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Police Comb New Shooting Scene; Interview With Lou Palumbo

Aired October 22, 2002 - 07:54   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to check in with Casey Jordan to see if she can make sense of any of this.
And I'd love for you to comment on what investigators continue to do in the wake of this latest shooting. Of course, no official linkage has been made between this and the other shootings involved in the sniper spree.

But let's talk a little bit about how investigators are going back to the scenes of previous shootings and actually staging mock set-ups, where they actually put a tripod up and a powerful rifle scope on top of it, particularly at this Home Depot shooting when Linda Franklin lost her life.

CASEY JORDAN, CNN CRIMINOLOGIST: That's right, Paula. We have a report, of course, that police returned to the Home Depot crime scene of Linda Franklin, and did indeed go to the spot where Linda's body fell and set up a tripod with a rifle and a scope on it, most likely very similar to the weapon that they suspect is being used in this string of shootings. And looking through that scope and trying to gain the vantage point, or possible vantage points of where the shooter might have been positioned when Linda Franklin was shot.

This is probably not fun work to do, but it's extremely important work to do, because if they can isolate some possible vantage points and put themselves directly in the spot of where the shooter might have been standing or laying when the shot was fired, not only can they seek further forensic evidence directly at that particular spot, but they can put themselves in the shoes of the shooter again, for a lack of a better phrase, looking down at that Home Depot parking lot, that parking garage, and try perhaps to process the scene, much as the shooter might have done just before the shots were fired.

And think about what was on the shooter's mind, what were the variables that the shooter had to contend with, what were the possible escape avenues. This is very good police work, and again, even though it certainly isn't pleasant for the police to reconstruct by looking through a rifle scope.

ZAHN: We want to come back in a moment, but obviously we can't take the eye off the screen right now, where you see these heavily- armed police officers, some members of the ATF as well, on the scene as they search cars.

Bob Franken was saying that the police have asked us not to tell you exactly which streets are blocked off, and we will honor that, as they try to do a search from car to car here. We can confirm, though, the perimeter area we're looking at is much smaller than some of the perimeter areas that have been used in previous shootings. Once again, we're trying to be as cautious as we can be here.

There is no official confirmation that the shooting that happened just around 6:00 this morning in the Silver Spring area is in any way connected to these other killings.

But Casey Jordan, as you and Mike Brooks have pointed out to us, our experts here today, it's kind of hard to ignore some of the similarities, isn't it?

JORDAN: Well, it absolutely is. And what you've got to also keep in mind is that we learned on Saturday night after the Ponderosa shooting that getting the bullets out of the victim's body for his safety did take quite a bit of time. It took two or three surgeries and at least two days.

And police cannot sit there and wait all of the time, of course, for the bullet to be retrieved to do an exact comparison. They have to run with the idea, with the assumption, that this is a linked shooting, and that they need to take every precaution in terms of making sure that they contain the latest crime scene area, again operating under the assumption that the crimes are linked.

We're always expecting the fact that the crimes might not be linked, that this could be the work of a copycat, but certainly, there are no indications right now that this is a simple random shooting. I believe the police reaction to this crime scene shows that they are treating it as the next event in a string of shootings that of course began almost three weeks ago.

ZAHN: We are still trying to get some facts together for you this morning. At first, we were told we couldn't even report where the victim has been transported. Now, Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland is confirming it will hold a news conference later on this morning, indicating to us that that's in fact where the patient was transported. We have no idea about the extent of his injuries.

We can't even tell you at this point whether he was injured on the bus or near the bus. That's all law enforcement will tell us at this hour.

And as soon as any of those details become available, we'll bring them to you.

Joining us now is Lou Palumbo from our New York bureau, who has studied all of these kinds of activities in the past.

Lou, is there anything that you want to add to our conversation here?

LOU PALUMBO, FORMER POLICE INVESTIGATOR: Well, basically, Paula, you know, clearly, the characteristics in this shooting this morning are consistent with the other shootings in the various locations and jurisdictions. It pays, at this point, to be a little bit reserved and to speak intelligently, and we'll only be able to do that after they can conclusively identify if the projective is recovered from the most recent victim is consistent in pattern with the other shooting victims.

The other thing is I'm a little concerned about the letter that was left at the Ponderosa Steakhouse in Virginia. I'm not convinced that its origin is from this shooter at this point.

The thing that has drawn my interest is the dialogue that the chief in Montgomery County has attempted to establish with the shooter, and the fact that he's returned to his municipality to perpetrate another shooting.

So, this is a little bit sketchy, and it's of major concern to me at this point. I'm wondering if...

ZAHN: When you say -- yes. But when you say he's returned to his municipality, that's assuming today's shooting is related to the others.

PALUMBO: That is correct. But I would say with a reasonable level of certitude, based on the information that we have received already indicating that this was apparently from a certain distance, which is consistent with him not being the victim of a robbery for example, standing at a bus stop, the characteristic is similar enough that we can say with a certain level of certitude, and not 100 percent, that the characteristics are close enough that this is probably tied at this point.

ZAHN: Let's talk a little bit more about what concerns you about that letter. CNN confirming that there were veiled threats in the letter, that there was mention of money somehow in this letter. What is it that makes you most nervous about what you understand to be in the text of this letter?

PALUMBO: Well, quite frankly, I think if this individual was looking for money relating to the shootings that he probably would have requested that much sooner than the 12th shooting, No. 1.

No. 2, crimes of this nature are very seldom done with monetary concern, much the same way in the kidnapping and abduction of little girls or little boys, very seldom do they ask for money, unless it is a ransom case clearly where the parents are known to be affluent that could pay ransom.

I just don't see the tie after 12 shootings to this individual suddenly deciding that he wants money to stop or that he's going to continue these shootings.

And the other problem is, this guy...

ZAHN: Lou, hang on, hang on, before you go any further, because I'm going to try to do a little police work here myself. They have absolutely linked this killing from the Ponderosa restaurant on Saturday night to the sniper. So, how would this letter have gotten there behind the Ponderosa if it wasn't in any way related to the sniper himself?

PALUMBO: That is a very good question. It's a question we attempted to address yesterday.

I agree with you. There's a difficulty there, because clearly, the opportunity or convenience of leaving this note wasn't there, but I'm not convinced at this point, based on the dialogue that we thought he was establishing with the police chief in Montgomery County, that this was a letter left by him.

In other words, if we were attempting to mediate this in some way, or he was attempting to establish dialogue, I don't know if we would have had a shooting in such a short time here. That's the thing that I'm a little concerned about.

ZAHN: Casey, we're going to go quickly to an eyewitness. Do you share the same skepticism, before we move along here?

JORDAN: I like his way of thinking, because you have to consider every single angle, and certainly this is something that occurred to me as well.

What are the possibilities that a party unrelated to the shootings heard about this on the news or heard it on a police scanner, prepared a letter, ran it into the woods?

And we know they released the crime scene the next day, because our own reporter was able to visit it. Perhaps nailed the letter to a tree -- I'm just, of course, conjecturing -- and then called this into the tip line. Don't forget, it was almost 24 hours before Chief Moose got on the news and requested that the person who left the message contact him again.

So, you have a 24-hour window for an outside party to perhaps get close to the crime scene, maybe not even directly in the woods, maybe a little bit off to the side, and leave a message.

The police have to consider this possibility. Is it an outside possibility? Yes, but there are so many things which aren't really working and mixing here that it certainly has occurred to them that this could be the work of a prankster or a third party who had nothing whatsoever to do with the first shootings, and is trying to capitalize on this tragedy.

ZAHN: Let's turn our attention back to what we're watching unfold on the right-hand part of our screen, and that is the investigation of a shooting that happened just about two hours ago in Silver Spring, Maryland, not far from where some of the other shootings happened. No official confirmation that this shooting that has left a man in Suburban Hospital with serious wounds is indeed connected.



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