KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -- Shattered glass and a few shell casings.
At first, that’s all detectives had to try and catch a killer who shot a grandmother on her way home from work.
As 71-year-old grandmother Barbara Harper was finishing up her night shift at the post office, police say 25-year-old Dakkota Siders was shooting at someone he got into a fight with at the Shady Lady Lounge. The two strangers’ paths tragically crossed on Interstate 70.
“This lady was just driving home from work. She had never met this person before in her life,” Kansas City Police Department Sgt. Patrick Rauzi said.
The investigation began when someone monitoring traffic cameras at KC Scout saw a car hit a guardrail and slide to a stop off I-70 just before 3 a.m. on January 16. They called police who found Harper dead inside her car on the side of the highway.
“Headlights were on,” Rauzi said. “They walked up to the vehicle and they noticed the window is broken out. Then they saw blood.”
It was clear someone had shot into her car.
Investigators then learned traffic cameras captured the crime. They backtracked the path of Harper's car and her killer’s car. Video showed after the gunfire, the suspect sped off the highway using the Harrison Street exit and eventually turned on Truman Road.
“The detective knew we had a camera there that he could get better video of that car driving through an intersection,” Rauzi said.
City cameras at several intersections captured the exact route the suspect took after the shooting. Those cameras recorded video of the suspect until he drove through an intersection that had a license plate reader.
A camera on the license plate reader took a clear photo of the suspect’s license plate.
Detectives discovered the car was registered to Siders. Police set up surveillance outside of his listed address. They say just hours after the murder he pulled into the driveway driving the same car seen leaving the homicide scene.
When police arrested him, officers say they found the murder weapon in his waistband. Crime lab analysts examined the gun and determined it was used to fire the deadly shots on the highway and the shots fired outside of Shady Lady.
“Without the cameras, we would have never been able to catch this guy,” Rauzi said. “It would have been very hard.”
Police believe Siders shot at Barbara Harper’s car because he mistakenly thought it was the same car he was previously targeting.
When victims do not know their killers, cases can take months or even years to solve. Detectives believe current technology is changing that.
“Catching a homicide suspect in eight hours is incredible,” Rauzi said.
Kansas City police first used first license plate readers on patrol cars in 2010. Now, license plate readers are also installed on several traffic intersections around the city. The license plate readers and city cameras are being used to help police make arrests in a growing number of cases.
A license plate reader helped detectives make an arrest in the murder o Michael Garrett who was found shot near 63rd Street and Manchester Avenue on April 1.
The plate reader revealed the license plate on a truck that the killer was riding in at the time of the shooting.
Detectives discovered the truck was rented by Bryant Robinson who was paralyzed after he was shot in 2013. Robinson is now charged with murder accused of killing Garrett.
Garret was a suspect in the shooting that paralyzed Robinson years earlier.
A man known as the “Ninja Burglar” left a trail of broken glass and empty cash registers and product shelves at 28 Kansas City businesses until a license plate reader helped police make a break in the case.
“The police called him the "Ninja Burglar," The Hemp Haus CEO and Co-founder Eric Oligschlaeger said. “It stuck because he was covered head to toe. All you saw were the whites of his eyes.”
The burglar stole more than $100,000 worth of merchandise from The Hemp Haus.
“The detectives through checking out local business cameras found a photo of a car (driven by the person) that committed one of the burglaries,” Rauzi said. “It was just a side picture of the car.”
Investigators utilized a nearby license plate reader to look for similar cars driving in that area at the time the crime was committed. The reader captured a license plate number that detectives used to track down the owner of car Jashua J. Henderson.
When Henderson was arrested in January, police say they found clothing worn by the suspect during the business burglaries including shoes that matched shoe prints found at the crime scenes.
“What has been imagined in the past, is now becoming reality,” Rauzi said.
The Police Foundation of Kansas City has raised funds to purchase license plate readers for the Kansas City Police Department. Members of the organization hope to continue to fundraise to purchase additional license plate readers to be placed at intersections around the city.
“To make justice come quicker,” Rauzi said.
Harper’s husband believes cameras and license plate readers are the reason her killer was caught.
“That’s what got him,” Gary Harper said.
He said he is thankful for the officers who quickly made an arrest in her case.