The 27-year-old man suspected of a string of highway shootings in and around Kansas City pleaded not guilty to 20 counts in an arraignment hearing Monday, according to prosecutors.
Mohammed Whitaker was arrested on April 17 in connection with 12 shootings on three Kansas City-area highways that left drivers on edge for weeks. His alleged spree lasted from March 18 to April 6, according to the Kansas City Police Department.
Whitaker injured three people in the shootings and is subsequently charged with three felony counts of shooting into a motor vehicle and striking someone, according to a Jackson County Court indictment. He also faces seven felony counts of shooting into a motor vehicle and 10 felony counts of armed criminal action, according to the indictment.
Two more related shootings were connected through ballistics evidence to Whitaker, but he hasn't been charged for them yet because they are outside of the jurisdiction of the original charges or under investigation, said Mike Mansur, a spokesman for the Jackson County Prosecutor's office.
When Whitaker was apprehended, after police staked him out for a week, he told them he didn't own a gun and claimed he was actually one of the victims of the highway violence.
But investigators searched Whitaker's bedroom and found a .380 caliber handgun that lined up with the shell casings they had found in victims' cars, and black hoodies that victims had often said the shooter was wearing, according to a probable cause statement. Investigators also discovered bullet holes on the inside of Whitaker's car but not on the outside.
Whitaker was represented by a public defender on Monday, and his next court appearance is scheduled for June 6, Mansur said.
The suspect is being held on $1 million bond in the Jackson County Detention Center, and if found guilty, he could face life in prison, Mansur said. Whitaker will turn 28 years old on Tuesday.
— Elisha Fieldstadt