling crime. Bolt Force members also assist non-criminals in need (e.g., someone with a broken-down car), and Rowley tells the Republic his organization is simply designed to enhance police efforts, not compete with them. "We prefer law enforcement handles [arrests]," he says. But their help can backfire, such as on Wednesday, when a "concerned" citizen who saw Rowley patrolling the streets called the cops, who detained and frisked him, KSAZ reports. A curt statement from the Arizona Department of Public Safety cited by KSAZ simply says, "We would prefer they let us handle this investigation." (Read more Phoenix stories.)

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