3 men arrested in Colorado rock-throwing spree that killed 20-year-old driver: What we know

The incident, which left Alexa Bartell dead, is not the first such crime in the U.S.

Three men have been arrested by authorities in Colorado for allegedly throwing large landscaping rocks at motorists, including one that killed a driver, Alexa Bartell, 20, last week just outside Denver.

The suspects — Joseph Koenig, Nicholas "Mitch" Karol-Chik and Zachary Kwak, all 18-year-old high school seniors — were taken into custody at their parents' homes in Arvada, Colo., the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday. All three are facing charges of first-degree murder.

Here’s everything we know about the case and others like it.

What happened?

Alexa Bartell.
Alexa Bartell. (Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office)

According to police, six motorists in the greater Denver area reported on the evening of April 19 that rocks had been thrown at their cars. Two of the drivers suffered minor injuries.

Around 10:45 p.m., Bartell was driving along a road in Jefferson County when a large rock went through her front windshield, hitting and killing her.

A friend who was on the phone with her at around that time became concerned when the line dropped. The friend tracked her phone to a field, where Bartell was found.

The sheriff's office said “mobile device forensics” and information from the public helped lead to the arrests.

It’s unclear which of the suspects threw the rock that killed Bartell, the sheriff’s office added, but all three are suspected of throwing rocks during the hourlong spree.

How common is this?

A shattered windshield with a foot-square hole.
Bartell's smashed windshield. (Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office)

While deaths from them are relatively rare, this is certainly not the first fatal rock-throwing incident in the United States.

In 2019, Keila Flores, a 33-year-old mother of three, was killed when a large rock thrown from a railroad overpass in Temple, Texas, crashed into the windshield of the car she and her family were traveling in, police said. Flores was in the passenger seat.

In 2018, Joe Shelton, 54, was killed when a large chunk of concrete thrown from a bridge crashed through the windshield as he was driving to work in Nashville, authorities said.

In 2017, Kenneth White, a 32-year-old father, was killed when a large rock thrown from a highway overpass in Genesee County, Mich., went through the windshield of a van he was traveling in. White was in the passenger seat. Four teenagers later admitted to throwing rocks from the overpass — in a game they called “overpassing” — and were sentenced to prison as adults.

The same year, Marquise Byrd, 22, was killed when a sandbag thrown from an overpass in Toledo, Ohio, smashed through the windshield of a car he was traveling in. Four teens later pleaded guilty in juvenile court to charges of murder, manslaughter and vehicular vandalism, but did not serve jail time.

What’s next?

Nicholas (Mitch) Karol-Chik, Zachary Kwak and Joseph Koenig.
Nicholas "Mitch" Karol-Chik, Zachary Kwak and Joseph Koenig. (Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office)

The three suspects in Colorado are facing charges of “first-degree murder, extreme indifference,” the sheriff's office said, adding that additional charges are expected to be filed. They are due in court on Thursday.

Nathan Tipton, a Lyft and Uber driver who was one of the uninjured motorists in the alleged rock-throwing spree, expressed shock over Bartell’s death.

"When I found out that this series of events actually took a young lady's life, I feel for Alexa and her family,” Tipton told reporters on Tuesday. “It put me in a bit of a shock.

"Nobody should lose their child for a random act,” he added. “It's heartbreaking."