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Deputies: 18-year-old fired paintballs at vehicles in Midlothian and Powhatan

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MIDLOTHIAN, Va. (WTVR) - A Midlothian mother of five can tell a harrowing story after a back-to-school shopping trip with her oldest son: while driving home, a car pulled alongside her minivan and opened fire, with the evidence left dripping down the door.

Police say 18-year-old Zachary Dawson took aim at two drivers, one in Powhatan and one in Chesterfield.

"It startled us.  It scared us,” Jennifer Ear said.  “We didn't know if it was rocks or what.  I could've easily run into the median."

Ear said she was driving down Courthouse Road near Reams Road around ten Wednesday night when she heard a popping noise.  “I noticed a small silver car passing us at a high rate of speed and then cut us off,” she said.  “Fortunately my son snapped a quick picture and got the license plate number."

Police met Ear at her Midlothian home where she filed a report.

12 hours later Powhatan deputies received a call about a drive-by at Judes Ferry Road near Anderson Highway.  Deputies arrested Dawson in his car within five minutes of the Powhatan shooting.  And when investigators started to compare notes, they realized the cell phone picture Ear’s son had shot of the getaway car the night before was a match.

"I had paint splatter here,” Ear said.  “A big orange spot."

Paintballing enthusiasts say if a fired paintball was powerful enough to dent a vehicle, it means it was either from close range or perhaps simply a lower grade paintball.

Either way, KPS paintball owner Kelley Haase says,  criminal incidents involving paintball guns always stir up a stereotype.

"It’s very damaging to our sport,”  Haase said.  “Someone shooting at people that don't have gear and doing it in an unsafe environment.

Powhatan deputies have charged Dawson with felony shooting a missile into an occupied vehicle.  That carries up to five years in prison.

Chesterfield deputies say in the case there, charges are still pending.