ALERT: Police searching for missing college student

Suspect in KC-area highway shooting charged with 18 counts in 9 incidents

BREAKING: Mohammed Whitaker, suspect in the Kansas City-area highway shootings, is charged with 18 felony counts covering nine incidents, Jackson County’s prosecutor said Friday.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CNN) — For more than a month, motorists around Kansas City, Missouri, have worried about something besides traffic jams and potholes.

Someone had fired a gun at as many as 20 motorists on major roads and highways. Three people were shot, none with life-threatening injuries.

A news conference expecting to reveal details of the case was scheduled Friday, a day after Police Chief Darryl Forte announced a man was taken into custody in connection with the shootings. The suspect’s name won’t be released until charges have been filed.

Thursday’s arrest took place in Grandview, Missouri, south of Kansas City. 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, and at least 12 of them are connected, police said. 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

The first shooting victim, Tom McFarlin, said he thinks the shots 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 offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined in the hunt.

Police increased their presence in the areas where the shootings occurred and asked drivers to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity immediately.

Fears calmed

Residents greeted news of the arrest with relief.

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

“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.

Forte praised the community for providing more than 100 tips but did not offer details on what led police to a suspect.

“We wanted to make sure the residents and those that travel through Kansas City know that they’re safe and they’ve been safe the whole time,” he said.

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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