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Spotsylvania Police Hold Press Conference

Aired October 11, 2002 - 13:03   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Now to Fredericksburg, Virginia where we told you about that news conference. Let's listen in and see what police have to say.

MAJ. HOWARD SMITH, SPOKESMAN, SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: ... Route 1 and intersection of I-95 in reference to a black male being shot. At the time of that -- at the time the shot was fired, a Virginia State Trooper was across the street working a traffic accident. He heard the shot, responded over to assist the victim. Rescue squad responded, the victim was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He was a black male, that's the only thing I have right now. Obviously, we're in the preliminary stages of this investigation. At this time, I will try to field any questions that you might have concerning this.

QUESTION: Howard, if you could give us the best lookout that you have right now. Apparently there's more than one witness.

SMITH: At this time, we have interviewed several people here. I won't talk about what they saw or what they heard. Obviously, we did give a lookout. There was a white van with ladder racks that was seen leaving the area. We're not certain if that van was involved in the shooting or not. It was in the area, it was seen leaving.

Once again, when we responded here, we shut down Route 1, obviously, as you all know, we also shut down all the off-ramps and on ramps to I-95. We checked every vehicle getting on to the interstate.

QUESTION: ... indicate where the shot was fired from?

SMITH: I won't talk about that at this time.

QUESTION: ... see individuals inside the van, the vehicle -- were there one or more?

SMITH: We do have some descriptions of the folks inside the van, but once again, I think it would be inappropriate right now. We're in the very beginning stages of this investigation, and we're not certain if that van had anything to do with the shooting, but we do have a description of the people that were inside the van.

QUESTION: Speaking in terms of plural there, more than one person?

SMITH: That's correct, it was two people inside the van. QUESTION: With all the details that you know now, does this fit the pattern of the sniper?

SMITH: Well, obviously, with what's going on in the region, as you can see, from here at the crime scene, we had the ATF, the Virginia State police, the FBI, Secret Service, U.S. Marshal Service, all respond here, Montgomery County Task Force members are here, assisting us with this case. We are looking at it, and once we find out whether it's connected or not, I certainly will let you know.

QUESTION: Are there any efforts to secure gas stations? Obviously, they're targets across the region. What are you all doing or telling service station attendants how to secure it -- any additional security measured being taken?

SMITH: Well, I can only talk about here in Spotsylvania County. What we have done, since these incidents happened, we have canceled all leave for all our members of the sheriff's office, we have everybody out working, most of them were working 16-hour shifts and we are putting -- once again, we have asked the state police also to assist us in the county in the extra patrols.

QUESTION: How close was the trooper to where the person was shot? How close was that trooper?

SMITH: The trooper was probably about 50 yards, he was directly across the street working a traffic accident.

QUESTION: Major, have you done any canvassing, house to house, looking for anybody?

SMITH: Well, obviously, there's no homes right here, this is all businesses, and we are doing that right now as we speak.


SMITH: Please, one at a time -- yes, ma'am.


QUESTION: ...trooper see anything?

SMITH: I am sorry?

QUESTION: Did the trooper see anything?

SMITH: No, he did not. He only heard the shot and responded.

QUESTION: Were there any eyewitnesses to the shooting itself that you're aware of at this time?

SMITH: Well, once again, we have interviewed several people here that heard things and saw things. Once again, we are in the very early stages, trying to sort out exactly what they did see, and I think it would be inappropriate at this point to talk about what information they're giving us. If they give us information that we feel needs to get out to the public that might help us, we certainly will get that out to you as soon as possible.


QUESTION: Have you found any physical evidence?

SMITH: We do have evidence. The evidence that we have has been collected, it has been turned over to ATF, but I will not talk about what type of evidence we have.

QUESTION: ... the businesses in the area, are you telling them that they can -- receive guests in the hotels, for example, or...

SMITH: Once again, we are -- we have people here interviewing the folks that are here in these motels, and the workers, and once we have finished that, if they want to open up for regular business, that certainly is up to them.

QUESTION: Were any vehicles pursued from the scene?

SMITH: I am sorry?

QUESTION: Were any vehicles pursued after it happened?


QUESTION: ... have a tag, Howard, a partial tag, do you know if it's a Virginia tag?

SMITH: We do not have any tag numbers now. As far as pursuit, when we did give the lookout for the white vehicle, there was a pursuit in Stafford County by the Stafford County Sheriff's Office. That vehicle was stopped, and it has been determined it has nothing to do with what happened here.

QUESTION: Any of them -- have you held any of the people in those vans, or have they all been released?

SMITH: Everybody's been released. We are not holding anyone.

QUESTION: Anything about the deceased man, where he is from, anything so far?

SMITH: At this point, it would be inappropriate to comment on that.

QUESTION: Are there any roads that remain closed at the time?

SMITH: Not that I'm aware of. Now, we do have Route 1 right now, but it is going to temporarily be open. We let cars through one at a time, but no other main roads are closed.

QUESTION: On the specifics about the gas stations themselves, I know you put more manpower on the streets, but what are you doing to secure gas stations that everybody has to use in this particular area?

SMITH: Well, once again, I think I answered it earlier, we have extra manpower out on the street. We don't have enough manpower to put at every gas station in the county, but we do have extra patrol out on the streets.

QUESTION: Any writing on the van?

QUESTION: Speaking generally about the evidence, is it consistent with what we have seen before?

SMITH: Once again, I think it would be very inappropriate for me to talk about what type of physical evidence we have collected at this time.

QUESTION: Howard, in many of these cases, due to the fact that there is a high velocity rifle in the previous cases, at least, do you have any early indication if you have an entry and exit wound in the victim?

SMITH: I think -- once again, too early for me to comment on those. Now, we're going to have another news briefing at 6:00 tonight, and hopefully I'll be able to answer some of those questions for you.

QUESTION: Your thoughts -- one shot or more than one?

SMITH: I am not going to talk about how many shots were fired at this time.

QUESTION: How does the trooper describe the sound of the shot? Was it loud, was it faint? Was it...

SMITH: Once again, we have interviewed numerous people that did hear shots, and once again, at this point, I'm not ready to comment on exactly what they said they heard.

QUESTION: Your thoughts on that, that someone would take a shot with a police officer so close?

SMITH: Well, obviously, with a uniformed trooper directly across the street, obviously we're dealing with an individual that is extremely violent and obviously doesn't care.

QUESTION: Can somebody from State Police describe in a little bit more detail what you have been doing on the freeways to screen people?

SMITH: Sure. I'll let Lieutenant Colonel Scott (ph) from Virginia State Police answer that question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Essentially what we have done, we have closed down the on-ramps and the off-ramps...

QUESTION: For how long? From where to where?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we didn't close them down, but we're monitoring the traffic that goes through in this immediate area from Thornburg, generally up through Northern Virginia, and on the bridges in Northern Virginia, in cooperation with other police agencies, primarily the other police agencies up there have been monitoring the traffic there up until noon, by running the traffic down into one lane there at the Springfield interchange.

QUESTION: You don't think he had gone south?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had people south.

QUESTION: Could he have gone east or west?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have people east and west. The state police, in conjunction with the sheriff's office, has people at all these locations, on all of the primary highways and the secondary roads and where the traffic funnels in, anywhere where we can cover it.

QUESTION: Sir, originally you put in an APB for one of these vehicles that had "Total Recall" or "Total Access" on the side. Have you eliminated that vehicle now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not familiar with that.

QUESTION: Are there any surveillance videos that were recovered from the gas station?


QUESTION: Are you looking for any markings on a white van?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not at this particular time that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Were there any surveillance videos?

Can we ask you a couple of questions, sir? From a state perspective, Secretary Marshall, do you feel there's a need for even more federal assistance along the way here now that it's becoming more and more interstate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think at this time, we've -- we've got all of the federal law enforcements represented here, as mentioned earlier. We've got the FBI, we've got the ATF, we've got the marshal service, we've got the Secret Service here; it's a joint effort in this investigation and the overall investigation. And right now all of the resources that are here, we're handling it and we're working together, and I think we're doing everything that we can at this point.

QUESTION: Keeping Governor Warner posted?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm in constant contact with the governor who is deeply concerned about this and wants to assure everybody that he'll provide all state resources that he can to assist in the investigation.

QUESTION: Any idea when the ballistics tests will be completed? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That would be ATF, and I couldn't comment on that specifically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can tell you right now, ballistics evidence or any other evidence that's recovered at this scene is going to be transported to our lab.

Now, as Major Smith indicated to you earlier, there has been some evidence, although we're not saying exactly what it is, that is en route to our national laboratory at this time in Rockville. Agents are on the scene, all of the participating agencies, trying to collect further physical evidence will be transported to our lab, in this case, just as it has been in the previous incidents.

QUESTION: Do you have ballistics evidence?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I said any evidence thus far has been transported to our lab.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what kind of car the victim was driving?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not at this time, no.

QUESTION: Can you tell us a timeframe, how long it took the trooper, approximately how long it took the trooper, and what he basically witnessed once he got there?

SMITH: Once again, I don't think he saw anything. He was working a traffic accident, he heard the shot, he was directly across the street, so it probably took him less than a minute to get to the victim. He came directly across the street to the victim, and assisted the victim until the rescue squad arrived on the screen.

QUESTION: Can you tell us the where the victim was hit? We heard in the leg, is that true?

SMITH: I don't think at this point it would be appropriate to talk about any of that.

QUESTION: Can you tell where the shot might have come from, any idea?

SMITH: Once again, we're in the preliminary stages of the investigation, we're interviewing people, and if we do find that out, I'll certainly let you know. But once again, we are in the preliminary stages of this investigation.

QUESTION: Do you have any surveillance videos available?

SMITH: I'm not going to talk about any evidence that we may have collected.

QUESTION: Where was the victim pronounced dead?

SMITH: At Mary Washington Hospital. QUESTION: Can you speak to the fact there were several instances in the sniper shootings as the first six or seven, I think, mainly in Maryland, we had one witness, one credible, good witness, and now in just the two most recent cases, if this turns out to be connected, there is multiple witnesses. And I think that's obviously advantageous to you folks.

SMITH: Most definitely. We, since these cases have started, I think all law enforcement have come to the media and asked anybody that may have witnessed anything or saw anything to call. And I think that's what you're seeing a response to, and I think people, obviously, with what's going on, are paying more attention to surroundings, and hopefully that will help us, and that's why we're getting, I think, a little more information each time one of these things happen.

QUESTION: Can you talk about this happening in Spotsylvania when you have gotten through the List (ph) thing on three years, what it does in the community?

SMITH: Well, I think it affects this community just like any other community, although we're just getting over the List (ph) civil case.

But obviously, this community is upset and shaken by the events. But once again, I think from what you're see, the community has pulled together, they pulled together before. We have since Friday night's incident, the first incident here in Spotsylvania county, received over 1,300 phone calls. Phone calls have been poring in since this happened here today, and I think you're see the community pull together and provide law enforcement with the information that we might need to get this case solved.

QUESTION: Do you put any significance on the fact it's a week later, a Friday that he came down here?

SMITH: Well, once again, I think that would probably be inappropriate to talk about that part of the investigation.

QUESTION: Sheriff, do you think local law enforcement officials from Maryland to Virginia have enough resources to bring this sniper in or whatever is doing this, or do you think it needs to go national now?

SMITH: No, I think that we have the sufficient resources to get this case solved. It's not going to be easy case to get solved, but we certainly have the resources. In if you look around today, you see all the federal, local, state agencies here, surrounding counties, all assisting us, and you have seen that the governor has given us all of the resources we needed. He's been in contact with the sheriff by telephone and has assured us we will get whatever we sources we need from the Virginia State Police. The FBI has promised the same thing, and the ATF. I think we have the resources here to get it solved.

QUESTION: Is there any way of calculating when he might strike again, or have you tried to do that? SMITH: Once again, I don't think it would be appropriate to talk about that part of the investigation.

QUESTION: What about people who are afraid to get gas? What do you say to them?

SMITH: Well, I'm sure there are a lot of people afraid to do anything right now. He's not targeting just gas stations, although there has been a couple gas stations, but it's not just gas stations. And I think people, We need to go on with our life. We can't stop living because of these incidents. I think people need to be cognizant of their surroundings and, obviously, report anything suspicious they might see to law enforcement.

QUESTION: Because of your staffing, have you requested, or do you plan to request additional officers from any source to help you?

SMITH: Well, once again, I think I've already kind of commented on that. We do have extra resources here. The Virginia State Police are here, they have extra personnel here assisting us, the FBI's here, ATF is here. All of those agencies are here; they are assisting us with this case.

PHILLIPS: Major Howard Smith from Spotsylvania Sheriff's Department, addressing reporters about the shooting there in Virginia, one that looks like several others in the ongoing sniper rampage. It happened at 9:30 this morning, at an Exxon station, about 40 miles south of Washington. The police response is massive, as you can imagine.


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