Man charged in Kansas City-area highway shootings

Mohammed Pedro Whitaker

Mohammed Pedro Whitaker (Image Credit: CNN)

By Dave Cera, George Howell and Ed Payne, KANSAS CITY, Missouri (CNN) — A man accused of shooting at cars on Kansas City, Missouri, highways has been charged with 18 felony counts covering nine incidents.

On Friday, authorities identified the suspect as Mohammed Whitaker. He’s 27 and lives in Grandview, south of Kansas City, reported CNN affiliate KCTV-TV.

Jackson County, Missouri, prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, speaking at a press briefing, said Whitaker acted alone. She said he’s being held on $1 million cash bond.

Baker wouldn’t reveal much background on Whitaker but said he has “very little criminal record.”

Whitaker is accused of shooting at nine vehicles, with two charges in each incident, Baker said.

Baker said surveillance, ballistics, more than 100 tips from citizens and witness statements helped authorities with their case.

“It wasn’t built on one thing,” she said. “It was built on a series of things.”

Earlier, police said someone had fired a gun at as many as 20 motorists on major roads and highways. Baker didn’t say if investigators suspected Whitaker in the other cases but that more charges may be filed.

Three people in vehicles were reported shot, none with life-threatening injuries. Whitaker was charged in two of those cases, Baker said.

Whitaker was arrested Thursday. Kevin Cooksey, who lives across an alley from the suspect, said he saw police take him into custody.

“He couldn’t go nowhere because he was surrounded. Completely surrounded,” Cooksey told affiliate KSHB-TV. “They were on him. As soon as it happened, they were on him.”

The shootings began March 8. Some motorists weren’t even aware shots had been fired at their vehicles.

Jennie Baugher was driving along U.S. 71 when she heard something strike her car.

“I thought a big rock hit us,” said the married mother of two from Roeland Park, Kansas. “My husband saw it the next day. Immediately when he told me that there was a hole in my car, I realized a bullet hit my car.”

Mechanic found bullet holes

Tom McFarlin said he thinks shots at his vehicle came from a moving car on one of the ramps or overpasses.

“It was exactly where the highway splits,” he said.

McFarlin was headed home to Lee’s Summit, Missouri, on Interstate 470 south after watching his son’s basketball game. Like Baugher, his car was shot in the evening, around 8:30.

When he took his car to mechanics a few days later, they discovered not one, but two bullets. The second one was lodged in the undercarriage.

Both cars were hit in the rear on the passenger’s side. The bullets lodged in metal and did not make it inside. In McFarlin’s case, had the bullet made its way through the metal, anyone sitting in the passenger’s seat would have been hit.

Authorities had offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.

Fears calmed

Residents had greeted news of the arrest with relief.

“It’s actually been really nerve-wracking,” Marisol Sanchez told KCTV.

“It’s really scary because I’ve been scared driving around,” motorist Melissa Mitchell also told KCTV.

“Everybody is talking about the shooter, and now it’s good that they have caught him in a short time,” said gas station manager Bader Qureini.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James praised the investigators, saying, “Our citizens should have a heightened sense of security on the highways.”

CNN’s Dave Cera and George Howell reported from Kansas City, Missouri. CNN’s Ed Payne wrote this report in Atlanta.

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