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Sniper shootings linked

Same rifle used in at least 4 deaths

From Fran Lewine (CNN)

Robert Coram stops at a makeshift memorial for a victim killed at a gas station along Connecticut Avenue in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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Montgomery County police are looking for two people in a white truck or van in connection with the killings of five people, CNN's Bob Franken reports (October 3)
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ROCKVILLE, Maryland (CNN) -- The sniper shooting of a 72-year-old Washington, D.C. man has been linked to five earlier shooting deaths in nearby Montgomery County, Maryland, and police said on Friday that the same high-powered rifle was used in at least four of the killings.

"This evening the forensic laboratory linked the projectile from the D.C. shooting to three of the shootings that occurred in Montgomery County. As a result of that, they're able to tell now that four shootings were done from the same firearm," said Michael Bouchard, a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Tests on the slugs removed from the other two victims in Maryland were not yet complete.

Authorities also were considering the possibility that the same shooter or shooters may have shot and wounded a seventh victim, a woman at a mall in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Friday afternoon. She is in stable condition, authorities said.

The woman was shot with same caliber of bullet, a.223, used in at least some of the earlier shootings, a source close to the investigation said.

Also, Fredericksburg is less than 60 miles away from the area where the Maryland residents were killed. And the woman was shot in the parking lot of a Michaels crafts store at the Spotsylvania Mall. The shooting spree began Wednesday when a shot was fired through the window of Michaels Crafts Store in Wheaton, Maryland. No one was hit.

Tom Clary, a spokesman for Michaels stores, said there was no indication the chain was being specifically targeted.

Tip Line:
$50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people involved in shooting.

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

Two men are being sought in connection with the shootings. Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose appealed for a halt to the shootings.

"Again we implore him to surrender, to stop this madness," he said at a Friday night news conference.

Police have released these details on the attacks:

  • The first death occurred at 6:05 p.m. Wednesday when 55-year-old James D. Martin was shot in the parking lot of Shoppers Food Warehouse in Wheaton, Maryland.
  • On Thursday at 7:41 a.m., police were called and found James L. Buchanan, a 39-year-old landscaper identified as the son of a retired Montgomery County police officer. Buchanan was shot while mowing a lawn in front of a commercial establishment in Rockville, Maryland.
  • At 8:12 a.m. on Thursday, a caller reported the shooting death of Prenkumar Walekar, 54, a taxi driver from Olney, Maryland, who was killed while filling his minivan with gas at a Mobil station in Wheaton.
  • At 8:37 a.m. Thursday, Sarah Ramos, 34, was killed at a post office near Leisure World, a retirement community in Wheaton.
  • At 9:58 a.m. Thursday, Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera, 25, was reported shot in a Shell gas station in Kensington, Maryland, where she was vacuuming her van.
  • The Washington D.C. killing took place Thursday night, just over the border from Montgomery County. Pascal Charlot, 72, was shot in the chest as he was walking along Georgia Avenue about 9:15 p.m. and died less than an hour later at the hospital.
  • Victims chosen at random

    Authorities said each victim was killed with a single bullet, apparently was selected at random and did nothing to provoke the shootings. Police said the victims had no known links to each other.

    "They still all appear to be random victims," Moose said. "They don't appear to be anyone's enemy, don't appear to be involved in anything coordinated. Just simply random targets, innocent people who happen to be in the area and have been unduly harmed."

    The weapon could be anything from a banned assault rifle to a common hunting rifle, the chief said.

    Joseph Riehl, an ATF special agent, displayed to reporters samples of weapons and ammunition that, "based on preliminary forensics examinations," could have been used in the shootings.

    Showing a .223-caliber round, he said, "Essentially it's a .22-caliber projectile. We have four various types of rounds up here. They are varying degrees of the same thing."

    'You got a driver, you got a shooter'

    Police are searching for a white van, possibly an Isuzu or a Mitsubishi, that was seen Thursday speeding away from a post office moments after Sarah Ramos was shot dead. A witness told police two people were in the van.

    Moose said it is likely one of the two men was the sniper in all the killings. "My experience would say you got a driver, you got a shooter."

    Maryland State troopers and other law enforcement officers blanketed the area to seek the killer and calm a public on edge. "We wanted people in the county to see a highly visible patrol," Moose said.

    "I'm on edge. People in our community are on edge," Moose said.

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