KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP/KMOX) – Immigration authorities last year sought to detain a Mexican national charged with killing five men in Kansas and Missouri this week, but they sent the detention order to an agency that didn’t have him in custody.
It was not the first time Pablo Antonio Serrano-Vitorino, who was in the U.S. illegally, eluded U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to the agency. In 2015, officials from a Kansas county where Serrano-Vitorino faced domestic battery charges queried federal immigration officials about him because he was born outside the country, but ICE didn’t respond before the county let him go.
A man suspected of fatally shooting four people at his neighbor’s home in Kansas before killing another man about 170 miles away in a rural Missouri house was taken into custody early Wednesday morning after an extensive manhunt, the Missouri Highway Patrol said.
The Highway Patrol told the Kansas City Star that Pablo Antonio Serrano-Vitorino was arrested in Montgomery Co., Missouri. The suspect was found lying face down on a hill just north of Interstate 70 and no shots were fired, the newspaper reported. That location is near a McDonald’s and several motels.
“He looked exhausted,” Sgt. James Hedrick said.
Serrano-Vitorino, a Mexican national who authorities said was in the country illegally, is accused of fatally shooting four men late Monday night at his neighbor’s home in Kansas City, Kansas. One of those men called police before he died. He was also wanted in connection with the shooting death of 49-year-old Randy Nordman in Montgomery County.
Representatives for the Missouri Highway Patrol and Kansas City, Kansas, police department could not immediately be reached by The Associated Press.
The manhunt for him that included helicopters, police dogs and at least one SWAT team began late Monday after the first shooting. It’s unclear how the men knew each other or what may have prompted the shooting, Kansas City police officer Thomas Tomasic said.
The manhunt shifted Tuesday, when a truck Serrano-Vitorino was believed to be driving was found about 7 a.m. abandoned along I-70 in central Missouri, about 80 miles west of St. Louis.
About 25 minutes later, sheriff’s deputies responded to a shooting about 5 miles away at a Montgomery County home and found the body of 49-year-old Nordman, according to the patrol. Highway Patrol Lt. Paul Reinsch said a witness who called 911 reported seeing a man running from Nordman’s property, launching a manhunt of that area.
The patrol said Tuesday that Serrano-Vitorino was considered dangerous and may be armed with an AK-47. A rifle was recovered at the time of the arrest, though Captain Jon Hotz could not confirm whether it was an assault rifle.
Reinsch said investigators weren’t aware of any connection between Serrano-Vitorino and Nordman, whose home is near his family’s campground and a racetrack for remote-controlled cars.
Authorities haven’t released the names of the four Kansas victims. Serrano-Vitorino was charged with four counts of first-degree murder in their killings, Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome Gorman said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement Tuesday night that Serrano-Vitorino, of Mexico, had been deported from the U.S. in April 2004 and illegally re-entered “on an unknown date.” ICE said it would place a detainer on Serrano-Vitorino if he is taken into custody. However, when he was arrested last fall, ICE officials sent the detainer to the wrong address, which led to Serrano-Vitorino’s release. ICE says it regrets the error.
Capt. Hotz says he’s grateful there was no further loss of life after the crime spree in Kansas, and the homicide in Montgomery Co., and says “Of course, we want to extend our condolences to the families who have lost loved ones during the course of this crime spree.”
A video of part of the manhunt can be viewed HERE.
Following the arrest, Gov. Jay Nixon issued the following statement:
“I commend the outstanding work of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and all the law enforcement agencies that worked together yesterday into early this morning to capture and arrest an armed and dangerous fugitive wanted for four murders and suspected in a fifth,” Nixon said. “Once again in a highly dangerous situation, the Patrol and Missouri local law enforcement officers courageously worked to protect the citizens of Missouri. Their brave action serves as another reminder of the debt we all owe to the men and women who wear the badge and dedicate their lives to public safety.”
–Jessica Machetta, KMOX reporter, contributed to this story.
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