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News Conference on Sniper Investigation

Aired October 18, 2002 - 12:05   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: One man very familiar with such investigations is the former deputy director of the FBI, Weldon Kennedy. He led the investigation into the Oklahoma City Bombing. He is now the vice chairman of Guards Mark, a private security firm. He is joining us now live from Memphis, Tennessee.
Mr. Kennedy, thanks so much for joining us. Why doesn't the FBI simply take charge, overall charge, of this investigation?

WELDON KENNEDY, FMR. FBI DEP. DIR.: Very simple, Wolf.

They actually do not have criminal jurisdiction. The federal statutes are very specific as to when the federal government would have jurisdiction over a particular crime, and to my knowledge, there's none so far in this case that would involve a federal statute.

BLITZER: Since it overlaps states, Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, various jurisdictions, wouldn't that in and of itself be enough to warrant the FBI being the lead investigative agency.

KENNEDY: I don't believe so, Wolf. As you can see, the FBI is committing a huge amount of resources to this case. Assistance both in terms of forensic science and behavioral science and the like, as well as technical support and computer support and everything that they can possibly do to help this matter. But they do not have the primary jurisdiction.

BLITZER: Even though an FBI intelligence analyst was killed as one of the victims of this sniper, would that not be enough to make the FBI become the lead agent?

KENNEDY: No, had it been an FBI sworn agent, there is a federal statute that makes it a federal crime to kill a federal agent. But in this case, this intelligence analyst is not in that protective class.

BLITZER: And she was not on duty at the time as well. I think that's one of the statutes, that somebody has to be on duty. There seems to be a lot of frustration right now. What's your overall sense? What's it going to take to break this case?

KENNEDY: It will take the individual who's doing it to make a serious mistake, or it's going to take someone close to that person. who has some information, maybe not total information, but some information or suspicion that this person is involved in these activities and phones in or calls in or makes an appearance to make that report to authorities. It's going to take something like that to break open this case.

BLITZER: We have a viewer e-mail question for you, Mr. Kennedy. Let me read it to you and let me get your sense of what Ken wants to know. "All this disinformation during press conferences concerning the shootings in the D.C. area causes me to wonder if there are too many people involved. At some point, I would think that the numbers become counterproductive and perhaps credible evidence becomes lost in the shuffle." Have you had experience along those lines?

KENNEDY: Yes, in the Oklahoma City case, for example. We had all kinds of information flowing in, and I was very disappointed, of course, as everyone else was, to hear that that report yesterday was totally false, about the person who said that they had seen the shooter and the vehicle and so forth. We had many instances of that in the Oklahoma City case, for example.

BLITZER: In the Oklahoma City Bombing case, you had people coming up with deliberately false information. They knew it was false and they still passed it along to you?

KENNEDY: That's correct, Wolf. Unfortunately, that happens in major cases like this that are drawing a lot of media attention. There are many motivations, I suppose for someone doing that. But it's not that uncommon. It becomes very difficult then for the investigator to sort through and separate fact from fiction.

BLITZER: In the Oklahoma City case, we do know that there was a sketch that was eventually released, John Doe No. 2, but that person or person never did appear, in this particular case, they can't even come up with a sketch. Why is it so difficult to come up with somebody who may have seen something?

KENNEDY: I don't really understand that. That is the strangest part that I have seen in this case. With the many appearances there have been of this person, it's amazing to me that they have not come up with a credible witness that can come up with a good description.

BLITZER: Mr. Kennedy, stand by, because I want to come to you right after this news conference.

Authorities in Montgomery County, Maryland. Chief Moose speaking right now.


CHIEF CHARLES MOOSE, MONT. CO. POLICE: The case so far is inconclusive related to other situations, but we also realize that the victim in that matter continues to improve, and may be talking to people, may be expressing concerns. But we'd like to just remind you that it is inconclusive, it is an open case. Nothing has been ruled in, nothing has been ruled out.

Earlier this morning, down in Silver Spring, near December Way, there was a call and a lot of police activity. A white van with two males that went into the woods some resources deployed there, certainly was determined that these were bow hunters. The call was clear, the situation is certainly on the books, but it is not related and it is no problem. But there was a lot of activity and energy in that area this morning.

There was also a lot of concern and questions about the Home Depot scene being revisited by Fairfax County Police, remind you that nothing more than them having their accident reconstruction team lay the graphics of the area, conducted some additional search, and there's no additional input or discussion, and I would encourage you to contact Fairfax police if you continue to have questions about that work.

I see that as very routine, very traditional, just good business to do what they did. And certainly the issue of the prosecution of the discredited witness has been referred to the Fairfax commonwealth attorney, and that is a matter being dealt with by the Fairfax Police Department and their prosecutor.

It remains an item of low interest to the task force, obviously a lot of energy being spent on other areas. But it is at this point out of the hands of the task force and in the hands of the commonwealth attorney.

If there are any questions about the Kaiser Permanentee building at 10810 Connecticut Avenue, about 8:15 this morning, some glass did break, but it is just a matter of some kind of hot-cold dynamics, not related to any kind of situation, no shooting and everyone is fine.

At this point, I want to take any questions.

QUESTION: The September 14th incident, if the sniper is captured, is that one of the things that he or she would be questioned about?

MOOSE: When the person or people involved in this are captured, they will be questioned about that, unless in between that time we get definitive evidence that does not link him. But at this point, they will be questioned about that.

QUESTION: Except for the last reliable ballistic evidence when the victim was shot across the wide parking lot in the middle of a shopping plaza from -- apparently a great distance away, shot in the back, does it not fit the MO of the sniper cases in every other way?

MOOSE: Well, sir, certainly that case has been out there. It has been discussed several times. You're welcome to draw whatever conclusions you desire. And, again, it is an open case. We have not ruled it in and not ruled it out.

QUESTION: The last few days there has been a lot of miscommunications, and I know you're feeling we provided interview witnesses and we have done things you think we shouldn't. How would you grade yourself with communicating with the press and the task force since this operation has begun?

MOOSE: Sir, there's nothing here that's about me.

QUESTION: What about the task force?

MOOSE: Well, certainly. If I understand the question, we still need people to come forward, and when we talk about the witness that has been proven to be not credible, we do that with great hesitation, because we don't want other people to feel like this is about an effort by the police to credit or discredit them. We need witnesses. We want our witnesses to come forward. We work very hard to keep any information that they provide us confidential. We work very hard to keep them confidential.

Now, certainly, when they seek you out, then that's a decision that they've made. But we need witnesses, we need people to come forward. We're obligated with the reward and just with good decent police work to keep them as confidential as we can until they make another decision or maybe the case forces them to make another decision because we're now in a courtroom. But obviously, we respect the confidentiality of witnesses.

QUESTION: It only goes for good, but it's not something easy you're going to get by making up a story?

MOOSE: Well, the reward, the $500,000 is for the arrest or indictment of the person or people involved in this. So there are, in my mind, checks and balances that will keep people from receiving that if they're just making things up. So we think that system is in line.

What motivated or motivates other witnesses, obviously, we're all different and that varies from situation to situation, but I would hope that people would look at this and see that this tragedy needs all of us to come together to help solve it.

QUESTION: Have you got any fears, though, that if this person is not dealt with firmly and there isn't a prosecution, you may have a situation where others come forward with false information for you, sort of like we saw in the anthrax situation where you had a series of hoaxes once you had one.

MOOSE: Again, that's some speculation. I guess in my heart I'd like to say that I always like to start out trusting people until they prove otherwise.

So, with that in mind, we're going to talk to witnesses, listen to witnesses, work with them. Whether we make a show of this individual, I'm not so convinced as important as in some other case. I think people that are watching this and paying attention knows this person was wrong for doing that. I think that many people are disgusted that that happened. So that doesn't encourage them to engage in it. I think that says that they're glad that we found that out before any irrational decisions were made, and people are concerned that resources may have been misused and that they don't want to be any part of that.

So I don't know that it's imperative that we move this case forward rapidly, and do all of those things. It's more important that we have our investigative continue to focus on the case. QUESTION: Are you worried that, potentially, the tipline that people might feel inhibited phoning in because of the discredited witness?

MOOSE: Ma'am, certainly we have not seen any hesitation on the part of people who call the tip line. People continue to call. We continue to get a lot of feedback, and so we continue to feel very good about that. If we see some shift, then we will try to address that. But right now, it's just been very heartwarming to see the number of people working with us calling us, talking to us. You know, e-mails, voice mails, it's just people are doing everything in their power to assist us and it's very good.

QUESTION: Chief, you said that as recently as yesterday, you said you're still very optimistic about where this investigation stands. Do you feel that way today? What's your basis for the optimism, and you said just a minute ago that we're spending a lot of energy not on prosecuting this guy but in other areas. How are you spending your energy? How does the task force today now after almost two weeks spend its time?

MOOSE: Sir, it really is really inappropriate to go into any great detail, but I can tell you that there's always several various strategies ongoing in the task force. Evidence being looked at, people being talked to, other pieces of the puzzle being put together. I remain very optimistic. In some ways, I'm an optimistic person. That is very helpful in this situation, but I would remind you of the talent, the skill that we have in this investigation.

Again, I have the luxury of seeing the investigators, talking to the investigators, talking to men and women in law enforcement. I saw the energy that was deployed so effectively by all the police officers in the state of Virginia when they implemented the strategy, how committed they were, how responsive they were, all of that collectively feeds into my optimism.

And then you add to that the people in our community, the number of phone calls, the tips, the information, the support. All of that is part of that optimism that I have, and I would hope that you could share that with me, because I think that I've only shown you a small opening into the energy and the people that are working on this case. If you can use your imagination and put yourself there, then I would hope you would also be very optimistic.

QUESTION: Chief Moose, we're heading into another weekend. What steps, if any, are being taken to give people the confidence they need to get out on the streets and shop, to get on with their lives?

MOOSE: Well, sir, we continue to talk to people about the fact that we can't be intimidated as Americans, the fact that law enforcement is standing up, that we're staffing up, that we're out and about, that we have different strategies, that the investigation is ongoing, but we also realize that at some point, there are individual decisions, and we don't want to deny that people will make individual decisions. We encourage them to not be intimidated, to carry on with life. We try to show them different ways, to talk to them about ways, if they're in a crime situation, how to be a good witness.

But, again, is there one answer? Is there one thing that is going to make that decision for you? I'm afraid I don't have that.

Well, sir, we have continued to enhance our presence to do different things to hopefully solve this case to also make people feel that we're paying attention. But also. we can't be everywhere, all the time.

BLITZER: The Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose briefing reporters as he does every day on the latest developments. He says he remains very optimistic, optimistic that this case will be solved sooner rather than later. He says, by nature, he's an optimistic person, but he's crediting the talent, the skill of the task force, all the local, the state, the federal investigators who brought in, more than 1,000 now in this case. The search for the sniper still on the loose.

Joining me once again, Wendell Kennedy is the former FBI director. He was in charge of the Oklahoma City investigation. Mr. Kennedy, do you see reason to be optimistic right now?

KENNEDY: Not having the benefit of what the information they actually have accumulated, I don't have a basis for that. However, the application of the resources that are going on here are 1,000 people with every agency in the area, federal, and state and local as well, now even including some military assets, would lead me to believe that this will come to a successful conclusion.

BLITZER: On that note, let's hope you're right. Mr. Kennedy, thanks for joining us once again. We'll have you back as this continuing coverage of ours continues to move on.

KENNEDY: Thank you, Wolf.


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