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Kansas City residents breathe easier after highway shootings suspect nabbed

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By Dave Cera, George Howell and Ed Payne

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (CNN) -- For the last few weeks, Marisol Sanchez took pains to drive miles out of her way to avoid highways in the Kansas City, Missouri, area.

On Thursday, she said she was breathing a little bit easier.

Police Chief Darryl Forte announced Thursday night that a man has been taken into custody in connection with as many as 20 highway shootings in the Kansas City area that began in early March. At least 12 of the shootings are connected, police said.

The suspect's name won't be released until charges have been filed. A news conference is scheduled for Friday.

Residents greeted the news with relief.

"It's actually been really nerve-wracking," Sanchez told CNN affiliate KCTV-TV.

Fears calmed

The shootings began March 8 on major highways and roads.

Three people have been shot, but there have been no life-threatening injuries.

Jennie Baugher was driving along U.S. 71 when she heard something hit her car, like a rock. But it was much more lethal.

"I thought a big rock hit us," said the married mother of two from Roeland Park, Kansas. "My husband saw it the next day. Immediately when he told me that there was a hole in my car, I realized a bullet hit my car."

The first shooting victim, Tom McFarlin, said he thinks the shots came from a moving car on one of the ramps or overpasses.

"It was exactly where the highway splits," he said.

McFarlin was headed home to Lee's Summit, Missouri, on Interstate 470 south after watching his son's basketball game. Like Baugher, his car was shot in the evening, around 8:30. When he took his car to mechanics a few days later, they discovered not one, but two bullets. The second one was lodged in the undercarriage.

Both cars were hit in the rear on the passenger's side. The bullets lodged in metal and did not make it inside. In McFarlin's case, had the bullet made its way through the metal, anyone sitting in the passenger's seat would have been hit.

Authorities offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined in the hunt.

Police increased their presence in the areas where the shootings occurred and asked drivers to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity immediately.

"It's really scary because I've been scared driving around," motorist Melissa Mitchell told KCTV.

Knowing a suspect is in custody has calmed nerves.

"Everybody is talking about the shooter, and now it's good that they have caught him in a short time," said gas station manager Bader Qureini.

Forte praised the community for providing more than 100 tips but did not offer details on what led police to a suspect.

"We wanted to make sure the residents and those that travel through Kansas City know that they're safe and they've been safe the whole time," he said.

Suspect surrounded

Thursday's arrest took place in Grandview, Missouri, south of Kansas City.

Kevin Cooksey, who lives across an alley from the suspect, said he saw police take him into custody.

"He couldn't go nowhere because he was surrounded. Completely surrounded," Cooksey told affiliate KSHB-TV. "They were on him. As soon as it happened, they were on him."

Dave Cera and George Howell reported from Kansas City, Missouri. Ed Payne wrote this story in Atlanta, Georgia.

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