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Two Men, Van Seized at Exxon Gas Station in Richmond, Virginia

Aired October 21, 2002 - 10:20   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Now you're seeing Live pictures there of this Exxon station. We want to talk right now to Don Neilson, who I understand works at a place right across the street from there. Mr. Neilson, are you with us?

HARRIS: Now, where is it, you work right across the street from this gas station?

NEILSON: Actually, it's right next door, not across the street.

HARRIS Right next door.

NEILSON: Yes, sir.

HARRIS: Well, what did you see this morning?

NEILSON: Well, it was very interesting. There seemed to be quite a bit of police presence here, around the property, and that stirred a little commotion amongst everybody. We started looking. And there was some police standing in the bushes and looking around up towards the gas station. And then, all of a sudden, we see this white van, and we're thinking, oh my god, what's going on here? And then we had probably what I would say seven or eight unmarked cars in front of our dealership, and out of one of the cars came three guys that opened the trunk and proceeded to put on bullet-proof vests and load up assault rifles. And they kind of crept very surreal-like in front of the dealership up to the corner. And then, the next thing you know, they were just on this van in a matter of seconds. They pulled a man out, held rifles on him and away, he was gone.

HARRIS: Well, how long were those police officers there before the van pulled up?

NEILSON: A while. I'm going to say, by the time I was -- it was brought to my attention, probably 10 or 15 minutes of people looking around, milling around and parked in the area here.

HARRIS: About what time?

NEILSON: I would say probably 8:15, 8:20, right in the that range.

HARRIS: And what time did you seat white van pull up? Can you recall? NEILSON: The white van was there after I saw what was going on. So I did not see the van pull up. One of the girls that works here went up for coffee at 8:00 and noticed it there at that time.

HARRIS: Now, when you did see them go ahead and approach the van, did you see what happened then? Were guns brandished? Did you see them overwhelm this person, or was it a quiet negotiation? Or what?

NEILSON: Oh, no. It was very overwhelming. They put their rifles to their shoulder, at the time -- they were still in front of the dealership, which is probably a good 100 yards from the van. OK? They kept their weapons shouldered as they approached the van, and not at any one second did they not have their rifles pointed at the van. They went to the van to try to open it. It appeared as though the door was locked. It's a little bit rainy here and a little bit wet. And they could see the officer's hand slide off of the door handle. And then one of them banged on the van, it looked like, and then the door was opened. At that point, two officers continued to keep their rifles pointed in the area of the van. They approached from the right rear. They never got really to the front of the vehicle. The sliding door came open in a matter of three or four seconds it seems like. This fellow, a single man in the van was down on the ground quickly. I mean, it was very overwhelming. Very forceful.

HARRIS: Interesting. Don Neilson, thank you very much. We thank you very much for your insight this morning and for being a good eyewitness. And we're want to go now to our Ed Lavandera, who is there on the scene. We understand, Ed, that you've got another eyewitness with you?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Leon. We're -- and just to give you an idea of where we're at, the Exxon behind me, the phone booth you see just over my left shoulder here, where the officers are standing. Just a little while ago that's where the white Plymouth Voyager van had been parked. It was just recently towed away. And a gentleman here named Keith Underwood (ph) who's the service manager at an Oldsmobile car dealership just next door to this Exxon.

You've been here since 7:00 this morning and saw everything unfold. Kind of fill us in on the blanks here?

KEITH UNDERWOOD, SERVICE MANAGER OLDSMOBILE CAR DEALERSHIP: Yes. Somewhere -- I never actually looked at my clock. But I think somewhere between 8:00 and 8:30 I found myself going up to the front of the dealership to check messages or something and noticed that we had -- I think the first time that I saw them, about three Henrico County police officers, and maybe one or two undercover police officers on our lot. They were getting out of the cars, they were pulling binoculars out, kind of the compact binoculars, and they were staring at the Exxon station next to our dealership.

LAVANDERA:: You said it was a pretty awesome scene to watch?

UNDERWOOD: Yes, it was impressive. They were very well organized, you know. I want to make sure everybody knows that it was very well organized. The next thing they did, that they pulled out bigger binoculars. At one point, I stuck my head out the front door just to kind of get a good glimpse of the van, and they had told me to go back in. So I went back in and started watching them some more. More of them showed up. I- it probably got seven to ten. And then I started looking on the side of the building, and I had -- there was police officers on my property coming from the back side of the Exxon. You could definitely tell that they were making sure that this guy couldn't see them. They were definitely hiding from him.

LAVANDERA: We've heard about one person being arrested. Did you get a good look at that person?

UNDERWOOD: Yes. I got a decent look at the guy they pulled out of the van, yes.

LAVANDERA: Out of the driver's seat?

UNDERWOOD: It was the passenger's side. They approached him from the passenger's side.

LAVANDERA: Describe that person for us.

UNDERWOOD: Before they got all cluttered with police officers around him, when they pulled him out of the van, they seemed to set him on the ground, so he was sitting up. My first impression is that he was -- he was not white. He was not black. He almost looked Hispanic.

LAVANDERA: And what did they do with him when they pulled him out of the passenger's side of the car?

UNDERWOOD: Sat him right on the ground. He sat there for not very long. A cop car pulled up next to him. They stuck him in the car. I never really saw them drive away with it. I just started looking at different things. You know, they were -- at that point they were doing some heavy duty roping off of the area, you know, so I was just kind of watching everything else.

LAVANDERA: Did you see anyone else get arrested?

UNDERWOOD: No. There was only one guy in the van. When they approached the van from the passenger side, the doors were locked. They were at full kilter, you know, ready for whatever. I saw the guy try to open the door a couple of times. It was locked. He went back up into his stance, he went back down, tried it a couple more times. It finally unlocked. He opened that door, slid the passenger sliding door. I think two of them went out, pulled him out. And that's when they sat him down. So it was, once they got the door open, he was out of the car quick.

LAVANDERA: Keith, I want to show these -- Keith had the presence of mind to grab a Polaroid camera, apparently, and start taking pictures as you were inside the office there. Slightly blurry, but this is inside the dealership.

And what are we looking at here? UNDERWOOD: That's after -- another interesting point of the story is, once they sent a red Mustang back -- an undercover cop back out on the road. He drove by the van and turned around. It seemed like right when -- right when he got back in there, a couple of police officers ran across the street with what I thought was yellow tape, you know, the police tape. But while that Mustang went on, two or three of the guys popped their trunks, they started putting on external bullet-proof vests, they pulled out big rifles with scopes on them and clips. I mean, it was impressive.

LAVANDERA: Did you immediately get the feeling this might be connected to the sniper shootings?

UNDERWOOD: Oh, yes. Yes. Right off the bat. I was hoping. I was hoping that they were closing in on this guy. But this actually is a picture of -- after they had put on the bullet-proof vests, they started hiding. They were getting closer and closer to the Exxon property and instead of walking, they would hide behind here. Then they'd hide behind an inventory car. They would hide behind another pillar.

LAVANDERA: And this is before they stormed on to the Exxon?

UNDERWOOD: Yes. And it wasn't a full-fledged run. It was a calm, collected, just a continuous march, right up to the passenger's side of the -- .

LAVANDERA: And there's some more Polaroid here that he took, showing, I think this is the officers approaching the door here?

UNDERWOOD: That's when they finally got on to the grass and started making their move to the van. That's that one right there.

LAVANDERA: In case you can't make it out, you can see what appears to be three officers just here, the rest are inside.

UNDERWOOD: Fully drawn.

LAVANDERA: There's the white van, which appears to have the parking --

UNDERWOOD: The engine was running the whole time. You could see the smoke coming out the tailpipe. It's been kind of coldish, rainy here today. The parking lights I think were on. I don't think they were brake lights. They were parking lights.

LAVANDERA: And then there's one picture here that you actually see the officers in the -- I don't know...

UNDERWOOD: There's two shots that didn't come out. One was while they were trying to get in the vehicle. They were at full stance. I snapped the shot there. And then I got another shot of them where the sliding door had just been opened so the vehicle was fully opened. And that didn't come out, either.

LAVANDERA: In case you can't see it here, you can clearly see up close here the officers on NEVILLE: e passenger side through the window, just like you had described it. How many people were around the gas station at the time? Did you see people just hanging out at the gas station, filling up their tanks?

UNDERWOOD: I concentrated on the van, but, yes. I don't remember. I think they slowly got people out of there. I think that by the time that everything started to go down, it looked like the Exxon was pretty empty.

LAVANDERA: All right, Keith, thank you very much. Keith Underwood, being yanked away by the officers here. So I appreciate your time.

Leon, that's the scene here. We're told that in a little while, authorities will be holding a press briefing here, at some point, but the scene's still rather chaotic as the actual scene itself has been under control, but everything around us still seems to be slightly chaotic. Leon?

HARRIS: All right, Thanks, Ed. A remarkable scene and remarkable replay there with those Polaroids. Quick thinking there by that eyewitness there. Let's go back to Paula Zahn who's stand by in New York for more on this.


ZAHN: We've been together for the last four hours. I mean, we were so struck by the eyewitness' account, that he started to see this police team get into place 10 to 15 minutes, he said, in advance of this white Plymouth van driving up.

CASEY JORDAN, CNN CRIMINOLOGIST: An extremely interesting piece of information, because my initial reaction was that they had their tactical units converge, after tracing a phone call, perhaps, to that particular phone booth. But even Kelly pointed out, it can take up to 20 minutes for them to get into their tactical gear.

We saw them getting to the scene, before the van hit the phone booth, putting on all of their tactical gear -- an amazing witness. Unbelievable that he had the fortitude to get out his Polaroid camera and shoot those amazing photographs of the tactical unit, police officers crouching behind the cars, waiting for this van to arrive. Again, it really does underscore, they were prepared, and this is not accidental siege.

ZAHN: And that witness just spoke with Ed had an interesting piece of information about them, apparently, sending a red Mustang in, almost as a decoy, he believed, with an undercover cop inside, who actually pulled around, he said, in front of this white and sort of made a U-turn and came back around.

Kelly, I know that Daryn was saying a little bit earlier that we shouldn't be surprised by the scale of this reaction to whatever it is that went down, but you still are impressed by the speed at which they got in place today? MCCANN: Even more indicators, Paula, if you look, you know, the method of movement. What he described is typically called the "combat glide." In other words, it allows you to move and shoot accurately, only at that pace, not to run out of control. They just kind of move along, which stabilizes the weapon, maintaining your sight picture.

Secondly, you see the men crouching behind the car in that Polaroid. That may have been the final attack position. In other words, it was as close as they would allow themselves to get, without showing their hand, unnecessarily, but still give them a reasonably straight and direct line of movement to a dangerous suspect.

Lastly, the approach itself, from right rear. In other words, you think of yourself, sitting in the vehicle, it's easy, from your seated position, to look in your left rearview mirror. But from right rear, it's a total blind attack. In other words, it's a blind of light (ph).

So at least from what we're hearing from the eyewitnesses and the movements of the team and the rapidity, with which, you know, they converge, the overwhelming use of, not force, but the overwhelming presence of potential force, where a suspect could very easily say there's no need for me to even struggle. I can't overcome these guys. It obviously was conducted by well-trained people and it sounds like there was a significant amount of planning.

ZAHN: There's another piece of information that I was struck by, that came out of this interview Ed Lavandera just did, and that was the description of the -- whoever this man is, who's been taken into custody. And it's interesting to note, he described the man as not white, not black, probably Hispanic.

Now, Casey Jordan, we know that the police were very upset that there was a witness who absolutely lied about the identity of the shooter outside the Home Depot department store, where he talked about that man as being olive skinned. I don't know what significance you make of this description we just heard from the witness, because we don't even know why this guy was taken into custody.

JORDAN: Absolutely. But we also don't know, for sure, Mr. Dowdy who, of course, accused of fabricating that evidence, we don't know that he was the only person who described the assailant as olive skinned. There could have been more than one person.

The police could have been sitting on descriptions, all along, that supported it. The fact that that got out to the media shows that it might have corroboration and we have to be careful about our speculation because, again, Chief Moose has said he plans on delivering a message to somebody this afternoon. So the person in the van is of acute interest to everyone, but we have to always put out that disclaimer, this may not be the precise person they're looking for. It could be a decoy, it could be a setup.

ZAHN: And let's talk a little more about this. Given this cryptic communication, that Chief Moose just had with reporters, does it make it more likely or less likely they were talking about more than two people involved here and, perhaps, an organization and perhaps not domestic-grown terrorism?

JORDAN: As long as they get the perpetrator, I'm happy to be wrong on anything. And I have been perpetrating this -- the concept of the lone gunman as my favorite theory. But there is certainly plenty of room for the two-person theory and the terrorism theory, which I've been discounting, all along, suddenly seems to gain a little bit of momentum because who is who is he delivering the message to this afternoon? Who is he responding to? It occurs to me that it could be a greater entity than just one or two people. Perhaps the person in custody is a representative of something larger than I had assessed in the past.

ZAHN: So, Leon, as you carry on, we're going to try to make more sense of what Chief Moose had to say, when he said, "We're going to respond to a message that we have received. We will respond later. We are preparing a response at this time." And of course, no mention as to what was happening almost 90 miles south of where he was in Richmond, Virginia, at the time he made that announcement.

HARRIS: But just as you say that, I was talking here with Eric Haney about that message by the Chief Moose and what that would mean, if you combine that with what we've seen play out here this morning and the scenes throughout this Exxon gas station. You believe this could be evidence that there is another person involved?

ERIC HANEY, CNN FIREARMS ANALYST: Well, I think it indicates that. It could well indicate that. You know, with the message of the chief that was delivered, "We are preparing that response." They prepared this. They've prepared this one. There was bona fide exchanges. There was a time window, and it just means, possibly, OK, now we're ready to move on to the second one. You have (ph) delivered this last message, we understand it. Now let's go to the second one.

HARRIS: Well, let's right now replay Chief Moose's message.


CHARLES MOOSE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE CHIEF: We are going to respond to a message that we have received. We will respond later. We are preparing our response at this time.


HARRIS: Now, federal law enforcement sources are telling our folks at our Washington bureau that they now have two people in custody. We're just now getting this word coming in from our Wash -- our folks in Washington. Now, that would seem to you and indicate that, perhaps, what we were seeing here this morning, play out in Virginia was phase one of an operation this morning, and perhaps now phase two is taking place?

HANEY: Well, it could well be. I mean, everything was focused here. Maybe that other location, where that other person was taken, was in a more remote spot. So this was the public one. This was one established that established the relationship with the genuine trust between the police and this one person, as he gave up, and then, when that took place, a message was delivered, OK, it's for real. Then the second one happened.

HARRIS: Now, why is it then that a message of trust like that would have to be set or established to begin with here? If the whole object was to turn themselves in, if that was the object here this morning, and we can't say for sure that if that was it or not, until we get confirmation, why not do it all altogether at once?

HANEY: To survive it. You don't know if you can survive it. You know, if the police are nervous, everyone's terribly wound up about all of this, it's just so easy for something to go wrong. You think of that as the police S.W.A.T. team moved in, just textbook classic professionalism.

But had that person done anything wrong, had they shown something in their hands, the shooting would have started, so it's very delicate. The worst time and the most dangerous thing in combat operations in the field is coming back in to a friendly place, when you've been behind the lines, and this is the same situation -- two hostile entities making that first contact and we want to survive it.

HARRIS: Let's go to the center of this investigation, Montgomery County, the headquarters there. Our Bill Hemmer and Daryn Kagan who have been covering this from the get-go there, and have been watching events unfold over the weekend and, as well, this morning. They're standing by their live there now.


HEMMER: Hey, Leon. Good morning again to you. Daryn is sitting here with me. We've were talking, as we've been listening to these reports, that witness who was Ed Lavandera was absolutely fascinating.

KAGAN: Yes. And those Polaroid pictures.

HEMMER: Yes. To think you had that at a car dealership. A couple of things he said, Daryn, that really stuck out at me, he said this person who was apprehended was not white, not black, but Hispanic. His description he gave. And several of the other shootings that we've heard, there has been eyewitness accounts, not necessarily to the shooting itself, but to the possibility of the shooter driving away and being described as not white, not black, possibly Hispanic.

And the other thing I thought was, sort of, was very interesting about how these agents were at the gas station, had it essentially cased 10 to 15 minutes before the van pulled up, which lends credence to what Kelly was saying about, you know, this was a situation that had been prearranged and it is possible, again, whoever was on that telephone, was trying to make contact with police.

KAGAN: Right. As we were saying, we were amazed with that report by Ed Lavandera, talking to that witness who had the piece of mind to grab a Polaroid camera. I think, Ed was saying that he worked at a dealership, a car dealership and maybe that's why he had the Polaroid available. Thanks for showing us those pictures.

And Ed, do you have any more news from the scene right now?

LAVANDERA: Well, we can pass along that federal law enforcement officials or federal law enforcement officials are telling CNN that a second person has been taken into custody. Remember, I asked the witness a little while ago if he seen a second person being taken into custody, he said no. That's because that person was taken into custody elsewhere -- not around here. We're not exactly sure where that location might have been, but it was definitely related, we're told, to the scene and what was happening here at the time.

The arrest took place, without incident. That person was not believed to have been armed either. Now we understand both people are being held in the county jail. That's the latest bit of information we have here. Describing the scene a little more, we are starting to see investigators. Perhaps we can pan off a little bit, starting to look over the grass area here, just along the curb. The first time we've seen authorities here almost try to collect evidence or any kind of samples or whatever they might be looking for, any clues or evidence here at this scene. This is the first time we've seen them do this at this scene. About 30 minutes ago, the Plymouth Voyager white van was taken away from the scene and have kind of gone through and started taking pictures. It's hard to make out what they're picking up, if anything at all. That's what we're seeing at this point.

KAGAN: Any more information about when that second person was taken into custody? If it happened before or after the person at the gas station?

LAVANDERA: I don't have that information. It was related to what was happening here. So from that, perhaps we can deduce it was around the same time. An exact time, whether it was before or after, I'm not sure at this point.

KAGAN: All right. Ed Lavandera, thank you so much, in Richmond, Virginia -- Bill.

To look at the timing, one thing we've been watching, I think Casey Jordan pointed it out as well, the timing when Chief Moose came out and made that statement saying they were going to respond to this message. That was after the person in the gas station was already taken into custody. Of course, Chief Moose has that information, since he's leading up the task force. Makes you wonder who else are they talking to out there. That is the possibility one thinks about.

HEMMER: Great point. If there was an accomplice, two gunmen, did they separate, divide? Have they been swapping cars? All these questions are still out there. At this point, unfortunately, we don't have firm answers.

KAGAN: We don't. It seems to be unfolding quickly. While we know there are two people in custody, that's all we know. It could be as witnesses, it could be as people suspicious -- this case is far from being solved.

HEMMER: We do know, though, at some point, some level, there is some communication going on between law enforcement and the gunman -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Bill. Back to R.E. Dotson with us earlier who was headed to work and actually sort of drove in to this situation today. R.e., good morning again. Why don't you take the audience who wasn't with us earlier this morning, explain exactly what you saw.

R.E. DOTSON, WITNESS: Are you with me?

ZAHN: Yes. We on the air.

DOTSON: I pulled up to the spotlight at palm and broad, and was sitting at the spotlight. All of a sudden police came. Police cars came from everywhere. Like, 20 to 30 police cars surrounded the Exxon station and there was a white minivan parked closest to broad street next to a phone booth, and the police surrounded that minivan, a dark man was then pulled out, on the ground. I couldn't really see him. And they surrounded him. At that point I really couldn't see what was going on.

They then started taping off the Exxon station and diverting traffic everywhere. There is a -- a helicopter still hovering over the Exxon station. They have taken whomever they on the ground away. They surrounded him and put him in a van, took him away, and then a -- a -- what am I trying to say? A tow truck came and took the van away. The van was, from what I could tell, it was not an Astrovan. It was like a Plymouth Voyager with Virginia temporary tags on.

Because I'm in the industry, I work, at the Car Guys right down the street from this Exxon station, I noticed there was no county or city sticker in the window, and no state inspection on the van. There wasn't a ladder on the van, but there was a luggage rack.

ZAHN: Yes. We could see that from earlier pictures before the van was moved. Now, R.E., what's interesting about your description, you seem to have been at the intersection at the time the police action was coming down. Another witness who witnessed from a different perspective saw a bunch of officers in place, and even a Polaroid shows them crouching down before all this police action. Did you see anybody else up on the roof of the gas station with binocular?

DOTSON: I did not. I didn't. Just because it was -- you know, early morning, on my way to work and I wasn't really looking for it. Then, when it all happened, it all happened so quickly, and then they started diverting traffic. I didn't see any anybody. Since then, yes, I have seen ATF people running around in full -- full combat gear with high-powered rifles and that sort of thing.

ZAHN: R.E., we really appreciate your insights. I wanted to thank you for your time and head back to Kelly, at our Washington bureau. You thought earlier you thought this was all part of the prearranged action. And the Ed Lavandera interview with the one witness I guess would substantiates that, where he described these forces being in place a good five to 10 minutes -- or, actually, I took notes, here, 10 to 15 minutes before the actual action came down. What did you see when you saw all these pictures? J. KELLY MCCANN, CNN ANALYST: Obviously, behind the car, you know, you've got the pre-attack position, or the final position where the officers would break cover and move to the vehicle. They don't want to get too close but they also don't want to be so far away that their movement will be perceived too early. So -- and undoubtedly, they had a couple angles on the suspect's vehicle. The approach from the right rear, of course a blind approach that would be difficult for somebody naturally to look up and see, the tendency more or less going to the side where you're driving from. So well planned in operation. But definitely forethought.

ZAHN: And then, if you would, reprise us on what we heard from that witness, where he described how they approached the van, that the door was locked, and it appeared as though -- you can describe this, because I know you were listening along with me. How they actually got him out of there.

MCCANN: Right, the movement, Paula, you've got to remember, as you do an approach to the actual crisis point, you've got to be able to shoot and you can only move as fast as you can shoot accurately if something happens. Because obviously there's a responsibility not to put, you know, rounds out into the public. So that's where you see that combat glide. The weapon is stabilized, the eye is intersected by the sight and it's generally put where you would want the rounds to impact.

When you got to the door, they did not have the luxury to have so many people there that one person could be assigned responsibility for opening the door. Now, that sounds odd, but in that raid environment, if anything gets twitchy, it could go awfully bad. So what you saw is probably the man retained his weapon with one hand and shoulder mounted, reach forward with the other hand to pull it out, while the other two officers had direct line of sight in front of them on the suspect, obviously giving him verbal commands not to move, show his hands, et cetera. As he tried to do that, there's a lot to balance. I mean, you've got your weapon, a long gun, you're trying to reach forward.

So it may not have been locked. It may have been locked. And the movement of the man inside -- you've got one person saying, show me your hands. He may have had to unlock the door. So you can see how things could be misinterpreted. Very high anxiety state.

The minute the door came open, I'm sure they reached in, grabbed him, and he came out in a position that would not support him attacking, even in an unarmed situation. So very tense...

ZAHN: In fact, the witness -- yes, the witness had a pretty good perspective on this, because he talked about him being pulled out on the passenger side. And then he said -- and these are his exact words, "he was set on the ground almost in a sitting position." That's where we heard the description for the first time this morning, that this witness had, where he said, the man was not white, he was not black. He believed him to be Hispanic. And I want you to comment on that, Kelly, within the context of the fact that police investigators haven't even confirmed that taking this man into custody has anything to do with the sniper spree. How compelling is this, this description?

MCCANN: There's a couple -- well, not so compelling. Not that the callers haven't just had fantastic eyes-on. I mean, it's phenomenal. But we also know that eyewitness accounts in fast-moving events, especially when you're in a state of angst, have not been particularly accurate. So I don't doubt that the massive moves, the general movements that he saw weren't right to the point. However, the minor details are a little bit easier -- or a little bit harder to discern. So I would just say, I'd be neutral on that at the moment. But, interestingly, Paula, is the timing of Chief Moose's message, when he came out.

ZAHN: Sure.

MCCANN: Interestingly there, what we look at is, number one, we don't know whether it could be more than two people. In fact, if -- because of the timing, maybe they had this person here in a remote location. The other person, was the chief still responding to yet another person? Or was the chief saying, we will respond to you after we prepare it, in order to stall and fix in place the second suspect so that they could also conduct that raid? Fascinating stuff.

ZAHN: Yes. It is. It's mysterious, because his comments were so darned cryptic, and it's interesting that you mention the timing of this, because you and I were watching this come down at the same time, and Chief Moose's announcement came after we saw this police action in Richmond.

MCCANN: Exactly. Which would tell me that, you know, it could go either way, that that was a trusted kind of takedown. In other words, we won't hurt you, and in fact they did not hurt that person. Which then might have driven -- if there's a second or third person or whatever -- to say okay, I see the way this is going to go. Then I'm all right to release myself into your custody. Then, again -- go ahead.

ZAHN: Go ahead, please, please. Carry on.

MCCANN: Then again, you know, it could have been a method to hold in place by using, you know, the media, as he did, to say, listen we're going to prepare a response. We'll get back to you. And he would have had to have remained somewhere or using the same phone as a signal to get that message, thereby locating him somewhere. So all good stuff.

ZAHN: Kelly, if you would, stand by. I'm going to go back to Bill Hemmer, to see if he can give us any greater context, along with Daryn, about the timing of the chief's message, and whether you've heard anybody officially say there's any correlation at all to what we're watching now, and the sniper investigation.

HEMMER: Nothing firm. I mean, strictly speculation right now. Listen, Paula, everybody's had a theory on this case from the very beginning, and it's not for, you know, trying to be malicious or trying to throw things out there that aren't true. I think in all honesty, everyone to a person is trying to figure out this case and trying to figure out who's responsible and how they catch them.

And the greatest testament, I think, is just, is the area and the residents and how active they have been with their own eyes and ears, taking the cue from police from the very beginning about trying to be educated as to how they become good witnesses, what they look for in a shooting scene, if they hear a gun shot, what do they do? How do they respond? All of those elements right now have been pulled into this story in Virginia and Maryland and certainly the District, Washington, D.C.

Daryn, I don't know what you want to add to that. I see you shaking your head in agreement. Go ahead.

KAGAN: Well, we've been having this conversation ongoing throughout the morning here. I'd just like to comment on the timing, not just of the news briefing that we just heard, but we're also trying to track down when the next news briefing might be. Of course, it was originally set for 12:00 noon. That now is a fluid situation. I want to let you -- give you some perspective of what we saw last night, when they came out with this first news conference with this first statement, when they were trying to talk...

HEMMER: I hate to do this to you, I'm sorry, there's a briefing under way right now at the Exxon in Richmond, Virginia.

Is that right? Let's dip in and see what we can or cannot hear right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay. Right now, I'm not real sure.

QUESTION: Can you at least tell us if this is a major break in the case?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really can't elaborate on anything else. Thank you very much for your patience.

QUESTION: Can you tell me how long you've been out here? What time did you all respond? Can you give me that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Early this morning.



HEMMER: All right. It was brief, and it was short. Will not, cannot elaborate on anything right now. I don't know what they said prior to us going to them, but law enforcement out in force in a big, big way at that Exxon station in Richmond there.

KAGAN: Yes, and even though we got to that a little bit late, our Ed Lavandera is there on the scene. And we'll get him up in just a couple seconds and find out what was said.

But I just wanted to say, last night when they came out with this first statement in trying to talk to the sniper, that news conference slid by at least an hour, an hour and 15 minutes. You know when they come out -- before they come out, that they are sitting there, each word that they say when they come out, has been gone over very, very carefully and they are carefully crafting those messages that they're trying to get out there. And that's why they come out and they say no questions. They have a specific point, they say it and they get in and they get out.

HEMMER: To our viewers, if you're just joining us, it was about, oh, wow, about an hour ago when Charles Moose came out earlier today. He took no questions. He came out and basically issued a statement. That statement reads -- the message that needs to be delivered is that we are going to respond to a message that we have received. He continued -- we will respond later. We are preparing our response at this time. Clearly a message of communication, going out with the sniper, some relationship has been set up and established. How deep it is, how firm it is right now, how often it has taken place is something we just do not know at this point.

Ed Lavandera is ready to go right now. Ed, we caught the tail end of that briefing. Not sure what you heard. The indication we got is that police are not going to elaborate on anything they found out just yet. Hello again.

LAVANDERA: Bill, the authorities just holding a brief, impromptu statement here, just kind of giving the news media that showed up here at this scene a heads up as to what's going to be going on. In two hours we're told that the local, state and federal authorities will hold a briefing at a parking lot just on the other side of the Exxon gas station here. They won't elaborate on what's going to be said or who exactly is going to be showing up, but they do say that the investigation here is ongoing. They wouldn't comment on any specifics -- no specifics at this point, but we were able to tell you that law enforcement sources, federal law enforcement sources, tell CNN that two people have been arrested here today. Not sure exactly if there's any connection yet, just as of yet, as to whether or not this is related to the sniper incident, but perhaps all of that will be cleared up here in the next couple of hours as local, state and federal authorities gather for a press briefing, and that's what the authorities here on the ground are aiming for in the next couple of hours.


HEMMER: All right, Ed, thanks, standing by down there at that Exxon station where the hub of activity circles now.



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