At least 12 highway and roadway shootings that have wounded three people in the past month near Kansas City, Mo., are "positively" connected, a spree of violence that has stirred anxiety in the region and scared some motorists into taking new routes, police said.
Bullets have hit two travelers in the leg and another on the arm, all non-life threatening injures, police said.
"We've been blessed so far, but it's just a matter of bullet placement where it goes from minor injury to death," Chief Darryl Forte told the Los Angeles Times. "We're just asking this community, when you have a crime that occurs, step up and help reduce the chance of injury to someone else."
After five straight days of road shootings last week, there have been no additional reports in the past five days as police have increased their presence at the previous shooting locations.
Nearly all of the gunfire has been aimed at cars driving on highway ramps and along major thoroughfares, mostly in the southern part of the city. Authorities on Friday boosted a reward to $10,000, from $7,000, for a tip that leads to an arrest in the case.
The shootings began March 8 and ran through last Sunday. Three of the cases fell outside of city boundaries, in Blue Springs, Lee's Summit and Leawood, police said.
But at least seven additional cases could be related. Police said they are still sorting details and receiving tips about similar shootings. It's too early to determine whether the gunshots have been intended to kill or to scare, the chief said.
Investigators, including the FBI, have returned to some shooting locations to scour the area for evidence. Citing the ongoing investigation, officials have not said how the shootings are linked or whether there are any suspects. They have not said whether they believe the shooter firing from a car or on foot.
One of the tips authorities received Thursday pointed to a shooting in a fourth city, Forte said. But it could end up being an unrelated case of road rage.
On Friday, for example, investigators determined that a shooting they believed was linked to the spree was actually a tailgater shooting into a slower car.
Some motorists who have come forward since authorities publicized the spree on Monday said they heard a bang but thought their car had been hit by a rock.
One of the victims told the Kansas City Star that she has avoided highways since finding a bullet hole near her car's trunk last Saturday. A man who was shot at last weekend said he now keeps a gun with him.
The police chief told the community to travel as usual. Among those he advised was his mother, who lives near the area of some connected shootings.
"I talked to my mom for 30 minutes this morning and told her to continue to drive the routes she normally does," Forte said Friday.
Several of the shootings have been clustered around the Grandview triangle, where Highway 71 and interstates 435 and 470 intersect, making commuters dependent on those roads nervous. "I'm concerned, of course," said Denise Wuppertal, who's worked at the nearby Oakwood Country Club for three years. "At least I don't get on the highway. I just go across that bridge they've had blocked off to look for bullet casings and evidence."
Lachelle Moore at the Canaan Worship Center north of the merge said she was troubled but not afraid enough to stop driving.
"There are thousands of vehicles that go through there," she said. "I hope God keeps me safe in passage and they find who's doing this."
Kansas City Mayor Sly James called the string of shootings "an anomaly" that could happen in any city.
"This is urban U.S.A. reality these days and having crime of any sort is bad for anybody, especially for those that victimized by it, but I do not believe that you can say that what's going on in Kansas City is of such a weird nature, such an extreme nature, that it's any different than what's happening in the rest of the country," the mayor said in a televised interview.