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Shooting Near Where First 5 Shootings Occurred

Aired October 22, 2002 - 06:32   ET


CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know what? Actually, we have CNN producer Mike Ahlers on the phone with us, who is there...

CALLAWAY: ... right there at the scene.

Mike -- good morning. Can you hear me?


CALLAWAY: Can you tell me what's going on there, and a little bit more about the incident?

AHLERS: Well, evidently -- and it's not altogether clear, but evidently, this happened as a passenger was boarding or getting off a bus. At least the police seem to be focusing their attention on a commuter bus that's pulled over at a bus stop here.

I understand that one person has been transported to the hospital. They are not being clear as to whether it was a man or a woman, or the viability of the patient.

There are helicopters above.

I also saw a plane or two that appeared to be participating in that, although that's uncertain, too.


AHLERS: There's...

CALLAWAY: You're breaking up just a little bit. Mike Brooks wanted to know whether or not this was close to a wooded area there?

AHLERS: It is. It's -- there is a wooded area here. I believe it's a fairly small park, and it's surrounded on almost all sides by an apartment complex. It's also about, oh, a quarter of a mile -- probably a quarter of a mile from the Michaels store, where this whole shooting spree (UNINTELLIGIBLE) begun back earlier this month.

But there is no indication of whether or not this is at all related to those others.

CALLAWAY: Right. Can you tell us what the scene is there now? We're looking at a shot from WTTG, and it looked like they had Connecticut Avenue shut down, and now it looks like traffic is moving there.

AHLERS: When I was on there about 5 or 10 minutes ago, it was open, but it may be shut down by now. I'm on the other side now, where they've just set up a police line.

CALLAWAY: All right, Mike, did you want to ask a question?

BROOKS: Yes, Mike, this is Mike Brooks. I was just wondering, do you see any law enforcement? Are they back in the woods doing a canvass of the woods itself? Are you able to see anything at all like that?

AHLERS: I see quite a number of ATF agents and Montgomery County Police. Those are the two that I see. I also see one person in what looks like military fatigues, but they'd be law enforcement. But I do not see them combing the woods right now.

CALLAWAY: Well, let me recap here with you and make sure that we've got everything clear.

This was apparently a male, who was getting off a commuter bus at Bell Pre (ph) Road and Connecticut Avenue. Is that what you're hearing, Mike?

AHLERS: Or Grand Pre Road, I believe, and Connecticut Avenue. And I can't say for certain they were getting on or off of a bus. All I know is that the police attention seems focused on a commuter bus at a bus stop.

BROOKS: Have we heard...


BROOKS: Have we heard of any lookouts at all, Mike, on the Montgomery County radios? I'm sure you all are monitoring standards. Have we heard of any lookout or anything at all in connection with this?

AHLERS: Well, I don't have one with me, and so I haven't heard of any lookout.


CALLAWAY: Hey, Mike, is traffic shut down there from where you are? We don't know exactly where you are right now, because it looks like things are moving back to normal there in light of all of this. It's amazing.

AHLERS: I am on a side street, and traffic is blocked off here.

CALLAWAY: And you said there are obviously helicopters in the air. Can you tell how many authorities have converged on this scene?

AHLERS: It's just a rough guess, the number I've seen is probably 50, but I'm only seeing one portion of the scene. BROOKS: Mike, can you also give us some kind of sense of where this is located in connection with any major -- Route 495, I-70? Are there any major roads anywhere near the shooting?

AHLERS: It's not near any highways. The two biggest roads near here are George Avenue and Connecticut Avenue, and they cross just a short distance from this scene.

CALLAWAY: Is this normally a busy time of day there in this area?

AHLERS: I think that you would have early risers going to work, and not exceptionally busy.

CALLAWAY: Yes. Let's recap for everyone of what is taking place right now.

There has been a shooting this morning in Montgomery County, Maryland at Grand Pre Road or Bell Pre (ph) Road and Connecticut Avenue. We believe it is a male victim with a chest wound, who has been taken to the hospital now. No word on the condition of the victim.

Also, we want to reiterate here that we have no confirmation that this is at all associated with the sniper.

You're looking at a live picture from WTTG of the scene, where the area has been shut down, as investigators continue to look into what happened here.

We do see a bus now pulled off to the side of the road, which would go with what you said, Mike, about this victim perhaps getting off of the bus when he was shot. You said this is a commuter bus?

AHLERS: There is a commuter bus pulled over, and again, that's where the focus of the police attention seemed to be. They've roped off a fairly large area now. I'm about half a block from the bus. It's within sight.

Again, it's a little bit of speculation that that is where the incident took place. That's close to where the ambulance was parked.

CALLAWAY: You also...

AHLERS: And one of the ambulance personnel told me that a shooting victim (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you know, was taken to the hospital.

CALLAWAY: No information on the shape of that victim, the condition of that victim?

AHLERS: Sorry, none whatsoever.

BROOKS: But you say, Mike, they have used -- they had brought a helicopter in to Medivac him, we were hearing earlier?

AHLERS: I can't confirm that. There are one or two helicopters in the air, and because it's dark, I can't see if they're news helicopters or police helicopters.

CALLAWAY: But, Mike, I want to get back with you in just a minute on the location and the close proximity to the other shootings that took place that were indeed connected to the sniper.

But first, we want to welcome our viewers from CNN International to tell you what's going on this morning.

There has been a shooting in Montgomery County, Maryland at Grand Pre Road and Connecticut Avenue; apparently, a male victim with a chest wound.

As you can see, that region has been shut down, as police -- authorities have converged on the scene to investigate.

No confirmation on whether or not this has been associated with the sniper or not. Of course, anytime there is a shooting in this region, police are on high alert there.

Oddly enough, this is very close to where one of the first shootings took place at the Michaels store. Is that right, Mike? Mike Ahlers is with us, one of the CNN producers there on the scene. You said very close to where the Michaels shooting took place.

AHLERS: I would guess that it's about a quarter of a mile from the Michaels, and as you know, the one service station that was hit is one block from Michaels.

It's also very near the scene of the shooting at Leisure World Plaza. That's where the woman was sitting on the park bench and was shot. But it's near...

CALLAWAY: Security analyst...

AHLERS: It's really near all three of those scenes, probably...

CALLAWAY: Well, security analyst, Mike Brooks, is with us, too.

Mike, what did you have to say?

BROOKS: Yes, Mike, this is where we're talking about the same Michaels, where the round went through the window and did not strike anyone, in the early stages of this spree of shootings, correct?

AHLERS: Yes, that's right.


CALLAWAY: When you're talking -- you were also talking about the shooting at the Exxon. Did I hear you? You were breaking up just a little bit with your cell phone. But could you repeat that part, please?

AHLERS: I believe it was the Aspen Hill Mobil gas station, where a taxi driver was shot while refueling his cab. It was near that one, the Michaels shooting where the window was struck and the Leisure World Plaza shooting. It's easily within I would say about a mile of all three of those locations.

CALLAWAY: It looks again like Connecticut Avenue has been shut down. Can you tell from your vantage point?

AHLERS: No, not from my vantage point. They have closed down the side streets, and no traffic will get through here, but there doesn't seem to be much traffic here in any event.

CALLAWAY: You said there are...

AHLERS: There...

CALLAWAY: You said there are wooded areas there in the middle of some of these businesses, and Patty Davis has told us that this is also not too far from a residential area.

AHLERS: Well, it's surrounded by garden apartments on three sides. I believe that a cemetery is on the fourth side across the street. It's also very near the old Aspen Hill branch of the local post office here. That's across the street. But it is -- it's heavily residential.

BROOKS: Mike, from your vantage point, is there any location or anyplace that there may have been any witnesses that may have seen this shooting that police could possibly do a canvas of the neighborhood and try to find out any additional information?

AHLERS: They do have streetlights lining the street, but it is very dark. It would be hard to -- it would be easy to conceal yourself in these woods here or were, for that matter, any place around here.

As for witnesses, there are not many people out here. I just tried chatting with one and came upon there's only at this point at the roadblock that I'm at, there's only one person, now two, that appear to be residents here and maybe about a dozen police at this site.

CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: Mike, at the intersection where the shooting took place, are there a good number of side roads nearby?

AHLERS: Yes, there are quite a few. The main road, of course, is Connecticut Avenue, but there are a lot of side streets. And the -- it would be difficult to say, if the shooter was to flee, which route he'd take. If he was in the woods, he could be parked in some location I can't see.

CALLAWAY: Let's go to -- is Patty Davis still standing by?

Patty, you still with us?

No, Patty will be back in just a moment. She's there at the headquarters gathering information for us. She'll be back with us in a moment.

Mike, there is so many similarities. If anything, not only the chest wound, in an area surrounded with businesses and a wooded area nearby. So many similarities in this.

BROOKS: Well this has been the similarities of the other shootings in Montgomery County. This is -- this is the kind of area. Again, we're looking in the vicinity of the first shooting where no one was hit at the Michaels Store. We're looking at the other gas station, Leisure World, all within a very short distance from this area. You know, again, speculation that this is in -- this is actually involved with the -- with the shooter, but we don't know at this point.

CALLAWAY: It would seem awfully brazen to return to this area where most of the shootings have taken place.

BROOKS: Very much so, especially this is -- this is not going with what the shooter usually does. This time of the morning is, it would seem, early for a -- for this...

CALLAWAY: Yes, because normally it starts between 7:00 and -- sometime after 7:00 in the mornings when most of these shootings have taken place.

BROOKS: Right, but if you -- if this is in fact the shooter, you look at -- you look at the other points and it's in kind of a remote area, if you will, away from the -- you know off the beaten path from what Mike Ahlers, the CNN -- our CNN producer on the scene, was telling us. So you know does this fit? I -- there's a...

CALLAWAY: Well none of this has fit any profile anyway from the...

BROOKS: No, but you see you know the other shootings all have been similar, you know they're shopping centers, gas stations, those kind of places, and this is kind of away from that. But you know what's normal with this shooter, nothing, nothing at all.

CALLAWAY: Yes, it's been strange from the very beginning, and then yesterday's developments made it that more unusual with the supposed request now for money. Of course all of this we're getting from the police.

BROOKS: Right. Now I just -- a lot of -- a lot of unusual twists. And again, this is a very sensitive time and is a very sensitive phase in the investigation with the -- with law enforcement trying to communicate with this...


BROOKS: ... shooter or, you know, if in fact...

CALLAWAY: Could this be the way the sniper is communicating now?

BROOKS: It could very well be. This could be. You know the scenes, the shooting, the gun could be his pen. It's very unusual. And I'll be anxious to see the -- when -- you know if in fact this is actually associated with the other shootings.

CALLAWAY: With the sniper, yes.

BROOKS: Right.

CALLAWAY: Patty Davis off talking to officials. She's back with us now.

Patty, you know anything knew?

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, police say that they are investigating. That's about all that they will tell us from this site. We do know in fact that this occurred about 5:56 this morning. That would appear to be one of the earliest shootings, if indeed this does end up being connected to the sniper shooting. Lots of roads, as you can see, closed off in that area. A very residential area, Home Depot nearby, the Michaels Store where that first shot went through the window and didn't hit anybody. Also, a Kmart right across the street. Lots of gas stations, a lot of very well lit areas surrounded by dark areas from which somebody could shoot from.

CALLAWAY: No information...

DAVIS: We...

CALLAWAY: ... or more information on the victim yet do we -- Patty?

DAVIS: We don't have -- we do not have any more information on the victim. We're told that this person was shot in the chest. We believe it is a man. The task force is responding as if this is the work again of the sniper.

And you were talking a little while ago about that letter, the letter that was found in the Ponderosa parking lot -- or Ponderosa wooded area where that man was shot Saturday while he was in the parking lot in Ashland, Virginia. You were saying yes there was a hint at a request for money. There was also a timeline. That if police did not act according to a certain timeline that there would be more killings. So we don't know if police indeed failed to act and if this is indeed at all the work of the sniper and this was a killing in a reaction to that or we just don't know at this point.

CALLAWAY: And you know, Patty, we should remind everyone it will be some time before we know this was involved. Ballistic tests and a lot of other things before this can be officially connected, if at all, to the sniper, right -- Mike?

BROOKS: It would take quite a bit of investigation to say whether this is...


BROOKS: ... in fact associated. But right now you know the response of law enforcement is -- you know is the same as it has been. We see an area roped off here. This, in fact, almost looks -- Mike Ahlers was talking about a commuter bus. This does look like a Montgomery County commuter bus that we're seeing here on the live shot from the WTTG helicopter.

CALLAWAY: We also heard Patty talking about that letter, the letter that was found at the Ponderosa also giving a deadline for officials. Did you have any more information on that letter and the deadline that was listed in that...

BROOKS: No, information on the deadlines and any monetary amount of what the person was asking for. It's...

CALLAWAY: Obviously police want to keep all that close to their chest.

BROOKS: They do. As I said, this is a new phase and a very sensitive phase in the investigation and they're going to play things close to the vest, especially when it comes to that letter.

CALLAWAY: If this is the sniper, what does it tell you, anything this close to where the other shootings have taken place?

BROOKS: Well we have not had a shooting since Saturday, so this is, you know, kind of closing the gap I guess, if you will, on timelines. I'd be interested to know if there was any communications last night. From what I'm hearing from sources there were no communications with the shooter last night. So as you were saying earlier, this could be the way that the shooter is communicating with law enforcement and in a very unfortunate way.

CALLAWAY: To recap for everyone, there has been a shooting in Montgomery County, Maryland at Grand Prix Road and Connecticut Avenue. We believe it is a male victim with a chest wound. Reports that the victim was apparently getting off of a commuter bus. Again, we are still waiting for official word from the police on the shooting. The area has been roped off by police. They are continuing to investigate. No official confirmation that this is associated with the sniper. Will take some time for that to take -- for that to happen.

Mike, producer, Mike Ahlers is standing in -- at the scene with us, on the phone with us. Actually, think we've lost our connection.

Mike, are you there?

AHLERS: I am here.

CALLAWAY: What's the scene there now?

AHLERS: Well I spoke to an investigator here who was arriving at the scene. He did confirm that one was shot, that it did occur at the -- at the bus stop on Grand Prix Road. That's about one block from Connecticut Avenue. The person -- he also confirmed the person was transported to the hospital. He would not say more, would not say -- would not say if it was a man or a woman, would not say the condition of the person. And they -- I'm about a 150 yards from the bus right now, and he's just ordered a 500 yard perimeter around the entire shooting scene. CALLAWAY: That's a large area. You can see from this live shot we're looking at from WTTG that the major artery there has been shut down. I'm assuming this includes Connecticut Avenue and Grand Prix Road and the small roads surrounding this area?

AHLERS: Yes. And Mike Brooks said something -- I believe he said something that bears repeating that this is -- I've been to most of the other shooting scenes and this is unlike them. In those it was -- they were all in or most of them were in heavily commercial areas and the person apparently used the busyness of the area to conceal himself as he drove away. This is -- this is no commercial establishments other than the Garden Departments (ph) are anywhere to be seen here and the -- it's -- it was -- evidently, just before this happened, very quiet around here. So it really is -- it really does appear different in that respect.

CALLAWAY: As you just said, there are two large apartment complexes there. And of course we're looking at very dark video, but it looks like there is several areas, wooded areas there, dark wooded areas.

AHLERS: There are. There's a park. I don't believe it's that big, just because I'm somewhat familiar with this area. It's -- a person could -- I would just guess at best it's two blocks in width and two blocks in length of a wooded area. And I think it has some type of hiker/biker trail that goes through it and some type of playground for children as well.

CALLAWAY: It is a large area.


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