A sniper’s reign of terror.
The shooter, using a high powered rifle, guns down victims with a single shot. There were no attacks for several days but this week the sniper struck again, killing a 47-year-old woman in a nighttime attack on a shopping center parking lot in Northern Virginia.
It’s become a familiar crime scene for the killer, who is on the move, targeting people at random in open, well-lit public areas close to major roads.
THOMAS MANGER, FAIRFAX COUNTY POLICE CHIEF
“There are a number of ways that you can leave the shopping center.”
Within minutes of the last two shootings, police implemented massive dragnets. For hours they shut down major roads in the Washington area looking for the sniper and a cream-colored van seen leaving the crime scene.
The serial sniper has so far managed to elude police. But investigators are sounding more confident this week with reports suggesting witnesses may have seen the sniper. Fairfax County Police Chief Thomas Manger.
THOMAS MANGER, FAIRFAX COUNTY POLICE CHIEF
“There was some additional information we are able to get from last night’s case. I am confident to that ultimately that information will lead us to an arrest in this case.”
As the victims’ families hold funeral services the manhunt by police has intensified. More than 400 federal agents are now on the case and the Defense Department will provide sophisticated Army surveillance planes to help police search for the shooter.
Meanwhile President Bush, who called the attacks senseless, is updated daily on the investigation. Federal law enforcement authorities say they’ve found no indication that the shootings are linked to a foreign terrorist group.
But police remain guarded about the information they release. So far, publicly, the investigation has yielded few clues about the sniper. Only that the suspect may be driving a white van or a box delivery type truck like this one.
As the search for clues continues the police are on edge. A killer is on the loose fueling more fear around the nation’s capital.
In Montgomery County Maryland, where most of the shooting occurred, Police Chief Charles Moose says investigators are making progress in the case. However he could offer little comfort to citizens who want to know how to protect themselves.
CHARLES MOOSE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE CHIEF
“I would like to think that I have got the words to keep people calm but I am not sure I do.”
The killer has been relentless, random and effective in his shooting spree. Last week the sniper critically wounded a 13-year-old boy as he was being dropped off at school.
Now shaken parents, escort their children to school and try to explain to them how to cope with anxiety.
“He was a little bit nervous last night but we talked and I explained to him, look there are a lot of bad people in the world and let law enforcement try to deal with this guy but we have to get on with our lives.”
The sniper attacks have also changed the patterns of lives. The way people in this area go about their most routine activities.
Some, fearful of the sniper, keep a look out at gas stations and are on the move to avoid being an easy target. Some others even stand their ground wearing bullet-proof vests. There are also other noticeable changes.
REPORTER ON CAMERA
“Normally on a Saturday afternoon this soccer field in Montgomery County would be filled with children playing in different tournaments. But because of the fear created by the sniper attacks in this county all outdoor activities have been cancelled.”
For the last two weeks most area schools have been under so-called lockdowns. Students are prevented from going outside and after school recreational activities cancelled.
As extra security is put in place, police hope to put together a composite sketch of the sniper. Until then officials, like Maryland Governor Parris Glendenning, can only plead with the killer to give up.
PARRIS GLENDENING, MARYLAND GOVERNOR
“I really think if there is any message for this individual is, to turn himself in to stop this insane killing. “
As this frightened region tries to cope. Police investigators remain hopeful that thousands of tips coming into a telephone taskforce center will generate the right piece of information that will lead to the arrest of the serial sniper. Chris Simkins VOA-TV Washington.