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Officials Address Press About Hunt for Sniper

Aired October 9, 2002 - 12:30   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to switch gears now and go to the latest developments, the deadly shooting spree in the greater Washington D.C. area. You're looking at a live picture: Doug Duncan, the Montgomery County executive, speaking to reporters.

DOUG DUNCAN, MONTGOMERY COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Now they're handling this talk about what they are going to do with the students tomorrow when they return. The mental health professionals that we've talked to -- and again, we're going to hand out some tips to you -- really stress that it's time, during these times of heightened anxiety, that we all come together to demonstrate our resilience as a community. That's something that everybody can participate.

Reach out. Reach out to someone and help comfort them. It's important to talk to our children, to our neighbors, to our friends, to our family, about what's happening here and what we're feeling. We need to be open and honest with our children. We need to offer them comfort, and offer them reassurance that adults are trying to keep them safe.

It's also important to try to maintain our daily routines as much as possible. If you jog and you are fearful of jogging any more, go to a gym. Keep up your exercise routine. Keep up the things that you normally do as best you can.

We do have trained professionals from our county's department of health and human services and from the private sector. They're available around the clock to talk with individuals by phone. And we're available to arrange additional support for groups and other individuals that our community may need during these very difficult times.

And I hate to give you another phone number. We've got a tip line. We've got a reward line. But we have got a counseling line now as well. And we want people, if they are feeling nervousness, anxiety, fear, that it's becoming difficult for them to deal with, please call our crisis center: 240-777-4000. We have mental health professionals on the phones. It's 24 hours a day, seven days a week: 240-777-4000, and we'll be able to talk with you, we'll be able to sit with you. We'll be able to try to together make some sense out of this.

So now let me turn the update over to Chief Moose for his report -- chief?


A lot of energy has been directed toward the investigation, and what parts of the investigation were talked about.

I would like to take this moment to thank members of the media because please remember that another part of my job is a portion of what you just heard from the county executive: helping people feel safe, helping people cope with stress. That is also a big duty for law enforcement. And so when I talked about us realizing how important you could be to what we're trying to do in the Washington metropolitan area, this, in my mind, is an example of us using the help that you can provide us.

A lot of people in our community are in a lot of stress from a lot of different things. Obviously, we wouldn't have a crisis center, we wouldn't have mental health specialists if that wasn't the case. But what we've seen over the last several days is a ramping up of that stress, so people that may be on the edge, having problems prior to this, you can only imagine the ramifications of this additional pressure, because we have a lot of community members that were under no real visible stress prior to this -- actually, who were pretty well squared away, including our children, who were having a great school year; things were going along fine.

So we need to help them deal with this stress and so please take the information that was just provided. Get it out there, distribute it, and take it serious. Because if we don't have people reach out and get help, then we'll have many other situations that will be the fallout of the shootings. And again, our goal is to minimize the fallout of the shootings as best as possible. And this is the way that you can be very, very helpful.

With regards to the investigation and evidence, after working with the team, we've really not come to any conclusion. Quite frankly, one part of the team thinks the other part of the team did it. Another third part of the team thinks the other part of the team did it. And unlike some parts of the Washington metropolitan area, we don't have time to have a congressional hearing to actually find out who did it.

So we're going to adjust, and we have adjusted some of our evidentiary processes. We've put in some procedures, tightened up some existing procedures. And we are going to forget that issue, and we're back to continuing with the investigation. And I think that the best minds have said that's the best thing to do. It makes a lot of sense to me. And I can hope it makes sense to you.

Our community deserves us to continue to focus on investigation. Certainly, it would be very detrimental if we spend any more internal energy asking any questions of each other. The information that was put out there doesn't stop our investigation. We've adjusted and moved on.

Our next briefing is at 6:00 p.m.

And at this point, we'll be open to any questions. QUESTION: You have a tip line. Can you tell the public what you are looking for -- I mean could you outline what you have and what you would be looking for as far as a tip?

MOOSE: In terms of the tip line, at 240-777-2600, we continue to ask for information on the white box truck, the one that we've described for several days now. We continue to want to hear from people that may have been in the area of one of these crime scenes and they have not talked to our investigators. And certainly, we have all of the crime scenes in Montgomery County, the crime scene in Virginia, the crime scene in Washington, D.C., the crime scene in Prince George's County. People may have been near that situation and felt at that time what they really needed to do was get away from there. We tried to contain it so that we could get names and addresses and phone numbers for any witnesses and people in the area. But no doubt there is always a lag between the event and the police response. So people that did leave, we still would like to hear from you if we haven't talked to you.

We remain committed that that conversation will be in complete confidence. We want you to feel safe that you are not going to be unduly exposed because you've talked to us. We know that people are leery of anyone finding out they are a witness. So we work very hard to respect that.

We also are looking for people that may know someone that owns the weapons that we displayed out here several days ago. Maybe that person is acting differently. Maybe they have not kept their routine. Maybe they have not been at work. Maybe they've been unduly angry since this situation has started to unfold. And maybe if they are very jovial and talkative, and now they are just plain boring and silent, that might also be something that we would like to know.

So all of these things are, in our mind, tips that we'd like to talk to people about. We have trained investigators answering those phones. Yes, we will make a decision with regards to credible or not. We will continue to hope that those decisions are correct. But those, sir, are the kind of things that we are looking for when we talk about the tip line and we continue to urge people to talk to us.

I'd like to conclude by saying that I remain convinced that it is a tip, it is information from another person that could weigh heavy in our closing of this investigation.

QUESTION: The follow-up to that is will that tarot card, now that it's out there, is there any tip you'd like to hear in regards to that that could help out your investigation?

MOOSE: At this time, I am not talking about that. I am not prepared to talk about that.

QUESTION: Law enforcement officers have been looking into something in the Clinton area of Prince George's County, a search for an individual who may have been seen in woods near Friendly High School. What can you tell us about that since this is the joint operation center? MOOSE: There is a question about an ongoing, unfolding search, I guess, for lack of a better term, in Clinton, Maryland, in a wooded area. We are tracking that. We are aware of that. We have sent some resources to assist in that matter. And again, we are making every effort to stay abreast of this kind of situation. I hope that our communities are pleased that there is a law enforcement response and awareness that everyone is on edge. And when we have some conclusive report with regards to that situation, we will share that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, we are working right now with the FBI and our other partners on this, in an effort -- because I understand Spotsylvania has one, Prince George's has one, we have two so that we can have an 800. That is a lot of numbers. And as Executive Duncan said, we're give you a crisis number and a reward number. That's a lot of numbers. We'd like to try to consolidate. We're working diligently on that as we speak to come up with one single 800 number for everyone. And hopefully by 6:00 -- hopefully. Possibly.

MOOSE: But I also -- just an aside -- I'll say the one thing that I picked up from my 22-year-old, is that in today's world, with cell phones, they punch in all those numbers and they just scroll down all that menu. So let's not get consumed that the people we're talking to in the metro Washington area aren't comfortable dealing with a series of phone numbers. There is -- it is a new age. But, yes, we will try to consolidate it to one number. But I don't want to overreact and just assume that we won't be able to deal with it as a community. People scroll and they move up and down those lines; and I guess the bottom line is you don't really ever learn any phone numbers anymore. You just have them all in your menu. But again, we will make an effort to consolidate it to one. We don't want to be part of the problem.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how many search warrants have been executed (OFF-MIKE)?

QUESTION: I hope you don't take offense to this question, but can you offer us an explanation at all of how you are concerned, why you are concerned, that the tarot card thing might have messed up the investigation?

MOOSE: With regards to my concern about the card and its ability or inability to mess up the investigation, my investigators made a clear and compelling argument that that information not be released. I think I'm obligated to listen to them, and as I stated earlier, if I'm going to exercise my authority to not listen to them and to overrule them, then so be it. But I certainly have not made any decision to overrule them. I thought their advice was wise, well articulated, and I processed it, and, clearly, sent no message that I was going to overrule them.

And so that means we had a process problem. And instead of spending another eight hours going back and asking them specifically why I think it's going to mess them up, I tried to articulate to them that I hopefully fixed the process. And I profusely apologized to them that their wishes weren't held forth. I want them to do their job, and I want them to do their job as best as possible. So they made adjustments. They've gotten over it, and they've moved on. At some point maybe in the future, we'll know minimum damage, how much damage, I don't know. Let's hope it's minimized, but maybe, only the future will tell.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how many search warrants...

BLITZER: In Montgomery County, Police Chief Charles Moose briefing reporters on what's going on, the latest in the investigation.


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