In a surprise move, Monday morning, Mohammed Pedro Whitaker pleaded not guilty to charges related to a string of shootings that kept South Kansas City residents on edge for several weeks in March and April.
The 29 year old Grandview man, reportedly named Pedro Whitaker at birth – but known as Mohammed from his high school days to the present – pleaded not guilty to 20 felony counts.
The preponderance of evidence police gathered during their investigation of Whitaker might prove difficult for his legal team to overcome in court.
A Walmart bag found on the side of the road containing .380 ammunition provided a significant break in the case for police, as the prints on the ammunition boxes matched Whitaker’s.
Whitaker initially told detectives he didn’t know much about the shootings, and said he was a victim of the highway shooter himself. According to court records he was unable to explain to police why he had a bullet hole on the inside, not outside, of his car. He also said he didn’t own a gun but was unable to explain why police found a .380-caliber gun, and .380-caliber ammunition in his dresser. Police said he refused to take responsibility but cried at times during his interrogation.
Whitaker was known to have tried on two occasions to buy a gun, but was denied the sale due to lack of identification.
Officers had trailed Whitaker gathering evidence for about a week before they decided to take action.
While under surveillance, police saw Whitaker allegedly driving aggressively and stalking potential victims by pacing cars in their blind spots on highways, according to court records. Whitaker even braked rapidly to allow another motorist to pull up alongside. Whitaker turned to face the motorist, not knowing he was an undercover officer, the records show.
On Sunday, police saw him driving in heavy rain with his windows rolled down near the Three Trails Crossing wearing sunglasses and a hoodie.
The risk of allowing Whitaker to remain free appeared to hit a breaking point for police Wednesday night when they observed Whitaker following a white Honda near Interstate 49 and 140th Street. Whitaker intentionally crossed all lanes of traffic with his eyes trained on the Honda and “veered directly at the Honda,” narrowly missing it, according to court records.
Whitaker was arrested at his Grandview apartment on April 17. Eighteen charges were filed the next day with two more felony counts added May 9. His pre-trial hearing will be held on June 6.