Authorities: Harper College professor shot at Iowa state troopers, drivers

A Harper College professor has been charged with shooting at Iowa state troopers and drivers near Interstate 80, officials revealed Friday.

Charles Johnston, 60, was charged with attempted murder and assault on a peace officer with a dangerous weapon after an exchange of gunfire the afternoon of Jan. 11, according to the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

Officials at the Palatine-based community college said Johnston, an associate professor in the department of psychology, has been barred from campus after his arrest, and is absent without approved leave. They learned of his arrest last Tuesday - the first day of the spring semester - when Johnston didn't show up to his classes and a colleague came across a news report out of Iowa, Harper spokeswoman Kim Pohl said.

Authorities in Iowa said troopers and local officers responded to a 911 call of shots fired around 2:20 p.m. Jan. 11 at a rest area on Interstate 80 in Cedar County, between Iowa City and the Quad Cities. The shooter drove west, got off at another exit, then fired more rounds at drivers at a gas station, police said.

Two troopers located him on a nearby county road in the town of Atalissa, where they exchanged gunfire and after a brief standoff took him into custody.

No one was injured, authorities said.

Richard Rahn, a special agent in charge with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said investigators on Friday continued interviewing witnesses. He declined to say what type of firearm was used or how many vehicles may have been targeted.

Rahn also did not release a possible motive or why Johnston may have been in the area.

Johnston, employed by Harper since 1996, was scheduled to teach a full course load. Arrangements have been made to cover those classes, Pohl said.

She said officials cannot comment on Johnston's personnel record at Harper, but she said they are prepared to cooperate with authorities as part of the investigation.

A search of court records in Cook, Kane and Boone counties found previous traffic-related citations for Johnston, including speeding and driving with a suspended license.

A person who answered the phone at Johnston's residence in Belvidere, just outside Rockford, declined to comment Friday.

Johnston is being held in the Cedar County jail on $1 million bail.

He appeared at a preliminary hearing Thursday and is due in court for an arraignment March 2.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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