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Criminologist, Firearms Analyst Look at Shooting

Aired October 22, 2002 - 14:18   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Police have yet to confirm today's shooting in Silver Spring, Maryland, is the work of the sniper, but if it is, does this mean the killer is retracing his steps, going back to where he began?
CNN criminologist Casey Jordan joining us from New York. And CNN firearms analyst Eric Haney here with us in Atlanta. And Casey, before we go to you, let's bring up -- we have a satellite image which gives us a sense of where this all began on October 2 and 3, which was a spree which has not, we are fortunate to say, has not been mimicked in time and intensity. And what is interesting about this is that what happened this morning is literally, I believe, footsteps from where the October 2 shooting which all it did was break a window at a craft store. But as we zoom in on these locations, you'll see October 2. Now, where the bus driver was killed this morning was very near to that. As you see that spree as depicted there graphically and geographically for us.

A little bit earlier, we were talking about how, literally, the killer here is making a statement to police. Give us a sense of what that statement might be.

CASEY JORDAN, CNN CRIMINOLOGIST: Well, again, we don't want to talk out of bounds here. But there is a lot of conjecture that after the weekend's events, with the very surprising shooting on a Saturday night, down in Virginia, 80 miles south of Washington, D.C., the one that where a letter was left in the woods, at the crime scene. This caught police a bit by surprise. Number one, because of the geographic location. But also, because it was the first shooting that we had seen occur on a weekend. And while everyone was clearly on guard, the plan was in place. All of the efforts and all of the police activity immediately flooded to that site, focused on that site. And yesterday, we had a number of press conferences with Chief Moose in which it was clear that a line of communication was trying to be established between the police and the shooter.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you this about this line of communication, though. All morning long yesterday, what we showed on our network, and it was on all the other networks, was that scene of police just descending upon that white van. Is it possible that a line of communication has now been shut down because any sort of bond of trust that might have been established has been thwarted by that effort?

JORDAN: I don't think that yesterday's siege on the occupant of the white van has really been a setback in any way. It certainly showed a tremendous effort by the police to not rule out any possibilities. I don't think we should consider it a misstep. I think it was a tremendous show of force.

O'BRIEN: But do you think, though, that it doesn't indicate, to me, as if someone would be likely to engage in offering up another phone call, given that response.

JORDAN: Well, and yet, we do believe that a phone call could have happened any time in the 24 hours between the shooting and Chief Moose's announcement. So we don't know that the phone call did not come after the siege on the white van. We also don't know that a line of communication has not been established. I can assure you that if it has, they're certainly not going to tell us, and I think it's something we really don't know need to know. But what did strike me, Miles, was that today's shooting could be a direct response to the failed communication, yesterday. And, of course, echoing back 100 miles north of where everybody was yesterday seems to be the proverbial slap in the face at the police.

O'BRIEN: Eric Haney, let's talk about ballistics for just a moment. The victim this morning, Conrad Johnson, passed away, so presumably, authorities will have a bullet or have a bullet in their possession. Just give us a sense of how quickly and how easily, if that's the right term, this might be linked or disproven to be part of the sniper's spree?

ERIC HANEY, CNN FIREARMS ANALYST: Well, as soon as they get the recovered bullet fragment back to a lab, and even as close as this shot probably was, less than 50 meters, that bullet's base tends to stay together. And that's the major part that you need to get a good look at it forensically to see if you have the marks of the barrel on it.

O'BRIEN: We've been talking about these so-called exploding bullets. Does that in any way hamper forensics' ability to make a link in these situations, if the bullet is shattered?

HANEY: Well, first thing, exploding bullet's the wrong word, and it gives the wrong idea that the bullet is an exploding device. It's not. But with hunting rounds, and soft-nosed ammunition, more than likely this is what it is because it's certainly not military hard ammunition. When it hits the body, it slows down so rapidly, and it transfers all of that energy of that high velocity that it impacts with throughout the system, and it just -- the term is called hydrostatic shock. And the bullet deforms. If it touches a bone, it deforms a little bit more. If it bounces off to another bone, then it also continues to deform. And it can, at close range, tend to go into fragments. But it's not dozens or hundreds, as some people have said on different newscasts, it's just a few. Three or four. But all of those are bad anyway.

O'BRIEN: So briefly, your sense is that there probably would be enough evidence to make a conclusive link or not.

HANEY: Yes, there is. There almost always is when a shot goes in to a human body.

O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much, Eric Haney, Casey Jordan. We appreciate your insights in all of this. We'll be checking back with you a little bit later, of course. We appreciate that.


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