Kansas City area law enforcement and elected officials expressed their relief and gratitude at the arrest and charging of a suspect in 9 shooting incidents on highways in the Kansas City area since March 8.

Mohammed Pedro Whitaker (photo courtesy, KSSZ in Columbia)

Mohammed Pedro Whitaker (photo courtesy, KSSZ in Columbia)

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has filed 9 counts of shooting into a vehicle and 9 counts of armed criminal action against 27-year-old Mohammed Pedro Whitaker of Grandview.

“Tonight might be a good night to sleep,” Peters Baker said in a media conference at which she announced the charges. “It’s been a few nights without that for so many of us.”

Whitaker could face life in prison if convicted. Peters Baker says more charges could be filed against him.

The shots Whitaker is accused of firing struck and wounded three people.

“The victims in this case … are from throughout the Metro area,” says Peters Baker. “This has impacted all of us. Each side of State Line (Road). It’s been something that’s been at the heart and thoughts of all of us since the day this case first broke.”

Kansas City Police Chief Daryl Forte says it was 10 days after a formal briefing across law enforcement agencies that Whitaker was arrested.

“The successful apprehension was the result of cooperation, collaboration, and to me, the support of the community,” said Forte. “We can have all the resources and those sorts of things but without the piece from the community, we’d be nowhere.”

Kansas City Mayor Sly James also thanked the Metro region’s residents for their help.

“But for the tips that were received,” says James, “The apprehension may not have happened. The public engaged in this.”

Whitaker is a former Columbia resident and a 2004 graduate of Moberly Senior High School.

One former friend and classmate of Whitaker’s told Missourinet affiliate KWIX in Moberly she didn’t think he was capable of such acts.

“Not at all,” she says. “He was just a normal kid. He was a class clown. He always cut up. He was very fun.”

Forte says police decided early in the investigation to control the release of information, and he says that will continue.

“We wanted to say some things about a few things but as we thought about it we decided not to, and again it worked out well,” says Forte. “This is an ongoing investigation. I won’t give you a lot of detail about anything because we want to continue what we started with.”

Authorities believe 12 shootings are related, mostly in Kansas City but other happened in Lee’s Summit, Blue Springs and Leawood. The wounds sustained by the three people who were struck were not considered life-threatening.

See our earlier story