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Friday's Fatal Shooting Linked to Series of Washington DC Sniper Attacks - 2002-10-12

News reports say law enforcement officials have linked Friday's fatal shooting in Virginia to a series of sniper attacks in the Washington area that have left at least eight people dead and two wounded. The shootings that have gained international attention have forced changes in plans for many Americans.

A 53-year-old businessman from the eastern city of Philadelphia is apparently the latest victim of a mysterious sniper in the Washington, D.C. area. Kenneth Bridges, a father of six children, was filling his vehicle with gasoline near Fredericksburg, Virginia, 50 kilometers south of Washington, when he was felled by one shot. A state police officer nearby heard the shot and ran to help, without seeing who did the shooting.

Local sheriff Major Howard Smith says authorities are dealing with a cold-blooded killer.

"With a uniformed trooper across the street, obviously we are dealing with an individual who is violent and doesn't care," Major Smith said.

The shooting prompted local and federal law enforcement officials to launch a massive search for the gunman. Traffic on nearby Interstate 95, a major East Coast artery, was reduced in places to one lane as officers, some clad in flak jackets and carrying automatic weapons, searched vehicles. There is, as yet, no suspect in the case.

The shootings began October second and are causing many people to alter their lifestyles. Many local schools have cancelled outdoor events and a number of people say they have curtailed activities in areas where they might be exposed to a sniper's bullet.

The killings are front-page news across the country, have drawn concern from the White House and involvement from investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal agencies.

Law enforcement officials are encouraging the public in the Washington area to report what they consider suspicious activities, such as people who suddenly have not been keeping to a regular schedule, or who are angry at police or express satisfaction with the shootings. A former federal law enforcement official who is an expert in profiling criminals, Greg MacCrary, says tips from citizens can be helpful in aprehending anyone responsible.

"He's not living in isolation," Mr. MacCrary said. "He's in this D.C. area, he or they are in this D.C. area. And, this is why it's so important that police get leads from the public."

Authorities are getting plenty of leads. As many as 1,000 calls an hour are pouring into a telephone hotline. They say it could be days or weeks before they filter through all the tips they have received.