Accessibility links

Sniper Turns Washington DC Area into 'Fear City'

Another sniper shooting near Washington has left police scrambling for leads and local residents gripped by fear. The shootings are taking a toll on those who live in the greater Washington area.

"Good morning, there has been another shooting outside of Washington, this time in northern Virginia," says NBC television host Matt Lauer as he greets his Today show audience.

The nightmare continues for those who live in and around Washington.

FBI analyst Linda Franklin became the latest victim of the sniper Monday night when she was gunned down in a shopping center parking lot in Falls Church, Virginia.

Police say there is no indication that Ms. Franklin was targeted because she was with the FBI. Rather, they believe that she is the latest in a series of victims chosen by the shooter at random. So far, the shootings have claimed nine lives, wounded two others and spread fear throughout the metropolitan area.

VOA's Joy Zucker just happened to pull into the shopping center parking lot late Monday where the latest shooting took place.

"There is no question the fear was written on everybody's face," she said. "I think more so than ever, individuals stood there in absolute disbelief that this had actually hit their community. We just didn't feel that we were going to be a target and they want to continue feeling like they are not a target. They want to see a resolution [of the case]."

The shootings have affected how local residents go about their daily activities. Children are kept inside at school. Joggers bob and weave as they run to avoid becoming a target. And many people are reluctant to gas up their cars since several shootings have occurred at filling stations.

But most people, including this woman near the U.S. Capitol, are trying to keep to their daily routines.

"These crazy guys who are doing this, whoever is doing it, hopefully they will stop them soon," she said.

Even tourists visiting Washington acknowledge the sniper shootings have put them on edge. Mike Schmid is from Iowa and is in town to visit his daughter.

"I think 9-11 was more of a shock than this," he said. "Unfortunately, the way the country is going, this is getting to be something routine."

The sniper shootings dominate local and national news broadcasts and that, in turn, allows crime experts, psychiatrists and even average citizens to speculate endlessly about who is doing the shooting and why.

Criminologist James Fox told CBS television that it is likely the sniper is paying close attention to the news reports.

"Well, he is turning the entire region into his own personal shooting gallery and enjoying the sport of it. He is also enjoying holding the entire region in his grip of terror," he said. "At the same time, I am sure he enjoys the notoriety he has achieved and, of course, the cat and mouse game that he is playing with the police. A game, by the way, that he is winning."

Police insist it is only a matter of time before they crack the case, but so far have revealed little about the evidence they have gathered to the general public. They have twice ordered massive roadblocks after shootings in Virginia, only to see the sniper escape.

At times, their frustration shows through, as it did in an exchange between a reporter and Fairfax County Police Chief Tom Manger.

Manger: "I have confidence that this task force is going to ultimately make an arrest in this case."

Reporter: "Why?"

Manger: "Because I know what kind of police work they are doing, that's why."

The public, meanwhile, is dealing with its own frustrations as well, wondering when it will be once again safe to go out shopping, gas up the car or take a child to school.