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Who is Running the Sniper Investigation?

Aired October 22, 2002 - 08:50   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's check in with Lou Palumbo now, who is formerly with the New York Police Department. Lou, you just heard Nancy Demme of the Montgomery County Police Department say, although they can't officially confirm this is linked to the sniper, they're investigating it as though it was. That does not surprise you, does it?
LOU PALUMBO, FMR. POLICE INVESTIGATOR: No, not at all. Not at all.

ZAHN: And tell us why you think, at least from your point of view, it's pretty obvious that this could be connected?

PALUMBO: Well, basically, we have no evidence that there was a -- the commission of a crime in a conventional sense, and by that I mean that the individual that was shot was the victim of a robbery, where someone would have been in close proximity, and there would have been a motive of money. Everything that they've indicated is consistent with what we're reporting right now.

For example, with the evidence markers, it appears that this individual was shot from a distance, which is consistent with the other shootings.

ZAHN: And just because these evidence markers, as described by Mike Ahlers, one of our producers, leads toward the woods?

PALUMBO: Yes, correct, Paula. Clearly, they're examining an area that is in proximity of the shooting, but a slight distance away in a wooded area. All of these are consistent traits of the prior shootings. So it would be consistent with, you know, the sniper.

ZAHN: Nancy Demme just described the number of people involved in this investigation, ATF on the scene, FBI, as well as many members of the local police force there. Give us an idea of how strained all of these various localities must be, particularly on the heels of what happened yesterday in Richmond, Virginia, where apparently they thought they might have had a pretty good line on the sniper.

PALUMBO: Well, clearly, the resource of all of these agencies are being stretched quite frankly. The other thing is in New York, for example, we have had an excess of 40,000 law enforcement agents just in the New York City Police Department, without enlisting the services of the state police or any federal agencies. No one has really taken a close look at how many members are in fact in the Montgomery County Police Department to see what their strength is on a day-to-day basis, how many people they can allocate, for example, to this, how much the state police have in resources, namely personnel that was assigned to this, the federal government. We've had some outline that there are approximately a thousand federal agents, as I understand it, being assigned to. The fact that we're stretching this, through not only multiple jurisdictions within a state, but multiple states.

We are spread pretty thin here. and there are a lot of manpower hours that need to be covered, and simply stated, they're strained right now.

And one of the things I've been thinking was, and without them disclosing this as part of a strategy, perhaps enlisting the resources of the National Guard for the purpose of setting up stakeouts in a somewhat random fashion in the hopes that we might run into this person, just kind of by chance. They need to figure out which direction they're going to go in trying to locate this person other than just forensic evidence at the site of each of these shootings. They need to start to canvass these areas intensely with manpower.

ZAHN: Well, Lou, I think you raise a very interesting issue, because Attorney General Ashcroft is traveling in from Tokyo. He was asked about whether it's time for the FBI to take over this investigation, and he said, at this time, that is want necessary, but do you think it's time for a complete change in the structure who is leading this investigation?

PALUMBO: Well, quite frankly, Paula, I've asserted the fact that I believe that the FBI and the ATF are actually spearheading this investigation, especially when we get involved in investigations that cross state lines. I think that they have very cleverly stayed in the background, which enabled them to focus more on what they need to focus on instead of preparing themselves for press conferences and other things. I mean, I don't think anyone can refute that our lead agencies in this investigation are our FBI and our ATF, and they've actually enlisted the services of the Secret Service.

Again, I go back to you and I say, we need to examine what the manpower resources are in each of these police departments and each of these communities where the shootings are taking place.

ZAHN: Lou, we very much appreciate your perspective. Lou Palumbo, formerly of the NYPD, who always helps us out on legal and law enforcement matters. We appreciate your time this morning.


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