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Prince George's County Police Hold Press Conference

Aired October 7, 2002 - 11:34   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We've just been notified that the press conference in Prince George's County should be getting underway in just a couple of minutes, and we'll take you there live once that does get underway.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And while we are waiting for that to happen, let's bring in our Bob Franken, who is on the scene there at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, Maryland -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a different police chief than the one we've seen in the past several days. This is Gerald Wilson, who is the chief of Prince George's County, another suburban Maryland -- suburb of Washington, county adjacent to Montgomery County, where the first five deaths were reported. And of course, over the weekend, another -- a sixth person was shot, this person in Virginia, also not far from Washington.

But, the police have not made it clear that they believe that there is a direct connection between the shootings. We've not been able to get definitive word on that. Some questions have been raised about that. The type of weapon and all that, but those are only questions at this particular point. Obviously, the investigation has been operating on the premise that there is some sort of connection.

There is a sort of a coalition of forces from the various jurisdictions around the area. Meanwhile, at Benjamin Tasker Junior High School, through much of the morning, parents have been coming at the instruction of the school, and taking their children out. Parents who, of course, were very nervous on many of the occasions, but methodically taking their children out of the school. They are still are.

School officials say, however, that the rest of the schools in Prince George's County will remain open under what they call a "code blue" situation. We've become familiar with that term in the last several days.

What it amounts to is a lock-in. That is to say that students will not be allowed outside the building, but officials want the kids to stay in school. No recess. No children leaving for the lunch hour. Obviously no extracurricular activities like athletic events, that kind of thing.

As I said, we're waiting for the police chief to begin to tell us what he knows about this. As far as the parents are concerned, we've been hearing from them throughout the morning, and their obvious concern. We got just a short while ago a description from one of the students who was inside just what it was like as this was happening.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't see much of the incident, but I just saw a lot of police officers, and you guys weren't here yet, but I saw a lot of police officers, and they -- all the teachers told us to run into the building, and teachers were closing up the windows -- they told us to stay away from the windows just in case it happened again, and a lot of kids were crying. That's all I saw, really.


FRANKEN: That was a young child by the name of Andrew Kim (ph) who was with his father, saying that for awhile it seemed a bit chaotic, but things were very quickly brought under control -- Leon.

KAGAN: And Bob, we want to clarify that all the kids you are talking to, you're doing it with the permission of their parents who have come to pick them up from school.

FRANKEN: Yes, as a matter of fact, and many of them, in fact, want their children to tell us what it is they saw.

HARRIS: Bob, last time I asked you what the parents were telling you about whether or not they'd take their kids back. Are the kids saying anything about whether they want to come back to school?

FRANKEN: Most of them -- you know how kids are about this age. It's sort of a shrug of the shoulder. It is almost like somebody that age, a word they use more than any other is the word "whatever."

The police chief right now has arrived. He's in a brief consultation with some of his colleagues in government right now. I also see that there's a person here from the Montgomery -- from the Maryland State Police. Sort of brings up a point that I want to bring up, that when something like this happens in this area, there's a huge number of different police agencies, more than you probably find anywhere else, because this is the federal city, Washington, D.C., that's at the core. At any rate, they all converged on the area, so you have Maryland State Police, you have the different federal agencies. You have, of course, in this particular case, the local police force, which is Prince George's County Police.

If I could give you, just as we are waiting here, a quick little primer on this. Prince George's County is adjacent to Montgomery County, both of them are adjacent to Washington, D.C.

On the other side of the city in Virginia, some distance out, there was the shooting on Saturday, which has been connected to all of this. So obviously, the immediate assumption is that there is some sort of direct connection between the shootings, but that bears investigating. Something that really requires some idea of the weapons that are involved, and police are saying that they were not able to tell us with assurance that there was a connection. Perhaps we'll hear more when the chief talks in just a moment. As I said, he continues to huddle with some of his advisers right now. KAGAN: Although it seems with the earlier shootings last Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, they were only able to completely make that connection when they did ballistics tests.


FRANKEN: Well, that plus the initial reaction they give is when they get some idea of the type of wound, and obviously, we don't want to go into too much detail, but the weapons -- the bullets that have been used in the shootings that have occurred earlier were very destructive .223 caliber. It's a very, very powerful, powerful bullet that does rather large damage. The cursory look here at the victim will be the first indication they have whether they believe that they're on the same track or not. Obviously, as you point out, more scientific evidence is a little slower in coming.

KAGAN: And there's always a possibility if, indeed, these shootings were related, that the sniper could have changed weapons.

FRANKEN: Well, there's any number of possibilities, and of course, the other thing that you always have to keep in mind is there's nothing sacrosanct about Prince George's County or Montgomery County or Washington, D.C. Those are just imaginary lines that are drawn on maps with highways that make it very easy to move from one to the other.

Now, we have the police chief, who is beginning to move into the range of the cameras. He is sort of taking a look at all the cameras.

As I said, this is going to be the first official word from the chief, and he's being escorted up there by the public affairs person. So let's hear what they have to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Glover, he's the chief administrative officer for the county, he will speak first. Then, after that, we will have Chief Wilson, he will speak after that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kenneth Glover, chief administrative officer.

QUESTION: He's first?


QUESTION: He's first?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. He will be first, and then after that will be Chief Gerald Wilson. After they finish making their statements, they will entertain a few questions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kenneth Glover. Kenneth Glover.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kenneth Glover. KENNETH GLOVER, CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER: Good morning. First of all, let me thank all of you for coming out and being responsible in covering what has happened.

The second thing, though, to send out to the citizens of Prince George's County is that at this point, nor ever should there be a reason to panic. The police department, working with other municipalities, as well as other departments within county government, have actually taken the opportunity to make sure that we really investigate.

One of the reasons I'm here is to at least suggest to all of you that there's been a lot of information flowing around, a lot of which is not accurate.

What we're trying to do in this and future discussions is centralize the flow of information so you can get the best information and the most factual piece of information.

Chief Wilson's going to talk to you about the facts as we know them to this point in time, but in addition to that, there are some other services that the county has brought in. We are encouraging, and you've heard from the superintendent of schools, the CEO of schools, that schools stay in focus, because this is -- and stay in session, because it's the best way that we can secure those young citizens who are in school.

The second thing, knowing that this is a traumatic experience, we have made arrangements to have mental health crisis intervention and other services of support. Again, probably the most important thing to keep in mind is that at this point in time, there's been a lot of information flowing around, a lot of facts kind of -- not facts being circulated. And the best information that we have at this point will be offered by the chief of police, Gerald Wilson.

GERALD WILSON, CHIEF OF POLICE, PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY: This morning at approximately 8:09 a.m., officers received a call for a shooting. The victim of the shooting, a 13-year-old young man, was transported to the Bowie Hospital here in Prince George's County. From there, he was medevaced to a local area hospital. What occurred is, based on what we have at this point, is that the young man was dropped off at school this morning.

After he was dropped off, his guardian, who had just dropped him off, noticed that he was slumped over and believes that they may have heard a gunshot. They turned around -- as they were leaving him, they turned around, and they went back, and as the guardian approached him, she was informed by the young man that he believed he had been shot. At that moment, he was then transported immediately to the Bowie Hospital.

School here, I understand, opens between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m., so there were not many witnesses at that time. There were a couple of students, and of course, the guardian, that we are speaking to to try to get information from them. At this time, we do not know for certain that this case is related to any other case that's occurred recently in the Washington metropolitan area. We are, however, working with the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and we're going to provide them with any physical evidence that we receive, particularly in the form of a bullet so that that can be -- whether this case is related to any other cases, can be determined.

We're asking now, as we've done before with great success, for the citizens of Prince George's County and others, for those who may have information as to who may be responsible for this heinous act this morning, to please call our Crime Solvers number, which you have, and if you don't have it, I will give it to you at this point, and this is a toll-free number, 1-800-673-2777 -- 1-800-673-2777.

At this point I will answer a few questions.

QUESTION: Chief Wilson, how confident are you that you can secure the perimeters of the school, not just in the schools, but as parents come and go, how confident can you secure the streets and the grounds around the school?

WILSON: We're confident that working with our school system, which has a very effective security system, that we can provide security for our schools and for our students. As we know, sometimes people take advantage of circumstances, and do hurt people, and that's what we believe happened this morning.

QUESTION: Chief, if the young man was able to talk to his guardian, was he able to say anything at the hospital? Did you get any good information from him before he was taken to surgery?

WILSON: My understanding is that we do not have any information from the victim about who may have shot him. OK -- let me just say one another thing. There was a call earlier at a Wal-Mart, not far from here that someone had been shot. We are and our tactical units are ensuring that we're covering any areas that we believe someone may go and try to hurt someone. So we are being proactive with the resources that we have. That shooting, however, was not confirmed.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: There have been talk of this being a .22 caliber slug, not a .223. There was apparently a quick look, and word is that it was a .22, also that this young man was involved in some sort of a dispute or something, fracas, that got him kicked off his bus this morning.

WILSON: OK. At this point, in reference to the round, rather than to speculate, why don't we just wait a little while, and we'll tell you exactly, at least based on what ATF can tell us, what it is, and I hope that we'll be able to do that.

In terms -- let me get through the second part of his question, ma'am. In terms of any conduct on the part of the victim, at this point, we're looking into that. It certainly is, you know, we have to find out, or I'd like to know why his guardian was bringing him to school this morning. I don't know why. But at this point, this young man did nothing to be shot this morning as he went to school. So at this point right now, my thoughts and prayers are with him. My focus is on finding out who did it, and that's my answer to that. Yes, sir. One second. This guy here.

QUESTION: ... secured for search the park and/or the undeveloped private property in the general vicinity here?

WILSON: We have put officers in position to secure areas that we want to search. As you know, the Prince George's County Police Department has a state-of-the-art aviation unit, which was in the air, just like many of you all's helicopters were, but ours was here right away, and it is equipped with a lot of technology that makes it pretty effective in searching these areas. They say the helicopter is the equivalent of 30 officers, and so, it, in fact, is helping us to secure it -- the area, as well as officers on the ground -- yes?


WILSON: One second.

QUESTION: Did the bullet exit?

WILSON: Did the bullet exit? At this point, I don't know for certain if it did. I do not believe that it did. However, in terms of the type of bullet and that type of thing, we'll get back to you on that. One second. Mr. Stockwell (ph).

QUESTION: How many times has he been shot?

WILSON: No, I don't want to -- once we do the -- once the medical professionals tell us how many injuries they found -- you know, that's not our level of expertise. So we'll let the physicians tell us how many times he has been shot, and then we will, if it's appropriate, release that information. At this point, I don't see it being so.

QUESTION: Could you tell us where he has been shot?

WILSON: He's been shot in his torso -- yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Have you put police at other schools -- other county schools?

WILSON: At this point, we have -- at least in this area, we have officers at other schools. We have a number of other agencies. I don't want to miss anyone, but other agencies have come to the command post that we have set up, offering their assistance.

And so we are deploying them at other schools. And so we want to make sure, certainly, that the parents -- I appreciate you asking me that, we want to reassure our parents that other schools in Prince George's County right now are being visited by members of the Prince George's County Police Department and other law enforcement officials who have come in to assist us.

QUESTION: Is there anything at this point that would lead you to suspect this is related to the other shootings that occurred?

WILSON: At this point, no, sir, nothing would -- other than we don't have a suspect, anybody could have done it as far as we know at this point. But I don't have anything to take me over the edge to say dog gone it, this is related to what's been going on in the region. So, at this point, no, I cannot say for a fact that this is related to anything else that's occurred in the Washington metropolitan area.

QUESTION: Is that because you don't know --

QUESTION: Do you have any leads at all?

WILSON: At this point, no, we don't have any leads. We hope that the community, as they've done in the past, will call us and give us the information that we need so we can get this person off the street. I'm going to answer a couple more questions, and then I'll come back to you later on.

QUESTION: Do you have any information about what distance, the location the shot was fired from?

WILSON: No, we don't have any information in terms of the distance. However, once again, fortunately here in Prince George's County we have a state-of-the-art firearms examination unit. We have nationally known forensics people. And so, working with the physicians at the hospital, we should hopefully be able to get a range on that. But at this point I can't answer that. But we'll get back to you with the pertinent information. Last question, and ---.

Excuse me?

QUESTION: Are there any witnesses?

WILSON: My understanding is that there were -- this is last answer. There were some young people in the vicinity who were early, and we are debriefing them as well. I don't want to comment on their status at this point, except to say that we are debriefing everyone that we're aware of. We are going to be talking to people in the community. And certainly we hope that if anyone has any information that would assist us in quickly closing this case, that they would bring that information forward. Thank you.

KAGAN: All right. We were listening in to Chief Wilson, chief of police for Prince George's County, giving us the latest information on what took place. Almost four hours ago at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, Maryland, a 13-year-old boy being escorted to school by his aunt, dropped off at school, and then the aunt reports that she heard a gunshot, looked over at her nephew and saw that he was slumped over. He apparently turned to his aunt and said he had been shot. She was a very quick thinking adult, scooped him up, and took him to a local medical center where he was transported to a local Children's Hospital. As we understand, he is in surgery as we speak.

About two hours from now, we do expect a news conference from Children's National Hospital. That would be with the doctors currently conducting that surgery.

Some other interesting tidbits we learned from that news conference. First of all, the shooting took place at 8:09 a.m. We knew that. But from the news conference, we learned that school opens at 8:30. So he was early. This young man was early for school and because of that, when the shooting took place, not as crowded as the school might have been.

And once again, the chief of police in Prince George's County stressing it is not clear at this point if this shooting is related, indeed, to the shootings that have gotten so much attention that took place last week in the adjoining county, Montgomery County.

HARRIS: It does point up one of the other common themes or common elements of the other shootings, it did happen at an early hour. The shootings that happened last week, the spree that began in Montgomery County, was Wednesday evening to the late night/early morning hours. Let's go now to Bob Franken who's standing by there at Tasker Middle School -- Bob.

FRANKEN: In what is probably the most consistent thread, Leon, is, to pick up on your point, is that the chief said that they have no leads, at least none that he's going to tell us about. Of course given the fact that there has been such an element of surprise in this, that has been something that has perplexed authorities from the beginning, that there's been a real shortage of leads.

What they do have is a couple of children who heard the shot and perhaps the guardian. There's some talk about that the child who was hit, a 13-year-old who's undergoing surgery now, might have been, for whatever reason, not allowed on the school bus this morning, and that's why his guardian was taking him to school, which would have put him in harm's way, which seemed to be the assumption at this point, simply by happenstance.

The police chief also said that they are not able at this point to find out if any of the remnants of the bullet in the child as the operation is going on, nor are they able to say whether the child was hit more than once, only that he was hit in the torso, to quote the chief.

So what you're getting here is another case of the frustration that so envelopes the police investigators. That is to say it's very, very hard to come up with clues. He of course gave the local crime solver number. I'm going to just tell you what it is, although of course most of the people who would be wanting to use it will be in the area. It's 800-673-2777. This of course follows a rash of shootings last week in Montgomery County which is adjacent to Prince George's County. As we mentioned earlier, geographical boundaries are really just really fictions in this day and age, particularly with highways which mean in a matter of minutes you can get from one place to the other, as evidenced by the shooting maybe 35, 40 miles away in Virginia this weekend.

So in any case, that is the situation for the last several days. Whoever has been doing this has held the entire area in a state of nervousness. But, again, we witnessed this morning that people who are concerned, the very parents of the children who go to this school, were still operating in a methodical, calm manner. And that is something the authorities are pushing very hard to maintain.

Leon, back to you.

HARRIS: Thanks, Bob. Bob Franken reporting live from that scene there in Prince George's County, Maryland.

Also we did clear up what happened at that Wal-Mart this morning. Police say that they've resolved that there was no shooting incident at the Wal-Mart. We did have live pictures of that, and there was concern there might have been another shooting there. That was not the case.

KAGAN: That's going to do it for us. Wolf Blitzer from Washington, D.C., that's very close to the site of these shootings, is going to step in at the top of the hour. Also another news conference expected at the top of the hour. So don't go far from your television set. Leon and I will see you tomorrow morning.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We're monitoring a breaking story in the Washington, D.C. area. Shootings, more - another shooting earlier today in Prince George's County just outside Washington, D.C., just outside Montgomery County. A shooting of a 13-year-old boy as he was dropped off going to a middle school in this greater Washington, D.C. area. There is no word, no official confirmation, no indication right now that this is connected to the earlier shootings. Six people killed, one injured over the past few days in the greater Washington, D.C. area. Five of them killed in suburban Maryland, one killed in suburban Virginia.

Our Bob Franken is in Prince George's County now covering this story. And as we go to Bob, I want to alert our viewers, we're also standing by for a statement, a news conference from the Montgomery County police chief, with the latest developments.

Bob, what can you tell us right now?

FRANKEN: Well, like the shooting in Virginia, the person here was wounded. The child in this particular case was a 13-year-old child, unidentified, who was going to school where I am right now, Benjamin Tasker Junior High School, a student body of about 700 people. It happened shortly after 8:00 this morning. The child was brought here by a guardian, who, when she saw that the young kid had been shot, immediately picked him up and taken to a local health center here, where he was given paramedic training (ph) before being moved to Children's Hospital.

That's where he is right now, he's in surgery, they describe his condition as critical but stable. Now, once again, the police in Prince George's County say that they have no solid leads. Now, their frustration has been from the first time that since this happens with such a surprise, there's almost nobody who has provided much eyewitness information. They are oftentimes having trouble finding the bullets. They don't know in this particular case what kind of caliber bullet that there was, although there has been some of the officers saying it might not be the same as those in the earlier shootings. But any remnants of the bullet would be in the child, which right now means that it's off-limits because surgeons are trying to save his life.

As a matter of fact, the police chief, who just completed his news conference, Wolf, said, he couldn't even say for certain how many times the child had been shot. In the case of the others, who were shot and wounded, it was one shot -- one shot in each particular case.

Now, the police say that their investigation is going on. This is Prince George's County, which is adjacent to Montgomery County -- both suburban counties of Washington, D.C. And as suburbs of Washington, D.C., there are a huge number of agencies with particular expertise who can be brought in, and they have mutual aid pacts, so that all do converge on the area, and that's what's happened this morning.

PG County, as it's called, has a very sophisticated helicopter that's up in the air. There is a huge effort now to try and maintain the security of the county, and in particular, the schools.

Now, this school is being let out. It's a crime scene, so the parents were encouraged to pick up their children, which they did throughout the morning. But the other schools in Prince George's County are being kept open.

Again, we've learned the term Code Blue. It amounts to a lock- in. The students are not allowed to go outside. There will be no extracurricular activities, no lunch hours, no recesses --anything outside the building until the close of the school day.

So, they have held on to this very tragic, sad routine now, as police try and piece this one together and find out if, in fact, it is connected to the other shootings, which have put the Washington area into what has to be described as a "state of siege" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Bob Franken, stand by, I want to come back to you.

But Jeanne Meserve is also covering the story. She is in Montgomery County. We're getting ready for another news conference from the Montgomery County police chief, Charles Moose.

Jeanne, tell us what they're saying and what you're hearing right now.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are saying the same thing that Prince George's County police are saying. They do not know, at this point, if there is any connection between the shooting this morning and the apparent sniper shootings last week that took place in this country and the District of Colombia, and also down on Spotsylvania, Virginia.

They have sent investigators over to the scene. They also have sent forensics efforts -- experts, rather.

A couple of the critical pieces of information that they want to pin down: One, the ballistics. We heard last week that the round used here was a .223 round. They will want to determine if the same sort of weapon was used in the shooting this morning in Prince George's.

Another critical question will be the range of the shooting. Was this individual shot from a distance, as those were last week?

Now, geography is, of course, one of the reasons why this shooting this morning raised alarm bells here. Prince George's is right next door, as Bob Franken mentioned.

Another thing was the hour that the shooting took place. I have a list in front of me of the shootings that took place in Montgomery County last Thursday. They took place at 7:41, 8:12, 8:37 and 9:58 a.m. And so, the fact that this was another morning shooting did raise concerns here.

Investigators here say that they had been concerned about the start of a new work week. They were afraid that this would produce a target-rich environment for the sniper. They had, in this county, protectively put Maryland state police outside some of the schools. But of course, the shooting this morning didn't take place here. It took place next door.

We are expecting a briefing in just a moment's time. Hopefully, we'll get some updated information on any connection, if, indeed, there is one -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And tell our viewers, Jeanne, what the police -- Montgomery County police mean when they say, they brought in a geographic profiler to help them try to narrow down some of the leads.

MESERVE: Well, let me tell you first that they also have some personality profile information. That was developed over the weekend by the FBI and was shared with officials here in Montgomery County. They aren't giving us any specifics on that, because they want to preserve the integrity of this investigation.

The same thing is true of this geographical profile. What they do is they look at the areas where the crimes have taken place, and try to determine from that where the individual or individuals might live or where they might work.

The theory is this: That someone is not going to want to commit a crime close to their own home where they are known. Their anonymity would be compromised. But then again, they wouldn't want to commit a crime too far away from their home, because they'd want to be in the comfort zone. They'd want to be someplace that they were familiar with.

So, this information, given to Montgomery County investigators, it has not been shared, however, with the media. We do not anticipate that it will be -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeanne, stand by.

I want to bring back Bob Franken. He's on the scene in Bowie, Maryland, in Prince George's County just outside. That's where this latest shooting occurred.

Once, again, we don't know -- repeat -- don't know if there is any connection to the earlier shootings that resulted in the deaths of six individuals and one seriously wounded person in Virginia -- in Spotsylvania, Virginia. We don't know if this latest 13-year-old boy, who was shot this morning just after 8:00 a.m. local time, is at all connected.

But what is the sense over there, Bob, among your conversations with local officials in Prince George's County.

FRANKEN: Reaction (ph) is concern. They genuinely say they don't know, but they're not ready yet to accept as an absolute that there is a connection.

One thing I might point out, when the police are talking about the concern about the morning rush-hour period, the one thing that we should remember is that the very first of these shootings, which did not hit anybody -- the very first of them occurred Wednesday evening -- Wednesday evening. It was followed by the rash of fatal shootings the next day in Montgomery County.

Now, the other thing that there is a bit of a common thread -- it may or may not mean something -- is the following: That very first shooting, the one that did not hit anybody, was outside a local craft store. It's part of a chain called Michael's Crafts. That was the one in the Aspen Hill, Montgomery County area.

The shooting over the weekend in Virginia was also outside a Michael's Craft shop out there. The shooting that occurred this morning, for what it's worth, occurred about a mile from another Michael's Craft shop.

Police, of course, don't know what to make about that. They have assured us that one of the things they're investigating is to see if there is any sort of connection with that store. But at this particular time, they're grasping at straws. They have so few leads, they point out, that it is very difficult -- at least as far as they'll tell us -- very difficult to come up with a real, solid directed attack on this problem.

BLITZER: Bob Franken, he's in Prince George's County covering this story for us.

I have to tell you and our viewers, there are a lot of nervous people in the Greater Washington, D.C. area today in the aftermath of this serial sniper, who is apparently still on the loose, still at large, a sniper that may or may not have struck again earlier this morning.

Police investigating the shooting of a 13-year-old boy as he was dropped off, about to go to middle school.

We're going to continue to follow this breaking story.

We are also standing by for a news conference. The Montgomery County police chief, Charles Moose, is expected to be briefing reporters momentarily. Once he comes to those microphones -- you're looking at a live picture -- once he shows up at those microphones, we'll go to that news conference live for the very latest on these serial sniping shootings going on in the Greater Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area.


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