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Special Report: Sniper on the Loose, Part III

Aired October 12, 2002 - 14:01   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The sniper shootings in Washington, Maryland and Virginia have raised many concerns and issues. Among them, the issue of gun control. Some say tighter regulations can help police find this killer sooner. We'll hear from both sides of that debate in a moment.
But first, for more on the search for the sniper, we go to our CNN's Daryn Kagan, who is in Montgomery County, Maryland, where the investigation is ongoing. We know that investigators are going to be addressing reporters there at about 5:00. But nothing has been gleaned from their investigation as of yet, correct?

DARYN KAGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, no, but we did find out one important thing, Fredricka, early today, and you already talked about this a little bit, and that is indeed that the ATF has done ballistics tests on the bullet that was used yesterday at that Fredericksburg gas station, taking the life of that Philadelphia man. And in fact, it is a link, as you did report.

We're going to have more on that in just a moment from Spotsylvania County and Charles Molineaux. First, though, want to talk about what we are looking forward to today. You mentioned the 5:00 p.m. news conference, 5:00 Eastern -- looking forward to that, as well as the release of this thing that they're calling a graphic aid. We first started hearing about this yesterday. Police didn't really give a description of what a graphic aid was. We know as of this morning what we are expecting to get is a picture or an illustration or a better description of some type of white box truck, but police weren't completely happy with the drawing they had at the time so they delayed the release. They did say, though, they expect to get that to us to release to the public later today.

Earlier today, we had a chance to hear from Montgomery County Police Chief Charlie Moose, and he talked about a criticism of giving out this description, the criticism being perhaps you are going to tell people to focus too much on white vehicles and not the other things around them. Here's what he had to say to that.


CHARLES MOOSE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE CHIEF: I do not feel that us following up our investigation and getting more information out about the white box truck that we are looking for limits anyone. Unfortunately, sir, I think the people that I have talked to and listened to, members of the task force, report conversations with their families and their relatives. We may be in a position, certainly in this community, where everyone is looking at everything and everybody. We don't want that to happen, but I don't think it's limiting in any way.


KAGAN: Well, I can tell you one thing about life here. I can tell you one thing about a life here in Montgomery County, it is -- and just generally in the D.C. area -- this is not your average Saturday. A number of events have been canceled, Fredricka, including a number of kids' events. Four places where they were supposed to have SAT tests for high schoolers, that has been canceled as well, including also a huge soccer tournament that was supposed to feature girls coming here from all over the country. Those have all been canceled.

WHITFIELD: Daryn, do you get the sense that there are sort of these mixed messages? While we heard from the Montgomery County executive who said just a few days ago, go on about our business, try to live life as normally as possible, but at the same time, now the Montgomery County school district is making these changes, as you said, and SAT and outdoor activities?

KAGAN: Well, that and -- of course you were with us, you were anchoring the show, but if our viewers were with us, the mayor of Rockville, Maryland was sitting right here just a few minutes ago. He explained how he and other city officials there had to make the call to cancel a big 10K race that was set for tomorrow. So that's off.

But what is interesting, everything has not been canceled. You heard first lady Laura Bush on the radio this morning encouraging people to go to a reading event and bring their kids. That's being held on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol this weekend, saying that that is safe. Also a big event tomorrow, the Redskins play the Saints. That's 80,000 people at FedEx field, and that's in Landover, Maryland. That's just about 10 miles from Bowie, Maryland, where that 13-year-old was shot earlier this week.

WHITFIELD: Well, Daryn, I know you have been anchored to that spot there outside the police headquarters in Montgomery County right now, but what can you tell me, or perhaps what have your colleagues there told you about the activities right there off Rockville Pike which is, you know, a real jumble of residential and businesses and shops, et cetera -- are people still getting out, you know, in terms of on the road? It's usually a very congested road. What does it look like on this Saturday, according to your colleagues?

KAGAN: Well, I can tell you today, it's not looking too crowded at all. Some people are still getting out, but some people saying they are out on the National Mall last night, which usually on a beautiful fall evening, on a Friday night, you should see all sorts of people out. Basically, nobody there. Shopping malls not nearly as crowded as they usually would be.

I think we wanted to check in with Charles Molineaux. Are we still going to do that? OK, let's not skip over that, because that is one of the leads that we're talking about today, and that is the link of yesterday's shooting to the other sniper shootings. Charles Molineaux is in Spotsylvania County; that is where they made the announcement earlier today about this link that was made through ballistic tests. So let's bring Charles in. Charles, hello.

CHARLES MOLINEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Daryn. Of course, anybody who sort of got the idea we might be seeing the sniper at it again where we had news of a shooting yesterday morning pretty much had the right idea, but from the start, this incident fit the profile of the MO of this sniper. It's an Exxon gas station. Several of the shootings have been at gas stations.

But also very importantly, beyond the gas station is something just as important, that is an easy access route to Interstate 95. A major route. The latest four and now five of the sniper shootings have been carried out with an easy access of a major highway. So that was pretty much the supposition that was going on throughout most of yesterday, that this was an incident of the sniper shooting. Again, this morning police made it official. Apparently, last night lab tests by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms confirmed that this was the work of the sniper.

53-year-old Kenneth Bridges was shot yesterday morning while he was pumping gas for his drive home to Philadelphia. Incredibly, he was shot as a uniformed state trooper was across the street working on a traffic accident. He heard the shot. Police say the sniper had to be able to see the trooper, but went ahead with the shooting anyway, a sign of just how brazen this person is. Several agencies, including Spotsylvania County cops, the Virginia State Police and the FBI, swooped into action. They blocked area highways looking for a white van that some witnesses reported seeing right after those witnesses heard the shot. But they came up empty.


GOV. MARK WARNER, VIRGINIA: These are trying times. Had a talk last night with my three daughters about what's been going on. I think it's terribly important, as from a family standpoint, that we do all we can to reassure our children, to tell them the truth but not let them get overly exposed to the wall-to-wall media coverage, to assure them that parents are trying to take care of them, in terms of safety, that there are responsible people in terms of our police officers and others who are investigating and are bringing this criminal justice.


MOLINEAUX: Daryn, as you mentioned, several schools are very close to this area and they, too, have called off their holding of the SAT tests today, as well as several other events that were scheduled for this weekend.

The operative location -- distinction here being the proximity of Interstate 95, major factor. And all of the last five shootings have taken place very close to major highways, and now police are sending crime fighting units out to talk to businesses near major highway interchanges to see what they can do to try and head off this sniper -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Charles Molineaux, thank you so much.

We have a chance right now to get the latest from Montgomery County Police, and i have with me Captain Nancy Demme. In anticipation of this news conference that is going to be happening at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, so that's about three hours away, but we wanted to see what we could find out just a little bit earlier.

First of all, the news in the morning, and that is the ATF ballistics tests coming back, indeed saying that the shooting yesterday in Spotsylvania County related to the other sniper shootings. Anything else you can tell us about those ballistic tests?

CAPT. NANCY DEMME, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: Actually, I know that there is a lot of interest in that, but really, for the public, I suffice it to say that when ATF says they are linked, they are completely linked, based on forensics, ballistics examination. There is no more that actually needs to be discussed about it, because it's the link from one case to the other.

KAGAN: Pretty much what you need to know to move on, and then look at the other evidence, which you're choosing right now not to share with the public for obvious reasons.

DEMME: Right.

KAGAN: What about this graphic aid? We have been hearing about this from Chief Moose since yesterday. First of all, what is a graphic aid and what's it going show?

DEMME: Actually, I know that we have put out information on this box truck. I think the chief alluded to the fact that when it does come out, that's what it will be. What we've done is we have taken these witnesses, sat them down and said, OK, here is the picture we gave to the media, here is the description you gave us.

A graphic aid is sort of like his vision or version of what that truck actually looks like, with all of those things, the description and the picture of a standard one, interposed on each other so that you can really see what he saw. And that's what's coming out.

KAGAN: But there seems to be some dissatisfaction on part of the chief saying it wasn't quite right and that's been part of the delay?

DEMME: Right. Because once it's complete, it's sort of like a composite of a suspect's face. You -- it's completed, the artist does it, and then he shows it to you, and he says, what do you think? Well, more narrow in the chin, more narrow in the nose. Those adjustments have to be made. And because it's sort of a -- as they said to me when I asked that we move this quickly, art takes time. And so we have to wait. And because those people in the special projects units were called away to assist with Spotsylvania, they stopped in the middle of that one.

KAGAN: But you think today? DEMME: Yes.

KAGAN: All right, very good. Captain Nancy Demme, thank you so much, from Montgomery County Police.

Just one more quick note. A couple of quick notes. First of all, Fredricka, the reward has grown to $500,000. That was their goal. So any other money that comes into that will actually be passed on to families of the victims. And also, we want to let you know, for our viewers out there, Captain Robert Snow, a detective from Indiana, a specialist on terrorism and snipers, will be my guest later this hour. So stick with us for that. We'll take a break and be back after this.


KAGAN: Welcome back. I'm Daryn Kagan in Montgomery County, Maryland. We are awaiting a news conference set to be begin about 5:00 p.m. Eastern, where we expect to hear once again from the Montgomery County Police about the latest into this investigation into the sniper and all of these related shootings across the Washington, D.C. metro area.

While we do that, we want to bring in Captain Robert Snow. He is a detective in Indianapolis, also the author of a number of books, including a book called "SWAT Team," and in that book he dedicates an entire chapter to the sniper mentality.

Captain Snow, thank you for joining us today from Indianapolis.


KAGAN: We were hoping that with your expertise, we could get a bitter picture inside the sniper mentality. What is it and how do you define it, and what do you look for in an individual who has it?

SNOW: Well, this individual is a little different than most snipers. Most snipers, like Charles Whitman, who climbed the top of the Texas tower in 1966, have suicidal tendencies. They know when they go up there that they are going to die, and they mean to kill a lot of people beforehand; they know they're going to die.

This person is different in that he or she has taken great pains to make sure they get away with it. So this is an extreme, much more dangerous person. And I keep hearing everybody make a big deal out of the fact that he has been hitting everybody with one shot. But keep in mind, this person has had time to set up, get the rifle balanced, and their target is not moving, their target is stationary. So actually, I don't know if the person is really as good as shot as people think he or she is, or just that, again, he's picked easy targets and he's ready for them. I think he probably has them -- I'm sorry.

KAGAN: I'm sorry, well, you were just saying, perhaps people are giving this person too much credit? SNOW: Well, for being -- people act like he's a top, top marksman. I don't really think that's necessarily so. I think he has a familiarity with weapons, but the fact that his targets are not moving, his targets are not suspecting anything and he's had time to balance the rifle, get it in position and set up, it's not that hard to make these kinds of shots.

KAGAN: Let's talk about the kind of equipment that this person must be using. We know the caliber of bullets that keeps showing up, and perhaps that's a clue as to the other equipment, but is this stuff that's just readily available, just about anybody can go pick it up at a gun show or a gun shop?

SNOW: I wrote a book, which has been re-released recently on the militia movement in America, and as part of the research for that book, I went to a number of gun shows, because I was told that you could get these guns without any kind of a background check or even an I.D. check, and I found that's very true. At gun shows, sell these kinds of weapons to anybody who has got the money for them. You come in, plop down the money, you walk out with an assault rifle.

KAGAN: And so you have somebody who has easy access as many Americans do to this type of equipment -- doesn't necessarily have to have specialized military or militia training. This could now encompass a large group of people. What would you encourage people out there who are watching, who don't have you expertise and training, what should they be looking for in terms of something that might be unusual around them?

SNOW: This person is getting bolder and bolder, and part of this is the person feels powerful by doing this. When a sniper feels like God, he's picking out his victims and taking their lives, so this kind of person, somebody has to know about this. This person is making somebody aware of what he is doing, by his actions or even bragging to them, or talking in kind of -- not really saying it, but kind of hinting at it.

And that's what we need to find. That's what police need to find. They need to find the one person who knows this person and knows why he's doing it, because I can't imagine this person not wanting to brag to someone, because this person is doing this for the feeling of power it gives him.

KAGAN: And working as a police officer and detective, you must understand the balance and the frustration that can kind of come in here. You need the public's help, you want people to call in, but if they are calling in frivolous tips, that's just one more layer of stuff you have to get through in order to get the good information, and perhaps get to that perfect nugget that you need to break this case?

SNOW: Yes, but you can't disregard any tips. Sometimes information that doesn't look valuable even to the person calling in can turn out to be extremely valuable. So you have to follow through on all the tips, you simply do. You have to check out almost every one that has any kind of reliability, any kind of substance to it at all, you really need to check it out.

Because someone knows this person. Someone knows this person and probably -- maybe suspects why he's doing it. The police find quite often, though, that people won't call us, that we'll have to go out and talk to them. After a murder, the first thing we do is always canvas the neighborhood of the murder, because you'll find that people don't want to call the police, but they have information. And if you canvass a neighborhood where you're talking to everyone, they don't mind talking to you, because it doesn't look like they're a snitch or calling the police; the police are talking to everyone.

And often, people have information if you go canvassing, that to them doesn't seem important. To them, it's just something initially off-hand, but it turns out to be the key that solves the case. And so, the key to solving this case is going to be information.

KAGAN: It's going to be -- do you think the information, and my last question here, captain, so do you think that's going to be information that comes from the public or do you think this guy's going to slip up? What's going to happen first?

SNOW: I think probably he's going to slip up. He's getting so bold now. This last shooting within earshot of the police officer and all, he's getting bolder because he's going to feel more and more powerful. Every time he gets away with it, he feels more powerful. So he's getting bolder, and I think he'll probably slip up. But still, the police cannot let up on checking out tips. That's very important also.

KAGAN: Absolutely. Well, let's certainly hope that he slips up and that happens before he hurts anybody else. Captain Robert Snow from Indianapolis, thank you for joining us.

SNOW: Thank you for inviting me.

KAGAN: Appreciate it.

And so, Fredricka, just once again, as we throw it back to you, the two things we're looking for: The release of that graphic aid, the picture of the white box truck, when it meets the specifications of police authorities here. That's to be released today, and also the 5:00 p.m. news conference, set to begin in about two and a half hours, right here, from Montgomery County, Maryland. Back to you.

WHITFIELD: All right, Daryn, we're going to be looking forward to that.

Let me ask you this about your observances right there. There has been a lot of talk about beefing up the police force there. We're already seeing a unified front, and FBI agents have been a part of this from the very start. But are you seeing, from your vantage point, any evidence that perhaps there is a greater federal support or force moving in to help out Montgomery County or outerlying county areas?

KAGAN: You know, from right here where we stand, and of course we're kind of nailed down to this media area, so don't have that. But I'll tell you one thing you're starting to hear about in this area, and you can see an article about it in "The Washington Post," and that is the cost involved with this investigation -- very expensive. Whether you're talking about the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to guard a school every day or the cost of the investigation, the extra equipment that they buy. What you're starting to see is these different municipalities to look around and say, well, who is going to pay for this?

You'll get no official to say they're going to cut back, everybody will say, whatever it takes, but in the end the bill's going come due and you are going to have city and state and federal authorities trying to figure out who is going to pay that bill.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks very much. And we're only at, what, day 10, day 11 and counting in this investigation. All right. Thanks very much, Daryn. Good to see you.


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