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Search for Elusive Washington DC Area Sniper Continues - 2002-10-11

Another person has been shot dead while filling his car with gas near Washington D.C. and authorities are trying to determine whether it was the work of an elusive sniper who has already killed seven people in the Washington area this month. In nearby Northern Virginia, an intensive manhunt is underway for a suspect who authorities know little about.

Authorities say the way Friday's shooting was carried out, apparently at long range, is strikingly similar to the way seven other people have been gunned down over the past nine days. But police say it's too early to determine whether this latest killing is the work of the same sniper who has left an increasingly nervous capital region on edge.

Like the other killings, Friday's in Virginia is also believed to have been carried out with a single shot. And Howard Smith of the Spotsylvania County Sherrif's office told reporters the assailant was likely firing from a distance since whoever did it was apparently undeterred by the presence of a policeman just across the street.

"Obviously with a uniformed trooper right across the street, obviously we're dealing with an individual that's extremely violent and obviously doesn't care," he said.

Since early this month, seven people in the Washington region have been shot dead by an elusive sniper while going about the mundane chores of everyday life activities as ordinary as putting gas in their car to shopping. Two others have been shot and wounded by a suspect who investigators believe is roaming Washington and its suburbs with a military-style assault weapon or a hunting rifle - picking off targets from a distance.

FBI agents are examining evidence from the crime scenes, and at the White House, spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters President Bush is now receiving updates on the investigation and did not rule out the possibility of terrorism.

"The president has made it clear to the FBI and to the government, all agencies of the federal government, the importance of dedicating federal resources to help the local law enforcement community catch whoever is behind this," he said. "It is now a daily part of the president's FBI briefing."

The manhunt for the elusive sniper has now become so intense that police with heavy weapons have begun stopping and searching vehicles along the main north-south freeway connecting the nation's capital to the rest of the eastern seaboard. Schools have cancelled many outdoor activities and people across the Washington area are thinking twice before doing things as routine as stopping at gas stations or even sitting outside at restaurants.

So far, no suspects have been arrested and police appear to have little solid leads to go on, saying they are hoping a tip from the public leads to the sniper's arrest.