Police near Washington believe they have the men and the gun responsible for a series of sniper attacks over the past three weeks that have terrorized the entire metropolitan region.
Authorities in Maryland have two suspects in custody, arrested after police caught them napping in a car early Thursday at a highway rest stop about 100 kilometers northwest of Washington.
Prosecutors meet Friday to prepare charges related to the shootings against 41-year-old John Allen Muhammad and 17-year-old John Lee Malvo.
Authorities say a rifle retrieved from the car has been matched to bullets used in most of the sniper attacks that killed 10 people and wounded three others over the past three weeks.
This is Montgomery County, Maryland, Police Chief Charles Moose. "We now consider them suspects in the string of shootings in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia," said Cheif Mosse. "Tomorrow, prosecutors from all involved jurisdictions will be meeting to discuss the filing of charges against John Allen Muhammad and a juvenile in this case."
Both men appeared in federal court Thursday on charges unrelated to the sniper attacks.
The drama began to unfold in the early morning hours of Thursday. Police arrested the two men without incident as they found them sleeping in a car at a highway rest stop in Maryland after a tip from a nearby motorist.
John Allen Muhammad is a U.S. Army veteran who served in the Gulf War and left active military duty in 1994. Although he was not trained as a sniper, Mr. Muhammad was given a badge for expert marksmanship during his time in the service.
Several years ago, Mr. Muhammad converted to Islam. The Seattle Times newspaper quoted unidentified federal law enforcement officials as saying both Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo had spoken sympathetically about the hijackers who carried out the September 11 terrorist attacks.
It now appears the suspects may have triggered their own demise. Investigators caught a break when one of the two men called the police tip line and boasted about his involvement in a September robbery and murder in Alabama. Police were able to link a fingerprint from that crime scene to John Lee Malvo.
News of the arrests brought a collective sigh of relief in the Washington area where local residents had been fearful of going about such everyday activities as gassing up their cars and sending their children off to school.
Doug Duncan is the Montgomery County Executive. "Throughout this horrible ordeal, the residents of this community proved that faith and hope always triumphs over darkness and despair," said Doug Duncan.
If the two suspects are convicted of carrying out the sniper attacks, they could face the death penalty.