How License-Plate Reader Helped Nail Kansas City Highway Shooter


For almost a month, Kansas Citians lived through “a horror movie without an ending,” says the Los Angeles Times. A narrative described in court documents said it would take cutting-edge and occasionally controversial law enforcement technology, including license-plate readers, to put an end to the horror show. The story began playing out on the tangle of freeways south of Kansas City, where, starting in March, one driver after another reported being shot at by a mystery gunman — nobody they knew, for reasons nobody could fathom. The suspect would be identified as a driver wearing a black hoodie, a black mask and black sunglasses. His strikes came unpredictably, often right before his victims drove onto highway splits and exits.

That’s when drivers would hear a bang, or suddenly feel a sharp sting. No one was killed, but one victim was shot in the leg, another in the forearm, another in the calf. Police would link at least 12 such attacks to the same .380-caliber weapon before they arrested Mohammed Pedro Whitaker, 27. In shootings of this kind, a seemingly plotless series, it was a string of data points that led investigators to Whitaker. Specifically, to his green Dodge Neon. According to a probable cause statement, authorities got their big break a week before his arrest, on April 9, when a woman came forward to say that she thought she may have been followed by the highway shooter, and took down his license-plate number.

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