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Kansas City area man arrested, charged in string of highway shootings

A car is removed by Kansas City police from the house, far right, of a Grandview man charged in a series of shootings. (Allison Long/Kansas City Star via AP)

On Sunday, a man shot and killed three people near a Jewish Community Center and a nearby retirement community in a suburb of Kansas City, Mo. The suspected gunman, who had a long history of anti-Semitic and racist statements and beliefs, will face hate crime charges in the shooting, officials said.

But this wasn’t the only violence to shake the Kansas City region recently. About 20 different shootings had occurred on roads and highways in the area since the beginning of March, and last week, police said that a dozen of these shootings were connected.

On Thursday, police announced that they had a suspect in custody in the string of shootings.

Cars were targeted near  highway exits or spots where roads split. These shootings, which saw at least three people wounded, resulted in a sense of unease and fear. As the Kansas City Star reported:

Random shootings can do that when they victimize people traveling highways and busy roads to and from work, the grocery store or school. And no matter how often experts point out that a person is more likely to be injured in a traffic crash than hit by a bullet in this recent spree, there is still concern.

“You start to get that, ‘It could have been me. Hey, I drive that way,’ ” said Ken Novak, professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Police had said Monday that there appeared to be no connection between these shootings and the killings near the Jewish Community Center, which meant that even though a suspect in Sunday’s killings was in custody, the highway shooter remained at large.

Kansas City police  identified the man arrested and charged in the highway shootings as Mohammed Whitaker of Grandview, Mo.

Whitaker faces 18 felony counts in a dozen shooting incidents, according to the office of Jean Peters Baker, the Jackson County prosecutor. Reports from witnesses connected a car similar to Whitaker’s to one involved in the shootings.

“This has impacted all of us,” Baker said in a news conference.

Police said they didn’t know of any motive, adding that the 27-year-old man acted alone. His bond was set at $1 million.

Mark Berman covers national news for The Washington Post and anchors Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and stories from around the country.

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