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Washington DC Area Police Suffer Setback in Sniper Investigation - 2002-10-17

The search for a serial sniper who has killed nine people in the Washington D.C. area has been dealt an apparent setback. Police say a person who claimed to have seen the sniper in action turned out not to be a credible witness. The massive investigation that continues to frustrate authorities across the Washington region.

A witness who police say had claimed to have seen the sniper fatally shoot a woman outside a home improvement store in Virginia Monday night is now being discounted. So are the widely broadcast descriptions of the getaway vehicle.

"The information provided by one of the witnesses at the scene of the shooting at Home Depot describing a creme-colored van with a malfunctioning taillight is not credible," said Tom Manger, chief of police in Virginia's Fairfax County.

Authorities are not saying what discredited the alleged witness. But in Maryland, Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose, who is leading the regional investigation into the serial sniper attacks, thinks the person may have deliberately misled investigators.

The setback means that after two weeks of intensive investigation, authorities are still unable to tell the public anything about the identity of an elusive killer who continues to frighten the Washington region.

"When we have a person, a photograph, we will deal with that, but at this point we do not have that," Chief Moose said.

The sniper has killed nine people and seriously wounded two others since early this month.