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Gunshot Victim Taken to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland

Aired October 22, 2002 - 10:00   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, absolutely. Good morning to you, Bill. This is not the kind of morning we were hoping to wake up to, especially when you compare it to yesterday morning when everything looked to be so promising.
And once again, we have it confirmed that this latest shooting is a match to the other sniper shootings that, as you have been pointing out in the coverage all morning, police would rather be safe than sorry, and going on the assumption that it is.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: We stand by and wait. At some point, we do expect to hear from police, and when we get the word from them, we'll have it for you live, no question about that. And at this point, we're all waiting.

And once again, Paula, traffic absolutely snarled throughout the entire area. We've heard some stories about kids on a school bus today trying to make their way to school, essentially sitting in traffic as the surveillance continues.

More from Rockville in a moment -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Bill.

Let's bring our Leon Harris onto the scene from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

And I know, Leon, you being a father that you were probably struck by the announcement coming from the Montgomery County Police Department that Code Blue is in effect. It is a very chilling thing. It means the kids will stay in the classroom. They will not go outside today. The level of alert, extreme.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and you know, as a parent yourself, Paula, you have to imagine what must be going through the minds of parents and the kids, and not just there in Montgomery County. How about those parents down there in Richmond, where they had their schools closed down, even though they weren't given any information about exactly what was going on, and because the decision was being made because of complaints by parents?

I heard some parents there this morning when I was coming on MPR (ph) and listening to the radio, talking about how they felt like maybe that the government or perhaps the investigators here were not telling them everything, and that seemed to heighten the fears that they had. They felt like maybe that the authorities knew something that they were not saying or they were not telling.

And then, we find this information out about this shooting this morning in Montgomery County. So, there has got to be a lot of concern there.

ZAHN: And I guess, Leon, what also adds to their concern is that the reporting on this letter that apparently was left behind at the Ponderosa restaurant on Saturday night has led to multiple interpretations, or investigators giving different information to different reporters, because there was an account in the Richmond paper today and the "L.A. Times" that there was a specific threat against children.

Now, CNN is not confirming that, but I mean, these are two legitimate newspapers who have been on top of this investigation, and I guess that's got to make these parents even more concerned. I don't know whether investigators have directly addressed that with them.

HARRIS: Exactly. Well, you know what? Since you bring that point up, I understand our Jason Carroll is standing by there in those woods by that Ponderosa restaurant where that note was found. Let's check him with him right now.

Jason -- are you there?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Leon. Good morning to you.

So much has been mentioned of the most recent shooting in Montgomery County in the wooded area there.

This is the wooded area just behind the Ponderosa restaurant in Ashland, Virginia. This is the scene of the last confirmed sniper shooting. You can take a look around me.

This is right behind a parking lot of the restaurant. That 37- year-old man was in the parking lot on Saturday night with his wife. They were walking through that parking lot when he was shot.

Investigators say that a message was left by the sniper. It is believed that that message was left somewhere back here in this wooded area. Sources telling CNN that that message came in the form of a letter.

Now, the local paper out here in Richmond -- in the Richmond area, it was reporting that perhaps that letter was found on some sort of a tree. That has not been confirmed by CNN.

Sources telling CNN that that letter contained some sort of a message, which said a few things. First of all, that the sniper was indicating, or hinting at least, toward wanting some sort of money. Also, there were threats that there would be more killings. That was also indicated in the letter, according to CNN sources. And also, some sort of a timeline, Leon, that authorities were supposed to stick to. I want to talk a little bit more about that 37-year-old man, too. As you know, he is in critical, but he is now in stable condition, and that's definitely a good sign for him. He went through two surgeries this past weekend.

We're also hearing that the 37-year-old man -- many people want to know more about this man. Apparently, he was on some sort of a trip with his wife, visiting relatives up in Philadelphia. And at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time, one of his friends is going to hold a press conference in Melbourne, Florida. That is where this man and his wife are from -- the 37-year-old are from.

And apparently, at that point, we're going to get some more information, some background information about this man, his life, what he did for a living, et cetera, et cetera. So, at least we'll be able to get some more information about that 37-year-old man and his background.

But this is the wooded area that police had been focusing on so much. So, it stands to reason -- although in this most recent shooting and it's not confirmed if it's connected to the sniper -- that investigators up there in Montgomery County will be closely checking out the wooded area there to see what they can find -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right, Jason. That process is well under way.

Jason Carroll reporting for us now live from Ashland, Virginia. Thank you very much.

Paula -- let's go back to you in up in New York.

ZAHN: Thanks, Leon.

We're going to do a quick whip-around here with Bob Franken, who is among one of our first correspondents on the scene at the shooting this morning.

Bob -- what do you have? Good morning again.


And consistent with what Jason was just saying, the investigators were shown taking a plaster cast. It appeared to be of a footprint that was on the area toward the woods on the side of the bus that is toward the woods. As you know, we've described that the bus is on a side street off of Connecticut Avenue, which is a major thoroughfare here in Aspen Hill. It's on Grand Pre Road. And on one side is the woods, and that's where investigators seem to be focusing.

We are also told, by the way, that the next news conference will not be held here. The Montgomery County Police chief is once again insisting that all announcements come from his headquarters in Rockville. So, at noon Eastern, that's when we'll have the next briefing. In almost two hours from now, there will be a briefing from the police chief. And of course, one of the things that we want to know is how far along they are in determining whether this is another case that involves the same sniper. Police are operating on that premise, obviously. They still have some roads closed off, the ones around here, but they've pretty much opened up the interstates and that type of thing, which they shut down immediately after 6:00 this morning when the shooting was first reported -- Paula.

ZAHN: Now, Bob, you had described a number of evidence markers that were visible from your location. Is the footprint we're talking about, going towards the woods, one of those pieces of evidence?

FRANKEN: Well, it is...

ZAHN: Or is this in addition to the other pieces you saw?

FRANKEN: Well, we saw some markers before. What we were able to witness was they are putting down a plaster of Paris cast, the kind of thing that they oftentimes do if they had been able to cast a tire track or a footprint or something like that. We weren't close enough to determine what exactly it is they had, but they had something clearly that they considered worth exploring.

ZAHN: The reality is Northgate Park is a huge (ph) park. You were talking about the logistics here involved of the side street not far from Connecticut Avenue. But the fact remains there would be a number of escape routes from this shooting scene.

FRANKEN: Right. This is characteristic of all of the shootings, that it is close to major thoroughfares, and there's also a web of side streets. Both of those, of course, contributing to a quick escape.

On the one hand, somebody would be able to, in effect, get lost, particularly in the cover of darkness on the side streets, but quickly get access to a major thoroughfare. And of course, given the element of surprise and the element of horror that would accompany something like this, he would be able to make his escape before anybody was even able to see which way he went.

In this particular case, authorities weren't relying, as they had before, so much on the possibility that this was a white van, an Astro van, or something like the box van. They were searching every single vehicle. We observed them stopping everything, including motorcycles, where they were searching the backpack of the motorcyclists.

ZAHN: I think that's an interesting point, because one of our experts, Mike Brooks, was pointing out that there didn't seem to be any particular lookout today. And I guess these individual searches you're talking about of cars and trucks, no matter what they look like, would substantiate that.

FRANKEN: It would substantiate that. And the other thing, of course, is this element of surprise.

What was interesting about Ashland, Virginia -- I was down there, as you know, in Ashland, Virginia, 90 miles from Washington. They were not entirely taken by surprise. Obviously, it was a surprise of how it happened. But it's not something that was a complete shock to them. They had thought that it was possible that he would move down from his previous shooting 30 minutes north, and possibly do something, even though it was that far away from Washington.

I think that the police will tell you that they were entirely surprised that he has returned to his first killing field -- if I can use that expression -- where the first number of murders were committed about three weeks ago.

ZAHN: The other thing I wanted to see if you've gotten anymore information on is the 40-year-old victim, the bus driver. I know you and I have talked a number of times this morning about this particular side street being an area where buses often idle before they said off on their next run.

Can anybody confirm exactly what was happening at the time of the shooting?

FRANKEN: We can't confirm that. We have had very little insight.

Again, as I told you a moment ago, there's going to be pretty much an information lockdown until the police chief speaks.

But I can tell you, I'm standing at the site now. We'll be able to show it to you in maybe 15, 20 minutes. But there are buses, plural, on this little side street. So, it's clearly a staging area for buses in this part of Montgomery County.

ZAHN: Thanks, Bob Franken, appreciate the live update.

Let's check in with Bill Delaney, who is standing by at Suburban Hospital, trying to get as much information as he can on the condition of this 40-year-old victim that was transported there hours ago.

Good morning again-- Bill.


And you're right. Information very tough to get here, although we do expect some information any moment now. We were supposed to have a press conference at about 10:00. So, that's about 10 minutes ago. And we expect any moment more information on what's happening in the operating room here.

Now, it was an hour or so ago that we had our last briefing. At that time, this 40-year-old bus driver was still in the operating room in critical condition, meaning that he spent at least a good three hours in the operating room, assuming he is still there. He arrived here at 6:40 this morning, medevaced, airlifted from this Aspen Hill area shooting. That's about a 15 or 20 minute drive here, if you don't have much traffic, to give you an idea of the distance between where the shooting happened and where I am, Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. He's been in the operating room. The family aware of what's happening to him, obviously. A doctor told us about an hour ago, although he would not confirm whether they were here or not, the family, one would assume, obviously, that they are.

So, critical moments here. This man is in critical condition. They are fighting to save his life here at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Bill Delaney reporting, and we'll get back to that news conference as soon as it is under way.

Just a quick reminder that Pete Perringer (ph) of the Montgomery County Fire Department did tell reporters earlier this morning they initially thought that this man was injured in his upper chest. Now, he describes the injuries as being in the lower rib to stomach area, but I think this will all become clearer when Dr. Passimani (ph) takes to the microphones a little bit later on this morning.

In the meantime, let's go back to Leon.

Where were you this morning when you heard that there had been yet another shooting?

HARRIS: Well, as a matter of fact, I had walked into the studio here to begin my day prepping for what I thought was going to be a regular, normal news day, since we had been through all of this yesterday. And before I'd even sat down, I heard the news this morning, and of course, it hit like a punch in the stomach. And that's for me being down here in Atlanta. I can imagine what folks up there must have felt this morning once they woke up and heard the same news.

ZAHN: It's awful.


ZAHN: Absolutely awful.

HARRIS: And what I want to know is -- I'm sitting here next to Eric Haney. We've been talking with him quite a bit this morning.

And I've been watching, Eric, as you've been watching these pictures as Bob Franken has been reporting, and I've been noticing you're making little notes here about that area, this location, what you think people should have been able to see or what might have been seeable at some particular vantage point in the matter.

What do you make of what you've seen so far?

ERIC HANEY, CNN FIREARMS ANALYST: Well, again, it's a bit reminiscent of the school shooting in that there was a park nearby where -- from the position from which that shooter shot up in that location, and there's a parking area right there. So, they're dropping the vehicle off, and someone's either staying with it or not. But a vehicle is parked nearby, the shooting takes place, and then the shooter has rapid access back to the vehicle, and they just pull out into here, as we see, a suburban area into just little side streets.

Someone is seeing something. Citizenry are seeing something, if not right there immediately, another vehicle saw that vehicle within one or two intersections. No matter how early it is in the morning, people are going to work early, suburban areas such as this, a lot of working class and apartments. So, there are folks out on the streets at that time.


HANEY: Obviously, once again, they can't connect it with the shooting itself, because they weren't right there at the spot. But if anyone is watching and listening now that lives in that area, that was passing through that time of the morning in any of those areas near intersections, if they saw something that strikes them now, they need to call the police.

Don't get hung up on the type of vehicle. There is no reason to use a covered vehicle for these shootings. You can drive up in just any type of vehicle. All he needs is a place to hide that weapon, and once again, the grill is swimming in the sea of the people. He likes like anyone else when he's making this departure out of that area.

HARRIS: Now, you mentioned that you believe that perhaps he had the getaway vehicle maybe parked someplace else, and then he went and did this perhaps on foot and then ran back.

Doesn't that say something about what his state of mind might be at this particular point? We haven't seen or haven't heard that sort of a scenario described at all in the past.

HANEY: No. Well, when I say on foot, he's just using the concealment of the wood line here. He is not traveling great distances on foot. The vehicle is a support mechanism.

HARRIS: But even being separated from the vehicle...

HANEY: Oh, sure.

HARRIS: ... is something of a -- some sort of a subliminal umbilical cord has been severed there, right?

HANEY: It certainly is.

HARRIS: He's willing to be away from his vehicle.

HANEY: It's increasing the chance of being apprehended; it's increasing the chance of being seen. I do believe that there was a report at the time of the school shooting that someone saw a man walking away through that park area with a bag slung over his shoulder. I just really can't conceive of a person, even if it's no more than 50 meters, walking back to a parking lot with a rifle in the open. That's asking for it, and he's not been asking for it. He's been able to conceal his execution just very cleverly, so far.

HARRIS: Yes, and what about the fact that this is happening near a residential area. This is happening away from some of the commercial areas that we've seen this sort of thing happen in the past. This time around, there were apartment buildings nearby. And we've actually been listening to and talking with ear witnesses this morning who were in the apartments who weren't necessarily able to see anything, but they were able to hear something.

HANEY: Sure. Well, at all of the other sites, there were apartments and residences nearby. When he's in that suburban area, you know, it's just part of suburbia, little businesses, in this case, a small park, a place where buses stage, houses and apartment buildings.

At the school shooting area, it was the same situation -- a number of houses. And in fact, I was astounded, because you could look right across the street to the place where the shooter was lying, and he had some concealment, but you could still see into, you know, the windows of houses over there.

HARRIS: We've got a very real possibility that we've got a number of eyewitnesses who just don't know that they are eyewitnesses?

HANEY: There are witnesses, but they don't realize what they're seeing, because no one is seeing the person with a rifle taking a shot. But people are seeing this shooter, these shooters, this one or two, in their vehicle within seconds of them pulling right back out into the flow of traffic. It's just being able to connect it.

HARRIS: Yes. And, Paula, this underscores the kind of thing we've been hearing experts like Eric say all along. You know, people have got to take even the most mundane things that they see and log them away in their minds, because that may be very important information, whether they know it or not.

ZAHN: We've tested ourselves from this desk here, Leon, and looked out the window and challenged each other to remember what they saw 30 seconds ago, and it is really a very, very tough challenge, particularly when you're living down there and have to live in this constant state of fear.

Thanks, Leon.

We're going to check in with Daryn Kagan now to give us some insights as to what the presidential team is thinking about this at a time when the Bush administration gets daily briefings on the sniper investigation.

And I understand, Daryn, that Ari Fleischer had something to say as the president was traveling to Pennsylvania and Maine today?

KAGAN: Yes, Paula. Our Kelly Wallace is traveling with the president as he does head to Pennsylvania, and she reports back from the press plane that, in fact, President Bush has been informed about this latest shooting today.

And he was asked, or actually Ari Fleischer was asked, what does the president think about the police using the media to try to communicate with the sniper? And the response from Ari Fleischer was that the president is not about to start micromanaging this task force and this search for the sniper in the Washington D.C. area, now all the way down into Virginia as well.

So, that's the latest from the president.

We also want to tell you that, here, we're getting the word that roadblocks are being lifted.

You asked Leon, Paula, what it was like to hear about it this morning that the shooting had taken place. I was still in my hotel room when this was breaking, and I had a chance to watch all of the local affiliates of how they were doing the coverage.

And really, at the beginning, this was treated as a traffic story. Traffic came to a standstill, people having a very difficult time getting to work on this Tuesday morning. It did not, at first, appear to have all of the signs of the sniper shooting. And like I said, this was treated as a huge traffic story in the Washington, D.C. area.

ZAHN: Daryn, you have been on duty there for many weeks. Just give us a sense of the feeling of, oh, no, not again. I know that one of the spokespersons from the Montgomery County Police Department sort of let her guard down today, when I asked her, 'Is this related to the sniper or not?' And she said, look, we don't know, but we certainly have to operate as though it is.

KAGAN: They do. And you can see that change -- and excuse me, because the days are starting to blur for me a little bit. But I would say about eight or nine days ago, you could see the change in how they were responding to shootings.

And I'll be honest, when I first heard this one this morning, to me, it didn't sound like it was the work of the sniper. I had that same reaction, because what you're not seeing on the national coverage is they are responding to a number of shootings as if it is the work of the sniper.

So, there is a big response, and police are on high alert for a number of situations. It's just usually by this point, the media has been waved off. And of course, we haven't heard that about four hours after the shooting this morning -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Daryn. We'll check in with you in a little bit.

Let's quickly go to the New York bureau, where Bo Dietl is standing by, formerly of the New York Police Department, now a man who runs his own securities firm.

Bo, you've heard most of the reporting we've done all morning long. What does this look like to you?

BO DIETL, FORMER NEW YORK HOMICIDE DETECTIVE: Well, you know, 6:00 in the morning now, we have him shooting if, in fact, this is the same person or persons; 6:00 in the morning. There's a lot of people maybe jogging at 6:00 in the morning.

The most important thing, I came into your studio on Sunday with an AR-15 that was in a plastic garbage bag. It has a collapsible stock, it shoots .223 ammunition, it has a battery-operated telescopic sight that I had bought from my son about 10 years ago. I took him out to target practice, 200 yards away, he put it in the torso.

This is the fact that you're not going to see the guy walking with a gun, but you possibly could see somebody. These are for witness, you possibly could see someone carrying a garbage bag. You're not going to see something shaped like a rifle. As I said, I put it in a garbage bag, and it brings itself down to no more than two-and-a-half, three feet. It's a rifle that's used by the Delta Force and it's compact. It's very compact.

So, people have to be aware of anything that anyone is carrying, not just a long rifle bag, and don't expect to see that.

The important thing, again, we have to reach out, like the gentleman from CNN in Atlanta says, we have to reach out to the witnesses. 6:00 in the morning, somebody is walking around, somebody had to go home. To me, this person lives in that area. People are victims of habit. They go back to where they know and where they understand. I really believe it lies in that Montgomery County.

And this thing about this note and this letter, you know, we can't get twisted around. We're talking about 12 shootings here, and we have 9 people dead. All of a sudden, he decides he wants money after 12 shootings, 9 dead? I believe that this note could be a copycat, or people are opportunists.

And whenever we had a mass murderer -- the last one I worked on was the Palm Sunday massacre, and we had all kinds of opportunists that were getting involved in the investigation, and putting themselves into the investigation to make themselves into the story.

So, we've got to be careful about that. I really believe we're dealing with a psychopath, and I don't think money is a motive here. Otherwise, why wait to 12, 13 shootings, 9 dead, to ask for this money? You could have asked for this money a long time ago.

ZAHN: So, Bo, if this ends up being the work today, the shooting in Aspen Hill in this neighborhood of Silver Spring, Maryland, how much planning or understanding of the area would it take him to carry this thing off? I mean, we talked with a student who takes a bus routinely from this particular bus stop. She said she sees a constant rotation of drivers coming in. Another witness described the fact that this is an area where buses often sit idle as they wait to start the next run.

Clearly, if this is the work of the sniper, this took some planning and some understanding of the neighborhood.

DIETL: Again, as we watched the Ponderosa shooting, and you see what happened there, he goes out, he surveys the area, and then he knows which way he's going to escape and get into his vehicle. Now, you have that forest there, the woods. He fires the shot, everyone looks at the person going down, he runs through the woods, gets into his car and is able to escape through the side streets.

You know, you've got to understand now, you have got detectives working 18 hours a day on this case. The only time that they took a little snooze is in the early morning at 6:00, thinking they have an opportunity of going to bed maybe at 2:00, 3:00 in the morning, 4:00 in the morning to catch a couple of hours. Now, he knows that the guard is down. He's a very smart person. He is doing everything, and now, he comes right back into the area. He's like saying, come and get me.

To have something like this having a motive of -- a monetary motive, I don't really believe. I think that that possibly again is a person of opportunity trying, because they said go back and find the note and all of that. You've got -- you're dealing with a psychopathic, homicidal maniac here, who is taking body counts out. I don't know what the motive behind it is, but when you investigate a homicide, you've got to look inside the psyche of this person and find out what is driving him.

This person is driving body counts, as far as I'm concerned, and I always said that I felt as though there is another person dealing with this person. But there is one person for sure that is committing these murders, and he's using the same gun to let the police know it's him. I mean, he could have gotten rid of that gun a long time ago, and said I had nothing to do with the prior shootings. But this person is putting its symbol right there, laying that .223 round right out of the same rifle.

Again, the most important thing is that gentleman in CNN in Atlanta says, people, we need millions of eyes out there that are going to be observing, to watching people acting suspicious. Remember what I said. A garbage bag, any kind of a bag, that gun can be broken down. The .223 rifle shot that could be used could be broken down to almost 28 inches.

So, let's all be aware that the person could carry that in a small, little section.

ZAHN: Bo, I know you've talked about this before in the Son of Sam case in New York of how in the end it was luck that police finally nabbed him. In this case, what do you think it's going to take to get the sniper or snipers involved? And once again, we can't even say with 100 percent certainty that this is the work today in Silver Spring, Maryland of the sniper.

DIETL: Paula, if it is or is not, we still have 12 confirmed shootings. We still have nine innocent people dead.

The difference with the Son of Sam case, we were working, we were sitting by lovers' lanes, we were sitting by discotheques. He had a focus. He was looking for two people in a car, girls with brown hair, first, until he shot poor Stacy Moskowitz, who had blond hair. That threw us all off on that. But the fact of the matter is that is something that was a course of over a year's time. I mean, it was a year. We had six shootings. Now, we had the Palm Sunday. That was just one berserk person that shot 10 people, killed 10 people in matter of a few minutes. That's different than this.

This is a man who is a frenzied psychopath, and he has, like my fellow detective there, Bill Clark, earlier in the morning says, he's a coward, he doesn't want to face people, he's a coward that shoots from 100 yards away because he's so insecure with himself that he cannot deal with people. And you're going to find out that this person is not a macho person. He can't be too much of a macho person to shoot a little 13-year-old boy walking to school, or a woman carrying packages out of a Home Depot.

What you have is a coward here, and he should step up. And if he's listening -- I'm sure he listens to CNN -- I'm saying you're a coward. If you're any kind of a man, you would face the police and you'd go and talk to the police if you have something to say. Other than that, you are a coward if you can shoot people from 100 yards away.

ZAHN: Bo Dietl, we're going to, unfortunately, have to leave it on that note. Thank you for your insights this morning.

Just a quick reminder, we had expected Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, to hold a news conference to update us on the condition of the 40-year-old victim. The last official confirmation we got was about 40 minutes ago, where they maintained the victim was in critical condition. We don't know why that news conference was canceled. But as soon as we find out when they will hold a news conference again, we will bring it to you live.

In the meantime, Leon, I am going to turn over the reins to you, and wish you luck with the coverage. I know that you have been personally affected by this, like I have today. This is just very difficult to watch, whether the shooting today is related to the other sniper shootings.

HARRIS: Yes, exactly, a tough duty, a tough duty, but you did a great job, Paula, of carrying us through.

ZAHN: Thank you.

HARRIS: And we appreciate that.



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