When Lee’s Summit police shut down parts of southbound Interstate 470 and slowed traffic near Colbern Road March 20 to search for evidence in a reported highway shooting two days prior, it caused some inconvenience, but barley a ripple was noticed on the local news front.
Fast forward nearly three weeks later and that reported shooting along with nearly two dozen others has caused not only a nationwide media frenzy, but has spurred a joint investigation to locate a suspect or suspects involving police departments from several Kansas City metro area municipalities, the Kansas City Police Department and investigators from the ATF.
According to The Kansas City Star, Kansas City police – who are leading the investigation – believe about 20 shootings could be part of a pattern of recent highway and roadway shootings.
The number fluctuates daily, police said, as detectives continue to learn of new cases, review them for similarities and decide which ones should be pursued further or ruled out.
The Star reported about seven new cases were added April 9 to a possible pattern of 13 shootings since March 8 that police analysts identified the weekend of April 4-6.
Lee’s Summit Police Department Sgt. Chris Depue, a spokesman for the department, said at approximately 8:35 p.m. March 18 officers were called to the area of I-470 and Colbern Road to contact a victim who believed his vehicle had been shot.
Investigators located a single bullet hole in the back portion of the vehicle.
Detectives with the LSPD worked with the victim to develop a suspect description and asked anyone who may have been in the area at the time and who may have had information to contact them. Investigators then joined detectives from the Blue Springs Police Department to determine if a shooting in their jurisdiction earlier that evening was related.
After members of the police department conducted the nearly hour-long evidence search along I-470 just north of Colbern Road March 20, similar shootings followed in different areas of the metro.
Depue said April 10 that the Lee’s Summit shooting case is a part of the larger investigation and referred all questions to Kansas City Police, but added detectives from Lee’s Summit are assisting in the overall inquiry.
Kansas City Police Chief Daryl Forté told The Star police have linked several of the shootings to one another, but they won’t reveal how or how many, because they think it would be detrimental to the investigation. They are also employing various strategies to prevent future shootings and arrest the shooter or shooters, but they don’t want to divulge those details.
“There are a lot of things I’d like to talk about,” Forté said. “But it wouldn’t be prudent.”
The shootings started to occur sporadically in early March but accelerated last week with shootings reported every day from April 2 through April 6. No new shootings have been linked to the pattern since April 6, The Star reported.
Analysts are looking into reports of gunshots on roadways prior to March 8 to see if additional shootings fit the possible pattern. Detectives are prioritizing new reports generated by analysts or other agencies into stacks of shootings that likely are related and ones that are less likely.
Police also beefed up patrols in the areas where shootings occurred.
Eleven of the originally recognized 13 shootings occurred on highways. Ten of those occurred in Kansas City, with others in Leawood, Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit.
All of the shootings have occurred near highway ramps or road splits, where the shooter could veer off in a different direction from the victim after firing shots. But police said they are open to the possibility that the shooter could be on the ground hiding, although they have no evidence to support that.
“We are confident that some have occurred from vehicles,” Forté told the Star. “In other cases, we don’t know.”
According to The Star, the shootings have wounded three people – two in the leg and one in the arm. The victim in the Lee’s Summit case was uninjured.