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Police Apprehend Two in Search for Sniper

Aired October 21, 2002 - 14:07   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Our Kelli Arena, our justice correspondent, had been covering that and actually broke much of the story, the developments throughout the day about these two people who are in custody and we bring Kelli in now to tell us more about that.
Kelli, Hello.

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Daryn. Well, we're told one of the people that's in custody is a 24-year-old male of Mexican origin, but I have to tell you, as we reported earlier, when the arrests were first made, we had heard a great deal of optimism, lots of energy, things were moving very quickly. And then there was an unbelievable clamp down on information. And I have spoken to several sources who have told me that things, at this point, just are not totally adding up.

And we do sense that there is some caution that's being displayed by law enforcement, as you mentioned, one press conference canceled, the one before that, very, very short and lacking in great detail. I think that that's probably prudent, at this point.

But getting a sense that there's -- this is in full investigative mode, still, we do know that there were several search warrants issued, in relation to these two individuals. I am not getting any information that those have been successful, in any way, in terms of linking these two individuals to recent sniper activity.

So things very tenuous right now, Daryn. And I -- you know, without any quotable quotes for you, I'm just trying to give you a sense of where things are at. But as we reported earlier, we do know, at least, what led investigators to that location, if not to the sniper, but to that location. And there was a call that came in, according to sources, to the tip line, the sniper tip line. On that tip line, the caller said there is a letter, a note for the police in the woods by the Ponderosa restaurant, where the shooting took place. Police did, indeed, find a note.

The caller, the voice on the tip line was described as having an accent of unknown origin. When pressed, the sources said they really could not describe it one way or another. So we were told by sources that that area and surrounding areas were under surveillance for the day, yesterday, today, you know, since the shooting took place.

And they did hone in on two individuals, one, as we saw, you know, on camera, picked up by police at a phone booth, another picked up at an undisclosed location not too far from there. That phone booth located five miles from where the original call had taken place to the tip line. So we do know that there is a massive intelligence gathering effort going on. It was information that led them. It wasn't just a chance meeting of law enforcement and these individuals, but not getting the very clear "go" signal, in terms of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is, indeed, the sniper or someone even related to the sniper incidents.

Back to you -- Daryn.

KAGAN: And to be clear, officials have said that these two people are in custody, they're being questioned, but they haven't been charged with anything?

ARENA: That's right, and they were very clear on that. No charges and no information at all was released. And very cautious, as they should be. There are no charges filed, and so you don't usually hear about that. But sources very, very tight-lipped, but saying things just, at this point, are not adding up, not adding up, regarding these two individuals. So we'll wait and see until we get definite confirmation. That's what we can offer, at this point.

KAGAN: Disappointing. Kelly, thank you for clarifying all that. Appreciate that.

Well, there was definitely a flurry of activity when one of these individuals was taken into custody at a gas station in Richmond, Virginia, earlier today and that's exactly where we find our Ed Lavandera.

Ed, Hello.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Daryn, you know, one of the interesting things that happened this morning is is that about 5 1/2 hours ago, when all of this first started playing out at the Exxon station that you see behind me, the people around here, the witnesses who ended up seeing everything unfold before their eyes said they knew instantly what was going on. And that, perhaps, in some sort of way, this might be connected to the sniper incident. I think that goes a long way in showing just how embedded and how ingrained this story has become, in so many people's minds, especially in the Virginia-Maryland and Washington, D.C. area. But witnesses here describing that initial scene, they say it was amazing to watch the officers jump into action. They say it was swift and quick.

DON NEILSON, CAR DEALER: It was like -- it was almost like it was surreal. It was almost like watching a video game, honestly, in the flesh. It just unfolded right in front of us and it was very fast and you just -- I don't know. It was -- I don't know.

LAVANDERA: I know, it's one of those situations you get in and you're just kind of-- it's all happening, it's tough to analyze.


LAVANDERA: How do you feel now? Are you a little bit calmer?

NEILSON: Yes. I mean, it's very overwhelming. The whole morning has been. I've been on numerous phone interviews and with the people, the media, like this, and I just hope this is the person. I just -- God, we all do.

LAVANDERA: And one of the reasons many of these people started feeling that way that, perhaps, this might be or it might be connected to the sniper incidents is when they saw this incident, saw who had been pulled out of a white minivan, just where that white and yellow canopy is is, that's the pay phone where the Plymouth Voyager was parked up against. And you know, so they saw that imagine again. Any talk a white minivan, again, goes a long way into reminding people of what this story is all about. But investigators here continue working the scene, although traffic is opened up here and the 5 1/2 hours have now gone by, since this story first erupted here this morning, Daryn, and things are starting to look a lot calmer -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Right. Ed Lavandera. He's been on the scene since early this morning for us. Appreciate it much.

Once again, one of the things we're standing by here that will take place not that far from where Ed is is that is an update on the man who was shot on Saturday night. The ballistics test came back today saying the bullet that they took from him last night in the second surgery was, indeed, a match, so he becomes officially the 12th victim of this sniper. Nine people dead, three people wounded and have survived, so far.

Miles, when that news conference begins at the hospital to update us on that man's condition, you're going to see it live right here on CNN. For now, back to you.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. It's scheduled for 15 minutes from now. We'll, of course, keep our viewers posted. Thank you very much, Daryn, we'll be back with you in just a little bit.

Friends and family, while all this is happening, say goodbye today to the last person killed by the sniper. Funeral services were held for Linda Franklin who was shot outside a Home Depot in Falls Church, Virginia, one week ago. Franklin was a 47-year-old intelligence special -- specialist, I should say, for the FBI, not linked to this case, however. She was a breast cancer survivor and had two grown children. She was killed as she and her husband were loading supplies for their new home.

Let's get another take on all of this from one of our experts. CNN Security analyst Kelly McCann joining us, once again.

Kelly, as we continued on this road today, the story is changing, even as we speak. First of all, let's try to separate the note from the arrest of the two people in custody, if we can. The discovery of the note comes after a phone call is made, apparently, a phone that is traced to the general vicinity of that, you know, Exxon station there. Is it possible that these two events are entirely separate or is there a definitive link, in one way or another?

KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: If you deduce, then there is a couple of things we can look at. The critical link is, are these two people that are in custody and certainly no one has said they are the people responsible for this incident, did they leave the note. And that's is kind of the critical piece because, if you think about it, there was a 2 1/2-minute reaction time for the police to show up after the actual shooting. That's phenomenal response time.

The second that police officer took control of the scene, the initial responder, undoubtedly, he recognized it as potentially part of this. So he would have recognized the woodland scene, he would recognized the individual was shot with a standout shooter. Other responding officers show up and that is taken control of. It's isolated, contained and controlled, with outer perimeters and it's redundant. So after the shooting, it's doubtful that anybody could have put the note there, because they kept control of it, until the next evening, throughout the night. If somebody had put the note there previously to the shooting, then they must have known the shooting would take place there, which would implicate them. So the bottom line, Miles, is the critical thing to know is are the men in custody responsible for placing that note at that site.

MILES: All right. I guess another critical point to bring out here, though, was that note found inside the perimeter, which the police established there? That's, obviously, very crucial. If it had been found outside the perimeter, maybe we would not have heard about it at all. I don't know.

MCCANN: That's absolutely true, but I mean, it depends on how the on-scene commander identified the crime scene. For instance, how large or how small of an area do we have to contain? Because of the influence of us reacting to a standoff shooter, they would give more range, more distance to that, knowing that a rifle is capability out to 100, 150 yards -- this shooter's historical capability -- but it actually can shoot out to 500 yards. So really, there's still unknowns there, when we try to get rid of all the noise and look at critical elements.

MILES: All right. So I don't have the lay of the land there right now, but it is safe to say that proper procedure in this case would be to identify that possible site and immediately try to secure it, and certainly the possibility that there might be a suspect still in the vicinity?

MCCANN: Well, Absolutely. I mean, as in all breaking news, if somebody was -- how opportunistic could a person be to be driving down the road, hear that on the radio, know the area, enough to come up that dirt road or have some other access? I mean, I guess it's possible, but improbable. Somebody put that note there. Now, and somebody put it there at a critical time. It would appear critical link being, was it those two men or are they totally not involved in this and we simply don't know.

MILES: So you would downplay the possibility that this note is a hoax?

MCCANN: I can't, in my head, work through the facts to make a hoax not dangerous to anybody who would engage in that hoax. Subject to being arrested for filing a false report or whatever. I just -- I can't see that there are any windows of opportunity timewise for someone to introduce a note into a crime scene, prior to the murder. They would have had to have known and certainly after, when you saw on the television how many police officers were there.

MILES: Yes. Pretty much impossible.

Kelly McCann, security analyst, thank you very much. We appreciate you joining us, as always.


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