Suspected Kansas City highway sniper charged; no motive given

Mohammed Pedro Whitaker, a medical supply company employee, was charged in 9 highway shootings so far out of 12 in the Kansas City area in which three people were wounded.

Kansas City Police Department/Reuters/Handout
Mohammed Pedro Whitaker is seen in an undated photo released by the Kansas City Police Department. Whitaker was arrested Thursday for a recent spate of shootings on highways and roads in and around Kansas City and has been charged with 18 felony counts, including firing into a vehicle and striking an occupant.

A man arrested Thursday night as a suspect in as many as 12 highway shootings, a spree that has gripped the Kansas City area for a month, was charged Friday with 18 felony counts related to nine of the incidents, in which three people were wounded.

Mohammed Pedro Whitaker, a medical supply company employee, was charged in relation to just 9 shootings, although as many as 12 were reported in Grandview Triangle, an area located in the southern part of Kansas City. Mo., where Interstates 435, 470, and US 71/I-49 come together.

Jackson County prosecutors say more charges likely are forthcoming.

Of the 18 counts, seven counts include the unlawful use of a weapon, two counts include the unlawful use of a weapon that resulted in an injury, and nine counts of armed criminal action.

Mr. Whitaker’s bond was set at $1 million. Police say they do not yet know of a motive and that the investigation is ongoing.

“Charges would not be filed if we weren’t confident we had the person responsible for these shootings,” said Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters-Baker.

No one was killed in the shootings, and three people were wounded. None of the injuries were life-threatening. Police say Mr. Whitaker fired shots at vehicles often before they reached a highway exit ramp. The FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and several local police departments cooperated in the investigation.

Police said they received more than 110 tips, some of which led to Whitaker’s arrest Thursday night at his home in Grandview, Mo. The Kansas City Star says undercover officers had worked off tips to follow Whitaker since last week.

“But for tips from public, this apprehension might never have happened,” Kansas City Mayor Sly James said at a press conference Friday.

The shooting started March 8 and the last reported incident was April 6. But it wasn’t until the following day that an analyst with the police department pointed out that the shootings could be the work of a serial shooter, prompting a wide investigation, Ms. Peters-Baker said at the press conference.

Whitaker worked in a sales position at OptumRx, a medical supply company in Overland Park. His vehicle, a green Dodge Neon with Illinois plates, was towed from his home Thursday. Whitaker’s father, Edward Whitaker, told the local Fox News outlet he believed his son was not guilty of the charges.

“He is not a murderer or a shooter. He’s not a violent person,” Mr. Whitaker said.

For those in the Kansas City area, the shootings were reminiscent of the October 2002 sniper attacks in the Washington area in which 10 people were killed. John Allen Muhammad, and Lee Boyd Malvo, a teenage accomplice, were both eventually arrested and convicted of the crimes; Mr. Malvo received several sentences of life in prison without parole, while Mr. Muhammad was convicted of six counts of first-degree murder and executed in 2009.

More recently, in 2004, Charles McCoy was arrested for a five-month shooting spree in Columbus, Ohio, that left one person dead. He is now serving a 27-year sentence after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and 10 other charges.

When news spread Thursday that an arrest was made in the Grandview Triangle case, victims of the shooting expressed relief. One woman, who would not give her name but was driving with her young daughter when their car was hit by a bullet, said the shooter should receive no mercy from the court.

“He deserves everything he gets,” she said.

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