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Thursday, July 19, 2018

By John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times

KANSAS CITY, MO — Since the bullets began to fly on freeways here, Taylor Stevens has stuck to the back roads. Rikki Rohret keeps her eyes on the overpasses. Behind the wheel, Joe Miller tries not to think about being an anonymous gunman’s next victim.

Somebody has been firing at vehicles, a serial triggerman who police warned seemed to be randomly targeting motorists, declaring his own misguided war against his fellow drivers.

Since the shootings began in March, police have linked at least a dozen incidents along the network of freeways that connect this Midwestern city, which sees itself as a gentle cousin of Rome for its fountains, or Paris for its boulevards, not as some hulking U.S. city where an armed man could run amok.

Several people have been struck by gunfire, but so far no one has been killed, authorities say. Law enforcement officials have stepped up patrols, while news reports suggest that the total number of shootings may have surpassed 20.

The rain of bullets has put people on edge. On the freeways, many admit to becoming a bit paranoid when another vehicle pulls up alongside, thinking, “Is the driver looking my way? Does he have a gun?”

“This whole thing scares me,” Miller said as he pumped gas at a QuickStop station. “I don’t carry a gun — freeways are just too emotional a place. But now even I’m thinking of packing something for protection. Though from what, or who, really, I don’t know.”

On Thursday evening, police announced they had made an arrest in the shootings. Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte told reporters the suspect is male but declined to release his name or age or say whether he was the only suspect. Forte promised more details Friday.

The announcement marked the most significant development yet in a case that has left the city anxious for weeks.

Home to 1.7 million residents, the Kansas City metropolitan area is the eastern gateway to the nation’s prairies, with a fistful of freeways twirling off in all directions. Most of the shootings have taken place along stretches of Interstates 435 and 470 on the Missouri side of the city — either on weekday evenings or daytime Saturday — but a few have been reported in suburban cities on both sides of the Missouri-Kansas state line.