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School Shooting in Bowie, Maryland

Aired October 7, 2002 - 13:01   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to go straight to Prince George's County, Maryland, where there's a briefing at the school where a 13-year-old boy was shot and critically wounded this morning.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That you would want to get more specific information from our law enforcement agents.

FRED THOMAS, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC SAFETY, PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, MARYLAND: Good afternoon. As she said, I'm Fred Thomas, director of public safety for the county, and this is a really a short update.

As we indicated before, we'd come at 1:00 and give you an update. The main update will occur between 3:00 and 4:00 at police headquarters where we can give you more definitive information. Additionally, we're going to issue a written press release with some additional details. But we want to assure the community that we are -- we have the situation well in hand, we have a number of positive leads that we're following up.

The young man is still in surgery in serious condition, but he should be coming out soon. We've been in touch with the family. We do have several witnesses that we -- we're interviewing now, and we think by 4:00 we can give you more definitive information about the source of the rounds and those kinds of things.

But again, we just want to assure the community that the schools are safe. We will have extra patrols out as school is letting out this afternoon and tomorrow. We have additional officers patrolling the schools around the Bowie area and other parts of the county.

But beyond that, I don't have much additional information beyond what Chief Wilson gave us this morning. We will save that and give it to you around 4:00, again, at police headquarters on Barlow Road (ph).

And I'll take a couple of questions.

QUESTION: Some of -- some of the information you're providing us is a little bit in conflict with what chief here said earlier. Among other things, he said that there were no leads. He talked about just a couple of witnesses. Can you -- can you reconcile this?

THOMAS: Well, we can reconcile this. As the chief spoke this morning, additional information is coming in. We have a number of citizens who are calling and giving us information as we speak. So as the information comes in, we're developing those leads and follow them through.

QUESTION: And may I follow up?

THOMAS: One more for you -- sir.

QUESTION: Yes, sir. Based on what you are hearing, do you believe that there is a direct connection with the shootings in Montgomery County...

THOMAS: We're not able to say that definitively. We have no indication that there's any connection between this shooting and the shootings in Montgomery County, but we won't say that until we have the bullet or bullet fragments and we've had a ballistic examination of those. The ATF is doing that now, and we should hopefully have that maybe later on this afternoon or tomorrow morning.

QUESTION: Is there anything that would lead to you believe that this was any type of high caliber bullet or a smaller caliber bullet or rifle? I mean anything else to go on besides (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ballistics (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

THOMAS: We do have that information, but we're not prepared to release it at this time. We may be in a position to release it at 4:00; but we do have some information about the size of the round, not necessarily the caliber, and the distance from which it was fired at this point.

QUESTION: No shell casings yet?

THOMAS: We're not prepared to discuss that at this point.

QUESTION: No information on the distance, is that what you said?

THOMAS: We're not prepared to share that at this point in time. We may be in a position to give you definitive information at 4:00.

And what I caution you that this occurred about 8:00 this morning and we have not had enough time to recover the spent round, to do all of the examination and for the ATF to do the ballistic comparisons. So if you'll just bear with us, give us some more time so that we can get definitive information because what we're attempting to do is not promote rumors. There are a number of different rumors and misinformation. We are trying to provide you with the best information and timely information that we can.

QUESTION: Sir, you mentioned positive leads. Do you have any witnesses in custody or made any arrests of any kind?

THOMAS: We have not made any arrests. We do have a few witnesses that we are interviewing.

QUESTION: Among the witnesses that you're seeing...

QUESTION: Students? Teachers?

THOMAS: We will not classify them as students or just community folk, but we do have some witnesses that we are -- we are interviewing. QUESTION: Among the witnesses that detectives have seen and talked to, are there any witnesses who say they saw the gunman?

THOMAS: We are not prepared to share that at this point. As we get more information, we might be able to clarify that point.


THOMAS: Last question. Yes -- sir.

QUESTION: OK. If I can be very specific about the bullet, we've been hearing repeatedly from what I consider to be fairly credible sources that it was a smaller bullet than the ones that had been used in Montgomery County. Can you confirm that?

THOMAS: No, I cannot confirm that. I think we will need to wait for the ATF to do a ballistic comparison before we start making assumptions about the size and caliber of the bullet. We're layman and not in position to do that from a visual examination.


THOMAS: Thank you very much.

The next briefing at 4:00...

PHILLIPS: Fred Thomas, director of public safety, addressing reporters there after another shooting in suburban Washington, this time a middle school student in Prince George's County, Maryland. That's where Fred is speaking from right now. Now this is the same general area where six people have died in a spree of sniper attacks. It all began in Montgomery County, Maryland, and that's where we find our Jeanne Meserve. She's following the story from there.

Jeanne, what's the latest from Montgomery County?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, officials saying here that they have not yet been able to determine whether there is any link between the shooting of a 13-year-old boy as he arrived at a middle school in Bowie, Maryland this morning and the string of shootings here in Montgomery County, D.C. and in Spotsylvania, Virginia, last week. Of course they have sent investigators to the scene, also forensic efforts -- investigators. The police chief told us a short time ago that the recruit class for this police department has been sent over to Prince George's County to help with a grid search looking for evidence in this case.

As for evidence, we just got some news out of that briefing from Prince George's County, they were saying they might have some ballistic information for us later this afternoon. At this point, we do not know what sort of ammunition or gun might have been used. We do know -- do not know what range at which the shooter shot the student this morning.

We were told by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms this morning that they are now using explosive sniffing dogs over in Prince George's County. These are dogs that have been trained to sniff out even gunpowder residue. We've been told that they were used at the scenes of each and every one of these shootings and that they have given investigators some possible leads into this case.

Police here in Montgomery County say their top priority right now is the children. All of the schools here have been put in lockdown. The kids are being kept inside of those schools. They are working now to beef up the police presence around those schools at dismissal time, in particular. They want to have, as they say, a very visible police presence here.

The county executive, Doug Duncan (ph), spoke to us a short time ago. He admitted that this county is not taking this news very well, that people are very fearful. And there was an impassioned plea from the county police chief, Charles Moose, a plea to parents.


CHIEF CHARLES MOOSE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: Someone is so mean-spirited that they shot a child. Now all of our victims have been innocent, have been defenseless, but now we're stepping over the line because our children don't deserve this. So, parents, please, do your job tonight, engage your children, be there for them. We're going to need it. We're going to need you to support them. But stepping over the line, shooting a kid, I guess it's getting to be really, really personal now.


MESERVE: Federal and local police officials say that every resource is being thrown at the case. They are trying to determine not only if there's a connection between the shootings last week and the shooting this morning but also, of course, trying to find the individual or individuals who are responsible.

Kyra, back to you.

PHILLIPS: You mentioned all of the forces coming together here, Jeanne, reading even the attorney general, the Treasury Department, you mentioned the ATF. Is the first time this community has ever gathered so many entities in one to work on a case like this?

MESERVE: I cannot tell you, Kyra, whether this is the first time or not, but this is a massive effort. You have those entities you mentioned, the Secret Service, the marshal service, any number of federal agencies coming into play here. Of course, many of the local jurisdictions have mutual aid pacts where they come to one another's assistance and provide expertise and man power to one another. An example of that, that recruit class that I mentioned earlier, people in training to be Montgomery County police officers, going next door to Prince George's County to try and help with this investigation today -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Gosh, talk about hands-on experience.

All right, our Jeanne Meserve with the latest there from Montgomery County. Thank you so much.


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