Kansas City Highway Shootings Probable Cause Statement Analysis

Monday, April 21, 2014

Good morning:

I write today regarding the affidavit for probable cause in the Kansas City highway-shootings case. I conclude the affidavit contains sufficient information to establish probable cause to believe that Mohammed Pedro Whittaker shot at 12 victims in their vehicles on highways in the Kansas City area between March 18th and April 6th of 2014.

The affidavit by Detective Dawn McCamish of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department identifies 12 victims in 11 vehicles who were shot at while exiting highways in the Kansas City area.

Three of the victims were wounded (victims 1, 9 and 11 in the affidavit). Victims 1 and 9 were shot in their right arms with the shots passing through the front seat passenger side windows. Victim 11 was shot in the lower left leg with the shot passing through the door on the driver’s side. All three are males.

Five of the 12 victims are females. Victims 3 and 4 are a mother and daughter who were in the same vehicle with the mother driving and the daughter sitting in the back seat behind her.

Bullets were recovered from each of the 11 vehicles. According to ballistic analysis, all of the bullets were fired from the same weapon, a .380 caliber handgun.

Only two of the victims saw the shooter. Victim 3, the mother driving with her daughter in the back seat, saw a black male wearing a hoodie pull beside her on the left before the shots were fired. She was unable to provide a description of the vehicle that he was driving.

Another victim, who is not identified by number, told the police that he saw a dark metallic green sedan pull alongside him driven by a male wearing a black hoodie, ski mask and dark sunglasses. The window on the passenger side of green sedan was down and front door on the driver’s side of the victim’s vehicle took the shot.

The affidavit also references tips received from three callers an April 8th and 9th.

The first tip on April 8th reported a dark green sedan, possibly a Dodge Neon with Illinois plates followed the caller.

The second tip on April 9th reported seeing a mixed race male in his early 20s wearing a black hoodie and ski mask while driving a green Dodge Neon with Illinois plates.

A third tip received on April 9th reported an encounter that she had with a person driving a light green or turquoise vehicle with damage to the rear bumper. She stopped behind the vehicle at a stop sign. The driver stared at her. He was wearing a gray hoodie and a cloth mask that covered his face.

She followed him after he pulled away from the stop sign and stayed behind him even though he hit the brakes and slowed down as if to allow her to pass him. She remained behind him until she reached the I-71 on ramp. Then she took the on ramp to get away from him.

She reported the vehicle license as Illinois plate G86 5203.

This encounter occurred on March 20th at 1900 hours when the temperature was 70 degrees. She said all of the windows in his vehicle were down.

Police ran the plate. It came back to a white Buick registered to the suspect’s father, who resides at 9624 Beacon.

Police ran an incident search on the white Buick and obtained three hits.

On August 31st, 2013 it was reported parked in front of 9624 Beacon.

On August 30th, it was parked in front of 9622 Beacon.

On August 22nd, it was parked in front of 9622 Beacon with a dark green vehicle parked behind it.

Police ran an incident search on 9622 Beacon and obtained a hit dated October 11th, 2013. On that date, the residents of the house directly behind 9622 Beacon reported that someone fired a shot into their house. The bullet was a .380 caliber.

On April 9th a witness contacted police and reported finding a plastic Walmart bag containing spent .380 caliber casings and empty boxes of .380 caliber ammunition. He found the bag beside a highway while he was searching for his cell phone that he lost.

Police identified the suspect’s fingerprint on the bag.

Police located the suspect’s green Dodge Neon on April 10th and began following him.

On April 11th they saw him contact a male and attempt to purchase a .380 caliber handgun with a laser sight. The male refused to sell the gun because the suspect said he did not have ID. The male provided police with the suspect’s cell phone number. He was able to provide the number because the suspect had texted him to express interest in purchasing the gun, which the male had advertised for sale.

Police were able to determine where the suspect was living from the cellular service provider’s GPS locator.

On April 12th, the police followed him to a parking lot where he parked and left the vehicle. While he was gone, they walked around the vehicle and noted the damaged rear fender reported by the caller who had followed him and obtained his license plate number. From outside the vehicle, they saw a hoodie and a mask in the pocket of the passenger seat.

While following him on April 13th, they saw him remove plastic covering his windows and subsequently engage in erratic driving speeding up and slowing down in his vehicle. At one point, he swerved suddenly and almost struck a Honda that he appeared to be following.

Police obtained search warrants for his residence where they found masks and a .380 caliber handgun that fired the bullets that were recovered from the 11 vehicles.

The suspect’s father told police that he gave the license plate to the suspect.

When the police interrogated the suspect, he waived Miranda and agreed to answer their questions. When they accused him of the shootings, he denied being the shooter at the Jewish Community Center. They told him that they were not talking about those shootings. They said they were talking about the highway shootings.

He denied responsibility for those shootings and then claimed to be one of the victims.

I note parenthetically that the first victim was driving a green Dodge Neon. Probably only the victim and the shooter knew that, so it seems like he was claiming to be the first victim which reminds me of the stealing-the-victim’s-scream strategy used by Zimmerman and Pistorius.

The test for probable cause is whether reasonable grounds exist to believe that the suspect shot at the 11 vehicles.

Based on the information contained in Detective McCamish’s affidavit, I believe there is probable cause to conclude that Mohammed Pablo Whittaker is the person who shot at the 12 victims in the 11 vehicles.

Probable cause is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Only two of the victims saw the shooter and his car. All of the cases are tied together by the ballistics evidence and the shooter’s modus operandi to draw next to a potential victim who is committed to an exit lane or on ramp and shooting at the victim who cannot then follow the shooter, if the victim survives the shooting.

Modus operandi evidence is admissible regarding uncharged misconduct pursuant to Rule 404(b) and here there are several instances of his erratic driving in an apparent attempt to line up a potential victim. One incident involved the woman who reported his license plate to police. Another, with police watching, involved the Honda that he nearly ran into.

Appears to be little doubt that he intended to shoot people, not just cars, since he wounded three victims and subsequently attempted to improve his aim by purchasing a .380 caliber handgun with a laser.

Not an airtight case, but close.

Safe to say,

Bring lawyers, guns and money cuz I’m in a helluva jam.

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12 Responses to Kansas City Highway Shootings Probable Cause Statement Analysis

  1. J4TMinATL says:

    Fred and Crane –

    I was hoping you could do a blog post on the most absurd gun bill (HB 60) that will be signed tomorrow at Noon by our Governor here in Georgia and will be in effect on July 1.


    Highlights (Better sit for this)

    Allows guns in bars. The property owner has the right to eject a person from their property.

    Allows guns in church. Allows churches to specifically opt-in and decide whether worshippers can carry guns in the sanctuary. $100 fine if caught carrying in a church that does not allow.

    Allows guns in government buildings that are not restricted or screened by security personnel.

    Allows schools to give written authorization to certain individuals who are allowed to carry weapons on school property, at school functions or within school safe zones. Guns still allowed in vehicle when picking up or dropping off.

    Removes fingerprint requirement for license renewals. Allows applicant the right to sue if they feel they are wrongfully denied a permit and to recover their costs and reasonable attorney fees if they are the prevailing party.
    Prohibits any person or entity from creating or maintaining a multi jurisdictional data base of information regarding persons issued permits.

    License exception for inpatient hospitalizations changed to “involuntary treatment” in the five years preceding application.

    If a person knowingly enters airport screening with a weapon will be guilty of a misdemeanor unless it is with intent to commit a separate felony offense.  A person with a permit will not be arrested if no intent of an additional felony is involved.

    A person carrying a weapon shall not be subject to detention for the sole purpose of investigating whether such person has a weapons carry license.

    Removes ability of public housing to restrict resident’s firearm unless required by federal law. (Makes gun toting Repubs feel good about themselves).

    Declared Emergency:

    No one, while acting during or pursuant to a declared state of emergency, shall:
    -Temporarily or permanently seize any firearm or ammunition.
    -Prohibit possession of any firearm or ammunition.
    -Prohibit any license holder from carrying any weapon if such carrying was not otherwise prohibited by law at the time immediately prior to the declaration of a state of emergency.
    -Require the registration of any firearm.

    Makes hunting with silence suppressors legal in Georgia.

    Does anyone see what is wrong with this quote? “Those using a Stand Your Ground defense you know, for when someone comes along with the especially threatening jumbo bag of Skittles would no longer have to be in compliance with Georgia’s Criminal Code. That’s right, a felon who has illegally obtained a gun (it is by definition illegal for a felon to have one) can now fire at will at someone playing that rap music in his car extra loud as long as they “saw” that person reach for something. The fact that they’re committing a crime by even having a gun will not get in the way of the Stand Your Ground Defense.” Defense of self or others, shall be an absolute defense to any violation of off limits places.

    Guess what this is being called? The Safe Carry Protection Act. Yep. Welcome to Georgia.

    • Bat-shit crazy and disgusting.

      Guns in bars! How densely stupid is that?

      The people who voted for this racist and paranoid driven piece of crap should be involuntarily committed to locked mental institutions.

      They are extremely dangerous to themselves and others.

      I definitely won’t be going to Georgia anytime soon.

      They are just itchin’ to create an opportunity to kill people with brown skin or accents.

      • J4TMinATL says:

        It’s disgusting. And they are having a BBQ party at Noon Wednesday at which time Governor Nathan Deal signs HB 60 into law.


    • gblock says:

      In some ways, the most serious part of this law, as you listed the provisions here, is the prohibition against maintaining a database of gun permit holders, based on the paranoid right-wing fantasy that if this country is invaded, the occupiers will head straight for the database so that they can take people’s guns away. Guess what – the real consequence of such a law is to make it difficult to trace guns that are used in crimes.

  2. Crane-Station here, thinking out loud as well, and sharing a screen with Fred. At first I was going to comment on how odd it seemed, that a person would contact police, upon finding the plastic Walmart bag with the empty ammunition box, or spent shell casings. Those items are not that uncommon, especially in an area where there is hunting, for example. Well…maybe the bag had quite a few spent casings…But now I realize that the story was already in the news, when the man found the bag with those items in it. At least, I assume the story was in the news.

    The other thing is, it is a bit surprising that eleven separate incidents, and twelve victims, and they were able to match each and every one of them to one single gun.

    Contrast that to Dunn, where all of the bullets were too busted up, to match any of them, to the gun. That goes to show the difference between hollow points, and regular bullets, I suppose. Dunn used hollow points.

    note- I am not a gun expert/ballistics expert. Just an observation.

  3. bettykath says:

    Looks like the police did a thorough job, but we only see their side of it.

    • Ballistics results may not withstand expert scrutiny.
      I’m surprised that it was possible to positively identify all the bullets as having been fired by the same gun because many of them passed through vehicle doors. I expected that would cause some deformities.

      The bullets apparently weren’t hollow points.

      • crazy1946 says:

        Professor, While I don’t pretend to be a ballistic expert, I don’t think my 380 would shoot a bullet that would penetrate much of a car door and still have enough left of it to do much damage. I wonder if the gun he used was not a 9mm? Much more potent round and quite able to do damage like described…

        • It’s described as a .380 in the affidavit.

          • crazy1946 says:

            Professor, I realized that they had described it like that, but both pistols use the same diameter projectile, yet the 9mm would seem to be the most likely gun to have been used…
            Note, I was not arguing, only thinking out loud… Shame on me?

          • Dave says:

            They probably IDed the bullet as a .380 ACP based on its diameter and weight. Commercial .380 ammo is normally loaded with a bullet that weighs between 80 and 95 grains while 9mm Luger ammo normally comes with a bullet weighing upwards of 115 grains. They could probably identify the make of gun that fired the recovered bullets, based upon the grooves left by the rifling inside the gun’s barrel. Linking the bullets to a specific gun is a lot more iffy.

  4. Crane-Station here, sharing a screen. Good morning everyone!

    Another reason never to waive Miranda, and begin speaking to the police. That was a terrible idea. Hopefully by now he has a lawyer, as well as a psychiatrist, just my .02.

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