Unanswered questions about 71 Highway homicide leave drivers caught in traffic on edge

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City police are searching for the gunman wanted in a highway homicide that brought rush hour traffic along 71 Highway to a halt Thursday afternoon.

The victim is 27-year-old James L. Hill who was shot inside a black Cadillac that crashed into the median. Police said he died at the scene.

“This vehicle hit the right shoulder concrete barrier, bounced off of that and then went to the left side of the highway and hit the steel wires,” said Sgt. Kari Thompson, a spokesperson for KCPD.

Police said it's unclear whether the man was shot elsewhere in the city and lost control while trying to drive himself to a hospital, or whether someone shot at his car while driving alongside him on the highway.

“We would love to find out exactly what happened,” said Sgt. Thompson. “Unfortunately we can’t do that alone today. We definitely need our community to step up and help us.”

Police found a gun in Hill's lap. It does not appear that it had been shot, but they are not sure until they do some tests.

The crime scene shut down part of 71 Highway southbound as detectives searched for shell casings, evidence, and recreated the crash scene.

Police did say the vehicle Hill was driving had a lot of bullet holes in the side of the vehicle and a lot of casing on the highway.

The road closure caused a traffic jam that spanned for miles and lasted for hours, right as rush hour traffic clogged the already busy highway.

“It was just completely backed up,” said driver Ashley Garrett. “I saw a bunch of different police cars and I just wasn`t sure what was going on.”

Garrett continued, “It also makes you wonder, ‘What really were the circumstances? Was it something that was actually around several other people? Was it something that happened in another location?’”

The many unanswered questions put drivers on edge, as police worked to determine if it was a random or targeted crime.

“It does actually make you think twice,” Garrett said. “I know when the case for the highway shooter was taking place, it kind of brings that back up and makes you kind of think what direction you`re driving in.”

It’s a situation that is now sparking vigilance in their minds every time they get behind the wheel along the busy stretch of highway.

“It`s a fear that when I get out in the car, is something going to happen?” said driver April Sutherland. “Do I have to be watching over my shoulder? They don`t want us to have distracted drivers, but now you`re going to be looking for different things and that`s going to always go through your mind.”

Police are looking for more witnesses or people with knowledge of what happened. So if you know anything, they're asking you call Crime Stoppers at (816) 474-TIPS.