KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Someone shot a driver in the leg on Interstate 435 near Interstate 470 Sunday night in Kansas City — the 13th such shooting at a motorist in the area within a month.
Concerned that the apparently random shootings will continue, Kansas City police urged drivers Monday to be vigilant, asked for help from federal agents and announced plans to strategize and share information among investigators daily.
The latest victim, a 57-year-old Blue Springs man, was driving east on I-435 when he heard two bangs. He thought he had run over something on the highway but then noticed a pain in his leg that he initially thought was a cramp, according to police reports. He reached down, touched his calf and saw blood on his hand. He pulled over and called 911.
Police found three bullet holes in the driver's-side doors of the man's vehicle.
The man is among three victims wounded in the 13 incidents reported since March 8. Another driver was shot in the leg, and one was wounded in the arm.
If the shootings are connected, the rate appears to be escalating. As of Monday, victims had reported at least one shooting each day since Wednesday, including two each on Friday and Saturday.
All the shootings occurred just before highway exit ramps or road splits, with the shooter firing at the last moment before veering off in a different direction from the victim's vehicle.
Ten of the shootings occurred in Kansas City. The other three were in Leawood, Blue Springs and Lee's Summit.
Eleven occurred on highways, most in or near Three Trails Crossing, also known as the Grandview Triangle.
Police think the shooter in most cases used a handgun. Officers recovered spent bullets from at least six vehicles. Most had gotten stuck in door panels, but one victim pulled what appeared to be a 9 mm slug from the gas tank of his vehicle, according to police reports, and detectives obtained another bullet from a victim's arm.
The victim in the Leawood case told police that the driver of a metallic green sedan next to him was wearing a ski mask, glasses and a hood.
Police don't have physical evidence linking the shootings, but they said the frequency, geographic area and times of the shootings indicate many of the incidents could be connected. Detectives don't have a reliable description of a suspect to release but think the shooter mostly fires from a vehicle.
"The (suspect) information we have right now is so random," said police spokesman Capt. Tye Grant. "There is nothing consistent for us to provide anyone at this time."
Detectives are following leads. Grant said he could not release any details for fear of harming the investigation.
Police Chief Darryl Forte said Monday he thinks more motorists may have been victims but may have not reported it to law enforcement or realized they were shot at on a highway.
"I expect we will get more reports after this is publicized," he said.
Analysts in the Police Department's Law Enforcement Resource Center first spotted the pattern late last week when they identified four shootings with similarities. Further investigation revealed the other nine shootings, some of which had been classified as property damage.
Forte met with the analysts, detectives and FBI officials at a briefing Monday morning. He also asked the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for assistance. The group will meet again Tuesday to discuss new strategies and every day this week to share information, Forte said.
"This is not normal behavior," Forte said of the shooter. "Everyone should continue to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity," including apparent stranded motorists, pedestrians along the highway or occupants of vehicles covering their faces or wearing ear protection.
"Firing a gun inside a car is loud," Forte said.
Police say some of the cases could be road rage and unrelated to the apparent pattern of random highway shootings.
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