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Police News Conference on Sniper Shootings

Aired October 7, 2002 - 12:12   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I want to alert our viewers that we're standing by. We're awaiting a news conference in nearby Montgomery County, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. Communities you might be familiar with: Bethesda, Rockville, Chevy Chase, Potomac, Maryland -- communities like that.
We see Doug Duncan walking out now, the county executive, together with the police chief, Charles Moose. They're about to speak.

Let's listen to the police chief.

CHIEF CHARLES MOOSE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: I would like to say that we still have no incidents to report in Montgomery County. We are in direct contact with Prince George's County and their situation.

Presently, we have no positive information that tells us that the shooting in Prince George's County is connected. That investigation is clearly ongoing. We have investigators on-site. We have some of our forensics specialists on-site to assist Prince George's County.

And we are in the process of responding to a request from Prince George's County that our recruit class of 80 people be immediately bused to the site to participate in a grid search. We are going to affirmatively respond to that request, and we will continue to provide whatever assistance and cooperation we can to the Prince George's police department and any other police department that we can avail ourselves to.

The school district -- Montgomery County School District is in Code Blue.

And at this point, I would like for the director of Safety and Security, Ed Clark, to brief you on the status of the schools in Montgomery County.


Good afternoon. I'm here this afternoon on behalf of Dr. Jerry Weast, our school superintendent of Montgomery County schools.

As you've heard from the chief, currently all Montgomery County public schools are in a Code Blue status. Dr. Weast made that determination earlier this morning, after learning information pertaining to Prince George's County, and after communication with Montgomery County Police Department as well. We have also canceled all afternoon open lunches for this afternoon. Currently, any outdoor activities have been canceled, and will be brought inside the school building outside of the school campus. Afternoon p.m. kindergarten has been canceled as well. All local field trips involving Montgomery County public schools have also been canceled for today.

Certainly, we are working with Chief Moose and his team to provide a safe and orderly dismissal this afternoon. At this time, Montgomery County public schools will be dismissed at the regular school hours. We are working with our public safety teams to make sure that there is coverage in and around those school sites this is afternoon.

A determination will be made by Dr. Weast within the next hour pertaining to evening and afternoon activities, whether they will be held as scheduled or they will be canceled.

Also, we'd just like to reiterate that Dr. Weast has directed if counseling services are needed at any of our school sites for our students, staff or parents, those services are available. Dr. Weast continues to be in contact with Chief Moose in terms of joint decisions that need to be made that would affect Montgomery County public schools.

Thank you.

MOOSE: Thank you, Mr. Clark.

Please note that the focus of our energy is preparing for the dismissal of school, doing detailed planning to assure visible police presence at all of those schools.

Assistant Chief O'Toole (ph) is coordinating that, and we feel very comfortable that with the resources from Maryland State Police, Montgomery County, Rockville City Police, Gaithersburg City Police and also an offer from the uniformed division of the Secret Service, we will be able to have a very visible presence as school is dismissed in Montgomery County.

So, we are continuing to plan, to use existing plans, to do everything in our power to continue to create a safe environment.

For all of the parents, I certainly want to echo the message: Please allow school to be dismissed, allow the schedule to play itself out. It will be very difficult if our parents start making individual decisions and start showing up at the schools. It will only lend to a heightened state of confusion. And at this point, we strongly recommend and ask that they not do that.

We have a plan, we have a process. Let that work itself out. But if every parent decides to make an individual decision, it will simply confuse matters to a point that we really will not be in a position to handle it.

At this point, I'm going to have the special agent of ATF discuss some matters with you, because I know that there is a lot of interest in the issue of connecting the shootings.


I'm going to address some of the questions that AFT has been getting about our involvement in the Prince George's County shooting. That's a Prince George's County Police Department crime scene. They are processing the scene. Our forensics examiners are assisting them. They have a mobile lab on the ground. They'll assist them. They'll analyze anything they can right at the scene if possible.

We have canines that are used to detect gunshot residue on the ground there also. These canines will be used to see if we can find out where the shooter may have been positioned when this tragedy occurred this morning.

The second point I'm going to make is something I think the public needs to know. Every possible resource -- whether it's from state, local and federal agencies -- is being used right now. You have Montgomery County, Spotsylvania County and the Washington, D.C. police departments. You have ATF, the FBI, Secret Service, the Marshals -- a number of other federal agencies have offered their assistance. You have the state police from Virginia and Maryland working on this.

And as I said the other night,, all of us have children in school today. We're just as concerned, even more concerned now, that it's stooped to the level of shooting children. Not that that's linked to any of these other shootings, but it's something all of us are concerned about. We are throwing every possible resource we have on this problem.

I can't think of anything else that any department can do. It's a model of cooperation. The information is flowing. We have people in each other's offices. All of us know what each other is doing on this.

Thank you.

MOOSE: At this point, we will take any questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Bouchard, in the best of all possible worlds, and if you can find the slug in this, how long will it take you to determine whether it's connected? And if you could step to the microphone, that would be great.

BOUCHARD: The question is: If evidence is recovered from the shooting in Prince George's County, how long would it take us to identify it? Depending on the condition of the evidence, if any is found, it could take anywhere from an hour to the rest of today to analyze that. If it's in a very poor condition, it could take another day or two. Most -- in most cases, we can pretty much make a determination within the same day.

QUESTION: You mentioned that he has -- if he has stooped to the level of shooting children, you're not saying that this is connected. I think you corrected yourself. BOUCHARD: Yes, let me make that clear. The question was: Are these indents connected? There is no, absolutely not one shred of evidence that these shootings are connected between Prince George's County and the other ones that we have discussed prior to today.

QUESTION: Do you know if that bullet exited that 13-year-old child?

BOUCHARD: I do not know if the bullet exited that child.

QUESTION: Was the child able to say anything to anyone?

BOUCHARD: I'm not aware of what the child may have said. Any questions about what happened there should be addressed to Prince George's County police chief.

QUESTION: Can you tell us if the Prince George's County shooting fits into the geographical profile that the ATF has worked up for the shooter?

BOUCHARD: The question is: Does the Prince George's County shooting fit in the geographic profile that has come forward? I really can't comment on that. It's too early right now.

QUESTION: Could you give us some idea of how you sense the county, the people of your county are dealing with this latest information?

DOUGLAS DUNCAN, MONTGOMERY COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Well, they are not dealing well it. It's very frightening, not just for Montgomery County, but in Prince George's County in particular, and across the whole region. This is very frightening news. We are hoping to get information as quickly as possible of whether there is a connection or not.

But our schools are in Code Blue. We're working up a plan for dismissal of the children. They're going to make a decision within the hour on evening activities for the schools. But it's of grave concern.

As I left -- you know, I'm leaving the funeral of one of the victims this is morning, getting briefed on the latest things that have happened today and what we're trying do. So, it's a very fearful time, a very anxious time for this community and for the whole Washington region.

QUESTION: Can you talk to us about the mood at the funerals, and what you took away from those that you've been to?

DUNCAN: They're just -- there is a real struggle to come to grips with what's happening here. It's very -- the funeral yesterday, the funeral this morning, just people just really can't understand how someone could do this and the senseless killings, the random killings, and then, the fear that they're continuing.

There is -- at the same time as we say that, there is also a message of hope that's being given at these religious services -- hope for the future, hope that we don't let this fear and anxiety just take over all our lives, and that we continue to look out for each other, as we should.

QUESTION: Early this morning, before the Prince George's County shooting, you said people should go about their live as normal. Is that still your advice at this hour?

DUNCAN: We are doing everything we can to -- with all of the resources available from the federal, state and local governments -- to find who is doing this. We are asking people to be very cautious, very vigilant and very observant. We started the day with children at school, and it was going to be an open day at school. Now, we're in a Code Blue situation based on what happened in Prince George's County.

So, things changed very quickly here. We are still -- you know, people are driving by as we speak here. People are still working. Kids are still in school. The kids are going to come home from school. But we want people to be as cautious, as vigilant, as observant, and to call us in Montgomery County with information, to call Prince George's County police, if they have got information there.

QUESTION: Given your tenure in Montgomery County, two terms as executive, how has this incident, these series of incidents, changed Montgomery County, in your view?

DUNCAN: Well, there is widespread fear, anxiety, concern in the community, and it is growing. What we saw today, it ratcheted up quite a bit with what happened in Prince George's County, whether they are connected or not, the fear has ratcheted up quite a bit.

Has it changed our county? You know, I can't -- it's too soon to say that. I think clearly the September 11 attacks, the anthrax attacks, have changed us as a community. And I think when we get through this, when we catch whoever is doing it, then I think we'll be able to say what changes took place and what do we need to do? How do we bring our community back together?

And we are -- you know, as we talk about the police side of it, the enforcement side of it, the investigative side of it, we're also in the county government talking about the community side of it. What are we doing to help calm people down, and what are we doing to help bring people together to give out more information? And we're working on things as we speak.

QUESTION: Chief, if I could ask you to follow up on what Mr. Sharp (ph) was talking about. I certainly take his point about the cooperation between federal and local police agencies, but you now have crimes in three and maybe four different jurisdictions. Doesn't that become increasingly difficult to kind of keep under local control? At what point should this, if it should, become a federal investigation?

MOOSE: Well, sir, you make -- you have an excellent question. Obviously, we continue to look at that, talk about that. But I remind you that Mr. Bouchard, the agent in charge in the Baltimore office of ATF, has been here, has been here as many hours as I've been here. He's been involved, he's been engaged, all of his staff has been engaged.

So, whether or not there is any kind of formal designation, I guess, is still a question to be asked, but I'm very comfortable with the level of federal involvement to date.

But, yes, when we talk about the District of Columbia, when we talk about Prince George's County, when we talk about Spotsylvania County, it does start to take on branches. And so, your question, I guess, will be food for thought. But at this point, I don't know that I have a definitive answer.

QUESTION: Chief, are you any more willing, at this point, to lean towards the theory that this is a thrill killer or killers?

MOOSE: I remain very reluctant to espouse any theory, any concept, to do anything except let the investigators and the evidence lead us to the person or persons that are committing this crimes. Some of that is really after-effect. Once a person is interrogated, once you have done a series of search warrants, what kind of documents have been created, a lot of that really, I think, is better if it comes forward and is conclusive.

Speculation, again, just confuses things, narrows the scope, maybe puts investigators on a path that is -- that the evidence didn't take them. And so, I want the evidence to take our investigators, not a theory, not a concept.

QUESTION: Chief Moose or Agent Bouchard, I'm wondering if you have gleaned anything from the nature of the wounds that this young boy had that might give you some indication of the range at which this shot was fired.

MOOSE: With regards to whether or not the wounds will be factored in any decision-making, any evidentiary value (ph), I would just say that it's too early. We certainly have to get those reports, that information from the doctors. And whereas it is a fluid and moving situation, we noted it happened at 8:10. It's now 12:30.

But again, the process just doesn't move that fast. We wish it would, but as that information becomes available, experts will look at it, and then those decisions will be made. It's just too early.

BLITZER: The Montgomery County police chief, Charles Moose, briefing reporters on the latest developments in a series of shootings -- deadly shootings in the Greater Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area.

The latest earlier this morning, just after 8:00 a.m. local time, that's Eastern Time, a shooting of a 13-year-old boy at a middle school in Prince George's County in Bowie, Maryland, once again, just outside of Washington, D.C. The police chief saying right now, no positive information that this shooting is connected to the other shootings that resulted in six people killed, one person seriously injured in Virginia. It's an ongoing investigation, the police chief says.

A representative from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Mike Bouchard, saying right now not one shred of evidence that there is a connection in this latest shooting, but he can't rule it out right now. It could take some time to make a positive determination one way or another whether this latest shooting of a 13- year-old boy, right now in critical condition undergoing surgery at Washington's Children's Hospital, whether this shooting is connected.

We're going to continue to follow this breaking story, this important story that has not only gripped many people in the Greater Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area, but around the country. The mystery, of course, remains this shooter or shooters still at large.


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