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Man, 27, Charged In Kansas City Area Highway Shootings

By Christine Vendel, The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, MO — A 27-year-old Kansas City area man has been charged in the recent series of highways shootings, Jackson County prosecutors said Friday.

Mohammed Whitaker, of Grandview, MO was charged with 18 felony counts related to 9 incidents. Charges included shooting into a motor vehicle and hitting a victim. More charges may be added, prosecutors said.

A series of at least 12 shootings started in early March. The latest shooting linked to the pattern occurred April 6. Three victims were wounded in the spree.

Most of the shootings occurred in Kansas City, with most in or near the Three Trails Crossing. Authorities said they knew of no motive, they believe Whitaker acted alone and that he had little criminal record.

Whitaker was arrested Thursday night after police raided a Grandview residence.

Tactical officers towed away a green Dodge Neon with Illinois license plates. The plates were registered to the suspect’s father, who said he was shocked by the developments.

“I thought everything was okay with him,” his father said. “I just thought he was working and trying to pay off his college bills.”

His father said he recently paid for the Illinois license plates, which belonged to his white Buick that he gave to his son. But the Buick had transmission problems, so his son began driving a different car recently. His son apparently moved the plates from the Buick to the Dodge Neon.

His son last called him April 7 to ask for money to get him through until his payday. The father sent him $50.

The suspect worked at a medical supply company in Overland Park, Kansas, in sales, his father said. The suspect had dropped out of a technical college, where he was studying bio-medical equipment repair, his father thought.

“To my knowledge, he’s never fired a gun” the father said. “I’m totally shocked by all this.”

The father had heard of the shootings in Kansas City, but “never had a dream or clue he could be involved in something like that.”

Whitaker is on administrative leave from his job at OptumRx in Overland Park, the division of UnitedHealth Group that fills prescriptions, a company spokesman said.

Photo by Brittany Randolph/Flickr

Police Looking At 20 Reports That Could Be Connected In Highway Shootings

By Christine Vendel, The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City police are looking at about 20 shootings that could be part of a pattern of recent highway and roadway shootings.

Investigators have considered other shooting reports and already ruled them out, but detectives continue to review a number of other shootings that they eventually may link to the 13 cases police analysts first identified over the weekend, said police Capt. Tye Grant. Some of the reports now being examined occurred before March 8, the date of the first shooting identified by analysts.

Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte asked for federal agents’ help in investigating the string of shootings, which accelerated last week with shootings reported every day. The last recorded shooting occurred Sunday night.

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have searched various roadways with specially trained dogs that can find shell casings.

The shootings have wounded three victims — two in the leg and one in the arm.

“We have been extremely lucky that no one has been seriously hurt,” Grant said. “The incidents and these acts have real consequences. People could die and the person doing this could go to prison for the rest of their life. It is not a game.”

Police said some misinformation is circulating about the shootings, including the exact number that definitively have been linked by police. Police are not releasing the number but said some television news reports of the number are wrong.

All of the shootings have occurred near highway ramps or road splits, where the shooter could veer off in a different direction from the victim after firing shots. But police said they are open to the possibility that the shooter could be on the ground hiding, although they have no evidence to support that.

“We are confident that some have occurred from vehicles,” Forte said. “In other cases, we don’t know.”

Eleven of the originally recognized 13 shootings occurred on highways. Ten of those occurred in Kansas City.

In a possible 14th case, a woman said she was driving on Bruce R. Watkins Drive near 75th Street Friday night when she heard a loud bang. She thought at first a rock had been kicked into her car by another vehicle, but she could not see any other vehicles close to her. The next day, her husband spotted a bullet hole on the passenger side of her car.

Police later recovered a bullet lodged in the rear door jamb. If connected to the series, it would be the seventh bullet recovered by police.

Detectives recovered five from other victims’ vehicles and one from a victim’s arm.

Federal authorities on Tuesday added cash to a reward fund bringing the total available reward to $7,000 for information leading to an arrest.

Photo Credit: AFP/Mandel Ngan

Kansas City Police Link Some Of Thirteen Highway Shootings

By Christine Vendel, The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, MO — Kansas City police have developed information that links some of the 13 recent shootings on area highways and roadways, they said Tuesday.

Investigators won’t say how many they’ve linked or whether they used suspect descriptions, ballistic comparisons or other means to link them.

Police discussed several additional similar shootings at a briefing Tuesday morning but don’t have enough information to add those incidents to the possible pattern of 13 identified by police analysts over the weekend, said police spokesman Capt. Tye Grant, who attended the briefing.

Also on Tuesday, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives donated $5,000 to a reward fund for information leading to an arrest in connection to the highway and roadway shootings. The donation brings the total available reward to $7,000.

The shootings, which are drawing national media attention, started March 8 and apparently accelerated recently with at least one shooting reported each day from last Wednesday until Sunday night. No new shootings have been reported since Sunday night, Grant said.

Police, along with federal agents and highway patrol officials, filled a room at a police annex to standing-room only Tuesday morning to discuss new strategies to catch the shooter or shooters, who apparently are targeting innocent motorists with a handgun.

“This is a huge cooperative effort,” Grant said.

Although authorities developed some new strategies, they don’t plan to discuss them publicly, Grant said.

Eleven of the shootings occurred on highways. Most were in or near Three Trails Crossing, also known as the Grandview Triangle.

Ten of the crimes occurred in Kansas City, with others in Leawood, Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit.

All of the shootings occurred just before exit ramps or road splits, with the shooter apparently firing at the last moment before veering off in a different direction from the victim.

Three victims have been wounded, with two hit in the leg and one in the arm. Police have recovered at least five bullets from victims’ vehicles and one from a victim’s arm.

The 13 shootings have occurred most often at night. The first shooting erupted on a Saturday night, followed by 10 days without an incident.

Then on a Tuesday night, police recorded two shootings within 10 minutes in Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs.

Eleven days later, on a Saturday afternoon, police logged two shootings along State Line Road within one hour. Then after one day, police logged another shooting on a Monday night. The shootings continued with one Wednesday, one Thursday, two on Friday and Saturday and one Sunday night.

Police said they did not have any suspect or vehicle description to release because the information they have is inconsistent. At least two dozen tips have been reported to the TIPS Hotline.

The Leawood victim told police the driver of a metallic green car near him was wearing a hood, glasses and a ski mask. Another victim described a car near her as a creme or yellow-colored older car with tinted windows and a white vinyl top.

Photo: o.maloteau via Flickr