EAST PATCHOGUE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A young mother with her baby in the car was shot during a road rage incident on Long Island, police said.

It happened on Sunrise Highway in East Patchogue just before 9 p.m. Monday.

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Nichole McDowell, 27, and her boyfriend, Edward Pontis, both of Ronkonkoma, were riding with their 11-week-old baby girl in the back seat when a minivan in front of them began weaving back and forth.

Pontis flashed his bright lights at the driver, passed the minivan and pulled in front of him, police said. The minivan driver then sped up close to the rear of Pontis’ Hyundai and flashed his lights.

(credit: Image via CBS2)

(credit: Image via CBS2)

“They were cutting each other off, and it was going back and forth,” police Sgt. Kevin Byrne told 1010 WINS’ Samantha Liebman.

At one point, the couple pulled in front of the minivan and put their breaks on, officials told CBS2. That prompted a heated exchange, police said. The minivan driver then pulled up alongside the Hyundai and fired two shots into the car, striking McDowell in the hand and leg, police said.

She is hospitalized in stable condition at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital.

Pontis and the baby were not injured, although gunfire nearly hit the infant, police said.

“Dangerously close,” Chief of Department Stuart Cameron told reporters, including WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs. “One round hit behind the baby in the car, and one round hit in front of the baby in the car.”

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Neighbors were stunned, Gusoff reported.

“They are a loving couple. That’s a beautiful family right there,” said Janice Facey. “Why would you shoot someone?”

Police fault both drivers, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.

“You never know who is occupying the other vehicle,” Cameron said. “You’re putting yourself in great danger.”

Motorists couldn’t believe the news.

“It’s very scary,” one driver said. “It’s tragic that you have to hear this kind of stuff every single day.”

AAA warns drivers to never let tempers escalate.

“It takes two to tango,” said Robert Sinclair of AAA Northeast. “When you see bad behavior, it’s best just to report them. Call 911.”

Police are seeking help from the public to locate the shooter. Police only know that the suspect was driving a gray minivan, which they say had several young men inside it, who are believed to be either teens or in their 20s. Police hope surveillance video or witnesses will help narrow the search.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Fifth Squad at 631-854-8552 or call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

Suffolk Police said the couple could also face charges, if the investigation proves they engaged in dangerous behavior with a child in the car, Gusoff reported.

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