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Sniper keeps DC area on edge


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Sniper keeps D.C. area on edge

Tuesday, October 8, 2002 Posted: 7:09 PM EDT (2309 GMT)


Tip lines:



$237,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people involved in the shootings.


Suspect vehicle:

White van, possibly an Isuzu or a Mitsubishi, with black lettering on the side.

BOWIE, Maryland (CNN) -- An intense manhunt for the sniper who killed six people with a high-powered rifle and wounded two others kept greater Washington on edge Tuesday, but police reported no specific progress in identifying a suspect.

In response to Monday's shooting of a 13-year-old boy outside a middle school here in Prince George's County, schools throughout the metropolitan area kept children inside.

Even the popular Starbucks coffee shop chain, known for its casual atmosphere, suspended outdoor seating at its 143 stores in Washington and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs.

Jittery parents walked or drove their children to school as state and local police patrolled, looking for anything suspicious.

Schools in Prince George's County and adjacent Montgomery County were open but under a "code blue" lockdown, meaning all outdoor activities and field trips were canceled. Overall school attendance was low, but not abnormally so, officials said.

Attendance at the school where the boy was shot Monday was down 34 percent, according to a school official. The victim's name has not been made public.

In Washington, Capitol Police alerted members of Congress that unspecified "added precautionary measures" were being implemented by local law enforcement.

"There is no indication that a threat is directed toward the Capitol or members of Congress," the House sergeant-at-arms said in a memo to lawmakers and their staffs.

"However, we are asking everyone to exercise an abundance of caution at work and at home until the situation is resolved. This would include reducing outside activities to the extent possible."

The memo also asked that "any suspicious or curious activity" be reported to Capitol Police.

The White House called the outbreak of violence "traumatic" and "scary." (Full story)

Investigators -- about 100 from Montgomery County and 95 from other agencies -- sifted through hundreds of tips and leads and continued searching for a suspicious white van seen near one of the shootings.

Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose said no incidents were reported Tuesday.

Moose said he felt "positive" about the progress in the case, "but I understand that it is a complex case, and I don't want to build any false hope." He said 1,250 leads have been developed from more than 6,000 phone calls.

"Our investigation continues full speed ahead," said Moose, who balked at framing theories, discussing profiles and speculating on motives, indicating he wants potential tipsters to keep open minds about the crimes.

Five people were shot and killed in Montgomery County during a 16-hour period from Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

A sixth victim was shot dead Thursday night on a Washington street. A seventh person was wounded Friday in Virginia. She was released from Inova Fairfax hospital Tuesday afternoon, a spokeswoman said. (Trail of the sniper)

The boy, who was shot once in the chest after he got out of a car outside Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, was in critical but stable condition Tuesday. He was on a ventilator after more than two hours of surgery in which doctors removed his spleen and parts of his stomach and pancreas.

Each of the victims was shot once with a .223-caliber bullet, and police said the victims appeared to have been picked at random. (Tracing the bullets)

The boy "is continuing to respond quite nicely," said Dr. Martin Eichelberger, the boy's surgeon. "We're really encouraged he's made it this far."

Eichelberger said he is "guardedly optimistic" the boy will continue to improve. "We feel quite fortunate and humbled by the fact that he's still with us today."

Prince George's County police conducted a search early Tuesday at an apartment two miles from the middle school where the boy was shot. But Police Chief Gerald Wilson said the search "has not led us to a perpetrator" and that no suspect is in custody.

Evidence from the scene was recovered and turned over to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. A police spokesman said weapons were being examined, but he would not confirm what was removed from the apartment.

Wilson also warned the county's local "homegrown criminal element" not to take advantage of the police focus on the shootings to commit crimes.

Moose would not say whether his department has conducted similar searches in Montgomery County.

Duncan: 'Fourth funeral in four days'

Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan said he went to several schools in the area Tuesday to reassure students and parents that law enforcement agencies were working hard to find the killer.

He also said he wanted to reassure the families of the victims.

"Tomorrow I'm going to my fourth funeral in four days. The devastation that these killings has caused to these four families is horrible, these families are absolutely devastated with what has happened here," Duncan said at an afternoon news conference.

"I want to make sure the families know we're doing everything we can to try to bring them some peace, to try to bring them some closure, by finding and arresting whoever did this."

Authorities said the reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer or killers has risen to $237,000 -- $100,000 from the state, $50,000 from Montgomery County and another $10,000 from a victims' rights foundation. The remainder of the money came from private contributions, including a $50,000 donation from a California man.

Moose said investigators were pursuing geographical and psychological profiles and a "bountiful amount" of information had been gleaned.

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