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Update on Latest Sniper Shooting in Metropolitan Area

Aired October 15, 2002 - 10:30   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We have our Kelli Arena with us, coming to us on the phone.
Kelli, good morning. What can you tell us about the work that these eyewitnesses are doing with police officials?

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, some of the witnesses to the shooting have told authorities that they may have seen a man who aroused suspicions at the scene. There are also some witnesses who have provided partial license plate numbers. So on the one hand, some are working on possibly putting together a sketch of an individual that they saw, and others providing information.

Now, law enforcement sorts have, you know, warned me repeatedly that this is -- this type of situation has happened before, after a shooting and has turned out to be nothing. People are, you know, panicked during the moment. They think they see something. They provide information, and it turns out to be absolutely nothing, but you never know. I mean, there could be the time when someone provides a lead or information that does actually lead to apprehending the killer.

So right now, as well as, you know, ballistics testing that we know goes on by the ATF, you do have an undisclosed number of witnesses working with law enforcement to try to put together a sketch and license -- partial license plate numbers that have been provided that are being run down by police right now.

KAGAN: Kelli, I know just from being here the last several days that police are very reserved in coming up with any kind of time frame and I wonder when that kind of information might be coming out?

ARENA: Well, that's right. And it may never come out, Daryn. This may never come out because, as I said, it may not pan out to be anything. This is information gathered from the scene. This shooting did happen at night. There were lots of people around. You know, sometimes people see something that they think, you know, is legitimate and it turns out not to be, or people think they see something and it turns out to be the complete opposite of what they thought they saw. And when you're in a situation like that, you know, after you've heard a gunshot, and as many people that are on edge as they are on edge, you know, you have to go through these leads very, very carefully to be sure.

And sometimes, I have been told by investigators, people are pretty certain that they saw something just seconds after they heard a gunshot. And, in fact, it turns out to be, you know, three or four minutes after a gunshot. That is a lot of time, you know, that many things can happen in three or four minutes.

Sometimes surveillance tape has been used in past incidents to discount people because someone will say, well, I saw, you know, this vehicle, you know, speeding away. And sure enough, you know, it shows up on the surveillance tape, and it was somebody making a delivery, for example.

So lots of information that's flooding in, as you know, Daryn, and a lot of it not panning out. But, you know, right now, at least, they do have some individuals who, you know, honestly believe that they saw something, think that they can help. They're working with investigators to try to piece something together. Whether or not it pans out, we have to wait to see. So we may, in fact, never hear about this, if is, in fact, nothing, Daryn.

KAGAN: All right. Kelli Arena, our Justice correspondent. Thank you for that tidbit of information. We do appreciate it.

ARENA: You're welcome.

KAGAN: Two things we want to bring to our viewers right now and that is some new video we're getting of investigators who are on the scene of that Home Depot shooting, as they comb over the scene.

Our Michael Okwu (ph) was reporting earlier that they were, literally, on their hands and knees. They don't want to miss a single clue. And as we look at video, I'm going to go ahead and Mitchell Miller, he's a reporter with WTOP Radio, the news radio station here in the Washington, D.C. area that has been a great help to our coverage over the last several days.

Mitchell, good morning.


KAGAN: What are you hearing about this possible work of what Kelli Arena was just reporting of eyewitnesses working with police investigators to somehow come up with some kind of composite of a suspect or suspects?

MILLER: Well, that certainly confirms with everything that we've been finding this morning, in connection with a lot of people coming forward this time. This certainly seems to appear to be one of the times when they have more witnesses than any other shooting that's happened previously.

Right now, of course, they are looking over some of that possible evidence there on the ground. We saw those law enforcement officers earlier looking on the ground, knowing that there was something up there.

So we had a reporter this morning talking with a woman who thought she saw the van in question, however, the woman spoke Spanish, so it was difficult for her to get through to authorities. She spoke to our reporter, and we managed to get her, hopefully, in touch with an ATF agent who is going to follow up her witness account of, apparently, seeing a light-colored van, the one that's described by authorities, possibly going right by her home last night. And these are the kind of witnesses, obviously, that law enforcement needs to talk to.

KAGAN: Yes, I was listening to WTOP on my way to work here, earlier this morning and I heard the reporter talking about that. The woman apparently saw it and didn't really realize she was seeing something significant. And then it was only later with the news report ,she said she realized it was something important that needed to get to police.

MILLER: That's right. She apparently tried to call 911 ,thinking that might help -- wasn't really sure what to do. And our reporter informed her that, you know, she needed to call this tip line immediately because this was obviously a very, very important tip. And even though there is a lot of publicity related to this tip line, sometimes people just don't know exactly what to do. So clearly it's very important that this information gets out and stays out, as law enforcement officials have made clear.

KAGAN: Mitchell, one thing you've been so helpful with, over the last several days, putting into perspective where these different shootings are for people not familiar with the Washington, D.C. area, something significant about last night's shooting, it's even closer to the District.

MILLER: Right. This is only about ten miles west of the District, and this is a very, very busy typical suburban area. This is an area where you have a lot of small businesses, gas stations, all of the kind of places that you would normally visit every week on a daily basis. And so, this area, in particular, is important to a lot of people because they go, wow, I was just there last week or I visited that store just a couple of days ago. So this is an area that's very, very familiar to people. It's right on the inside of the Beltway and it's not far from a lot of suburban areas and a lot of people that you talk to know this area very, very well.

KAGAN: And this adds yet another county to the list. Now you have six counties, six police jurisdictions, in addition to state and federal authorities working on this case.

MILLER: Yes, and unfortunately that brings up a kind of macabre part of this is that people have been -- we've been talking about people looking at the map of the Washington area and wondering where the sniper will strike next.

Unfortunately, we in the newsroom, had just been talking about this last week that we thought Fairfax County was a very likely target place for the sniper and, unfortunately, that occurred. So now people are wondering if the sniper will attack in more further-out counties around the area, such as Loudoun County or perhaps along the I-95 corridor in Northern Virginia. Of course, everybody hopes that it won't happen again. But unfortunately, this has been a pattern of things that are happening every single -- every few days. KAGAN: And it is that kind of fear that has affected so many people's lives in this area. What's the latest update on how schools are handling the situation?

MILLER: Well, schools obviously had to scramble, once this came in. Of course, it came in fairly late last night. We talked to the Fairfax County superintendent this morning. They are planning more meetings later this afternoon. But most of the schools in the immediate area, surrounding the area of the latest shooting, have actually been under tightened restrictions in recent weeks, anyway, but now they're even under tighter restrictions. Virtually all of these outdoor activities that we've been talking about, recess, football games, practices, all the extracurricular activities now are either moved inside or canceled completely, so more changes continuing for a lot of families in the Washington area.

KAGAN: Mitchell Miller from WTOP Radio, thanks for your help, as always. Hopefully, we'll have a chance to talk with you throughout the day.


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