Kansas City Highway Shootings Probable Cause Statement Analysis

April 21, 2014

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.

If you appreciate what we do and have not already made a donation this month, please do so today.

Fred


Colleen Ritzer stabbed to death in faculty bathroom and transported to woods in recycling bin UPDATE 1 BELOW, UPDATE 2 BELOW

October 24, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Good morning:

ABC News is reporting this morning on Good morning America that police say Chism stabbed Colleen Ritzer to death in the faculty bathroom at Danvers High School around 3:30 pm on Tuesday. Based on a review of videotape and Chism’s confession, police have determined that he transported her body in what appeared to be a recycling bin into the woods behind the school.

After dumping her body in the woods, Chism went to a movie theater and watched Woody Allen’s new film, Blue Jasmine. I have no idea why he selected this film or if he knew what it was about when he chose it. Seems an extremely odd choice for a 14-year-old boy who just stabbed his teacher to death.

His family reported him missing at 5:30 pm. Ritzer was reported missing a few hours later.

Police went to the school to check on her late Tuesday evening and found the bloody crime scene in the faculty bathroom.

Police subsequently responded to a report of a pedestrian walking northbound in the southbound lane of Route 1 around 12:30 am Wednesday morning. The pedestrian turned out to be Chism. He was placed under arrest and transported to the Danvers Police Station where he confessed to the murder.

Chism’s uncle, who resides in Clarksville, Tennessee, describes Chism as a nice kid from a perfect family.

Danvers is located approximately 20 miles north of Boston.

Contrary to reports yesterday, Chism was not arraigned. He had an initial appearance at which the judge found probable cause to support the charge based on a review of the charge and supporting documents. He also denied bail. The next court appearance will be a preliminary hearing, which is scheduled for November 22nd.

The purpose of the preliminary hearing will be to determine whether probable cause exists to support the murder charge based on live witness testimony, as opposed to the more limited document review yesterday. The defense will be accorded an opportunity to cross examine witnesses called by the prosecution.

Given the confession, there is no reason to suppose that the court might not find probable cause.

Chism probably provided police with an explanation regarding why he killed Colleen Ritzer. If he did, they are not disclosing what he said. That is pretty much standard operating procedure at this point. For example, they likely would want to wait until the autopsy and forensic testing have been completed to determine whether the evidence supports or conflicts with his statement.

I suspect they are waiting to see if sperm is detected on any of the oral, vaginal and anal swabs obtained during the autopsy. If so, the next question will be whether the lab can detect a DNA profile for the male contributor and, if so, whether it matches Philip Chism.

UPDATE 1: Reuters is reporting that Philip Chism used a box cutter to stab and cut Colleen Ritter to death.

UPDATE 2: NBC News is reporting new details of the crime today:

A law enforcement source told NBC News on Friday that Ritzer’s throat was slit from the back with a box-cutter in a second-floor bathroom at the school. Her body was wheeled out of the school in a recycling bin, dumped in the woods and covered with leaves, the source said.

Philip Chism, a freshman, was charged as an adult with first-degree murder and has been ordered held without bail. A surveillance camera caught the suspect following Ritzer into the bathroom and then leaving, covered in blood, the source said.

The suspect changed his clothes at some point and went to the movies and to Wendy’s, the law enforcement source said. Investigators found both the suspect’s and Ritzer’s phones smashed, the source told NBC News.

Students said that Ritzer had asked Chism to meet with her after class on the day of the murder. The second-floor bathroom, where blood was found, was to remain closed Friday.

Apparently, Chism sat through the movie, so my theory in the comments that he may have purchased a ticket to the show intending to use the stub as an alibi may be wrong.

He only had 40-45 minutes after the murder to transport her body to the woods, change clothes, and make it to the theater.

I don’t know where he lived and am assuming that he did not go home to change clothes.

The box cutter and a change of clothes nearby suggest that he went to school intending to kill her. Whether or not he did, he apparently had no specific idea about what to do after the movie and his dinner at Wendy’s.


Update on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s initial appearance today

April 22, 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had his initial appearance today in the hospital before a U.S. Magistrate Judge. He was represented by Bill Fick of the Federal Public Defender Office in Boston. Fick confirmed that he will represent Dzhokhar.

He was provided with a copy of the complaint charging him with one count of using a weapon of mass destruction in violation of 18 USC 2332a(a) and one count of malicious destruction of property resulting in death in violation of 18 USC 844(i).

Fick waived the detention hearing, which means he and his client agreed that release on bail is not realistic. Fick will be supported by federal death penalty resource counsel, which may include Judy Clarke as she is one of the resource counsel. As you may recall, she represented Jared Loughner.

Dzhokhar is charged by criminal complaint, which is just a temporary holding device.

To find out more about the case, you will want to read FBI Special Agent Daniel Genck’s affidavit filed in support of the complaint. Go here to read the complaint and affidavit.

The Magistrate Judge found that the affidavit is sufficient to establish probable cause to support the two charges in the complaint.

The case is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on May 30th, to determine if probable cause exists to support the charge, but don’t expect that hearing to take place because a grand jury will indict him before that date.

The indictment may and probably will contain additional charges. He will be arraigned after the indictment is returned.

There will not be any need for a preliminary hearing after the grand jury returns an indictment because a grand jury necessarily makes that finding when it returns an indictment.

________________________________________

Writing articles every day and maintaining the integrity and safety of this site from people who would like nothing better than to silence us forever is a tough job requiring many hours of work.

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Thank you,

Fred


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