Eagan police said a nonfatal freeway shooting early Sunday appears to have been prompted by road rage, and they're asking for the public's help in finding the shooter.

A 26-year-old Rosemount woman was shot in the shoulder just before 2:30 a.m. as she rode in a car that was northbound on Interstate 35E, just south of Pilot Knob Road.

She was one of eight people in a Volkswagen Jetta that was entering the interstate from Cliff Road. She was in the front seat, on another passenger's lap, with her back pressed against the front passenger window, said Sgt. Danielle Anselment, an Eagan police spokeswoman.

As the car drove onto a freeway ramp about 2:20 a.m., Anselment said, a dark-colored sport-utility vehicle began tailgating. The driver of the Volkswagen slowed down, put his hand out his window and "gave the finger" to the other driver, Anselment said.

Both vehicles entered the interstate, and the SUV pulled along the right side of the Volkswagen. They were traveling side by side when someone in the SUV fired at least two shots toward the passenger compartment of the Volkswagen, police said. Witnesses said it appeared the gunman fired through a closed window of the SUV, but officers did not find any broken glass.

One bullet hit near the passenger door, and another drilled into the victim's right shoulder.

The 911 call came in at 2:25 a.m. The woman was taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, conscious and alert, with what police called non-life-threatening injuries. Police are not releasing her name.

The investigation has been hampered because many of the witnesses were drunk, Anselment said.

The Volkswagen's driver, a 28-year-old West St. Paul man, was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, Anselment confirmed.

Because of at least one previous conviction, he was booked into the Dakota County jail on suspicion of second-degree drunken driving, the second most severe drunken-driving charge in Minnesota. It's a gross misdemeanor that often leads to jail time, so-called whiskey plates and a fine of as much as $3,000.

Meanwhile, police are seeking the public's assistance in identifying both the suspect and the SUV.

"We are relying on the public's help right now," Anselment said, urging anyone with information to call 651-675-5700. Callers can remain anonymous.

Anselment also warned drivers to avoid potential road rage incidents by not reacting to aggressive drivers.

"You never know who you're going to encounter when you're involved in a road-rage incident," she said, "so it's best to slow down and let the aggressive person pass you."

Joy Powell • 651-925-5038