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Montgomery, Alabama Police Give Press Conference

Aired October 24, 2002 - 09:01   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go straight to Montgomery, Alabama. We might find out a little bit more about the linkage to this site, if any. Let's listen.

All right, gentlemen, let's go ahead.

OK. Good morning, everybody. I appreciate your being here. My name is John Wilson. W-I-l...


Montgomery Police Department. I'm going to give the other folks up here an opportunity to introduce themselves briefly.

BOBBY BRIGHT, MAYOR, MONTGOMERY, ALA.: Of course, I'm Bobby Bright, mayor of Montgomery, Alabama.

LARRY ARMSTEAD, ASST. TO MAYOR, MONTGOMERY, ALA.: I am Larry Armstead, administrative assistant to the mayor.


WILSON: Major Pat Downing (ph), detective division commander.

And Sergeant Martino (ph) here is our public information officer. Back on September 21st at about 7:30 in the evening, we had a robbery at this ABC store here behind us. Two people were shot, two females, one died and the other one was very seriously injured. At that time, we began our investigation.

And this Sunday night, our investigators received a call from the task force stating that they had received information from an unknown caller, referencing our shooting and our murder and robbery here, and that began our involvement that the point. As of this day, we still are not clear exactly what the connection will be, if there is any connection at all. Certainly, we are excited about the possibilities of clearing up a very serious crime right here in our backyard. And we've been asked to assist. We do have an officer on the ground at the Washington area. He is there now.

The FBI and the other members of the task force have asked us to send whatever evidence we have on this case up there; we have done that. And we're going to assist them in any way that we possibly can in solving their crimes there and certainly they're assisting us in helping resolving our murder here.

We do have some things that I want to clear up this morning, that I have heard that are not correct. There had been mention a credit card. There was no evidence taken here. This is no credit card to our crime scene here. We've also heard that a note was left. There was no note left here. We do have some evidence that we don't want to get into great detail about, but a note and a credit card was not part of them. So having made that brief statement, I'll be glad to try to answer some of your questions if I can.

QUESTION: Chief Wilson, why do you think they called you in?

WILSON: They didn't call me personally. Members of the task force called members of our detective division. They called us because they said that a caller -- and they're not sure whether the caller was connected to their shootings or not -- had made reference to a murder in Montgomery, Alabama. And that began the conversation and the dialogue between the agencies.

QUESTION: Have you heard about the fingerprints on a magazine?

WILSON: I'm not going to go into specifics of what our evidence is here. You know, our primary focus here is he to try to solve our crime here and assist them in any way we can. I don't want to go into what specific evidence we have. We have quite a bit. And I don't want the suspects in the case to know exactly what we do have to work with.

QUESTION: You have a composite sketch here.


QUESTION: Does it match at all John Malvo, from what you've seen?

WILSON: The sketch has been on the Internet for quite a while. And your question is, does -- in my opinion -- does it match one of suspects who's been taken into custody. I would say that there were some very good similarities, yes.

QUESTION: Chief are either men who were involved wanted right now in Montgomery, for the murder of ...

WILSON: We don't know what the connection will be to the Montgomery case. We are staying very optimistic, but right now we can't draw those kind of conclusions.

QUESTION: Does either of the men have a record here, sir.

WILSON: I don't want to get into that much detail about our case at this particular point.


WILSON: I don't want to go into specifics, but I will clear up one matter for you. I did receive confirmation from an AFT agent on the task force that the same gun that was used here is not the same gun that's being used in the D.C. area.

QUESTION: The rifle? Could you say that?

WILSON: I don't want to get into that much detail.

QUESTION: (inaudible) of your officers who were involved in this incident?

WILSON: How many people were involved in this incident here.


WILSON: We had a patrol car directly across the street. You will see a brick building with the gray top, that's a restaurant. Our patrol car with two officers inside was stationed at that building and actually heard the shots. They came straight across the street, and observed one individual standing over the two victims that were laying in the parking lot directly behind me.

QUESTION: Do you know why the possible two suspects were in Alabama?

WILSON: I have no idea that they were ever in Alabama.

QUESTION: Because Montgomery County, Maryland and of course Montgomery, Alabama, they were saying that whoever they were talking to on the phone that they couldn't understand them. Could there be a mistake if somebody says Montgomery, Alabama or murder, and they come up with this?

WILSON: That is certainly a possibility. And I think that it is way too early for any of you to draw conclusions that there is an absolute connection between the two. We're working with them to try to clear those kind of issues up. We're staying very optimistic, because, obviously, for our citizens here, we want to solve this crime as well.

QUESTION: Chief, one of the victims in this case is reported as saying she didn't think what happened here was a robbery. How would you characterize about it?

WILSON: Well, I may have to take difference to that. I mean, I certainly respect her opinion, but the officer saw the suspect rifling through one of the victim's purse. So I can't draw any other conclusion that it was at least an attempted robbery.

QUESTION: Did he take anything?

WILSON: I'm sorry, the question was, did he take anything. I'm not going to go into that much detail about our case right now.

QUESTION: Do you know the connection with this case and apparently some area gun shows, where there have been some questions asked about magazines that have to do with guns?

WILSON: I will confirm for you, that as part of our investigation, we did attend some gun shows to just ask some general question, but that's where it stops.

QUESTION: Do you think the suspect got his weapon at a gun show?

WILSON: I wouldn't dare draw that kind of conclusion. I have no idea where the suspects got their guns.

QUESTION: Can you go into more detail about the national hot line tip?

WILSON: The national hot line tip, I am sorry, you're going to have to clarify that question for me. I am not familiar.


WILSON: Well, I don't want to go into detail about what was said, because it wasn't said directly from me. I received my information from the task force, ATF agent.

QUESTION: How did the suspect escape the scene?

WILSON: He fled on foot. The officer did pursue him for quite some distance, from here from almost to the interstate, came within two feet of him at one point.

QUESTION: Did he run up the ditch, maybe?

WILSON: He fled on foot to my left, behind this building that we are standing in front of and across that ditch that you see.

QUESTION: Did he get a good look at his face, sir?

WILSON: I don't want to go into that much detail about our case.


WILSON: One question at a time.


QUESTION: Older or younger person? They got a Chevy Corolla (sic)...

WILSON: Our officer that pursued him was instrumental in helping us put the composite together. But I don't want to go into any detail about what he will or will not be able to verify.

QUESTION: Did the victims see -- the other victim see him?

WILSON: I don't want to go into the victim's statements.

QUESTION: Chief, we're now going to get into the background of these guys. Is there any information you've received that would Malvo or Muhammad in this area about the time of the shooting or around then?.

WILSON: That would be drawing too many conclusions and would get into our evidence, and I am not prepared to do that at this time.

QUESTION: (inaudible) if they've ever been here? I mean, do you know that they were ever in this area?

WILSON: I don't want to draw that conclusion. We've got a lot of information, it's unfolding very rapidly, and there'll be a lot more that we'll be able to tell you in the upcoming days. But I certainly don't want to do anything to jeopardize the Washington, D.C. cases or ours.

QUESTION: Do you know anything about the Ground Zero investigation west of here?

WILSON: No, to be honest, the first heard of a Ground Zero west of here was this morning. So, no, I am not familiar with that.

QUESTION: Back down to from you the task force, are they talking about what they are getting from the evidence you sent them?

WILSON: Yes, there is a very good flow of information. The agencies are working very well together. And we are very excited about being able to help them in any way that we can. And everything they've asked for, we've sent. And they are keeping us informed of what they're finding up there. Obviously, if the information flow wasn't good, they would have never called us about the possibility of this case being connected.

QUESTION: Has your officer been interviewed?

QUESTION: The evidence that you guys sent to Washington?

WILSON: I don't want to get into how much we sent up there.

QUESTION: Has the officer who chased him been interviewed?

WILSON: One second, I am sorry.

QUESTION: Has the officer who chased him been interviewed, and maybe hypnotized, or, you know, I don't know what you...

WILSON: We don't want to discuss that much specific in the case.

QUESTION: Has anyone from the task force in Washington been down here?

WILSON: Not that I am aware of. I am sure that will happen eventually. But I think we've eliminated that problem by sending our officers up there.

QUESTION: I'd like to ask the mayor for just his reaction on having this city thrust into what's been a huge, nationwide story.

BRIGHT: If you're going to be thrust it's, of course, not something that we brag about, but if we can assist to bring an end a tragic string of events like what has happened up in New England, you know, we're ready, willing and able to do whatever we can to assist to bring this to conclusion, if we can. So whatever, as the chief has said, whatever evidence we have, we've made it totally available to the federal task force and we'll continue to cooperate and work with them fully to try to bring this thing to a head.

QUESTION: Chief, there was any suspicion that this crime went beyond the scope of Montgomery, before the call came from the task force?

WILSON: That question's way too vague and I can't draw that kind of conclusion.

QUESTION: Did you have any suspects before this?

WILSON: I don't want to go into that much detail. We had a -- we were working a very active case. This case was a top priority for us. It's not something that we usually experience here. And we had a group of investigators assigned to this case as a priority, so it was a very hot, active case, when we got the call. So to say what impact the call may have, we don't know yet.

QUESTION: Are there any other local crimes that might be connected to this particular one?

WILSON: I don't want to go into that much detail.

QUESTION: You sent the evidence up there. Are you are sending any of your investigators up there, as well?

WILSON: I've already addressed that. We have an investigator that left last night, going up there, and he is still there on the ground now.

QUESTION: Chief, can you describe when this call came in from the task force up there again, what day and what time and how it was handled?

WILSON: Sure. Yes. It came Sunday evening or Sunday afternoon, and it was relayed to me and it was passed on to me by Major Downing (ph) with the detective division and, basically, came as a request for assistance, and, of course, we were eager to assist in any way we could.

QUESTION: How would you classify your case now? Is it an open investigation?

WILSON: Oh, absolutely.

QUESTION: Do you feel that this was a big break?

WILSON: It's absolutely -- it will remain open for ten years, or 100 years, if it takes it, until we make an arrest. But we feel a lot better about now than we we did. But we still cannot draw any conclusions as to what connection the people in Washington, D.C. may have to our case. We're simply in the assist mode right now.

QUESTION: Chief, the night of the shooting, I think there was an all-points bulletin put out for a day (ph), though, not clear if it was the suspect's vehicle. What was the description of that the car?

WILSON: I don't remember us -- I can't address that for you. But I don't want to go into that much detail about the case. But right now, that's not the focus for our investigation.

QUESTION: What was the condition of the current -- of the other victim?

WILSON: She's doing remarkably well. She is an extremely lucky young woman. She was shot at the base of her head in the back, and she's very fortunate to be alive, and she's been a great help to us.

QUESTION: Has she's been shown the pictures of suspects?

WILSON: I don't want to comment on that. You know, she has been instrumental in our case and continues to be, so I am sure she'll play some role in the future.

QUESTION: Has she been given any kind of protection?

WILSON: I'm sorry. Repeat your...

QUESTION: Has she been given any kind of police protection?

WILSON: I don't want to comment on that. I'm sorry, go ahead with yours.

QUESTION: You said there was no credit card, and none of that evidence had been talked about on TV. Was there any sort of evidence that led them? Was it evidence or phone calls?

WILSON: I'm not going to address that. That's getting too specific. We'll take a couple more questions, if you will. I think we've, pretty much, have addressed everything that you wanted to know about the case. Again, I emphasize, I've been told, officially, that the same weapon that was used here is not the weapon that was used up there or the weapon was not. There was not a credit card taken from here. And I hope that clears that up for you. Those are two points I want to reemphasize.

QUESTION: What about the fingerprint evidence that you gathered from the scene?

WILSON: Well I don't want to talk about -- I don't even want to confirm that we have fingerprint evidence. You know, that gets too specific in our case and it's too active.

QUESTION: ... national media that it was on a magazine and that it was a gun magazine?

WILSON: Well, I understand, Joey, but there's a lot of things that have been reported in the national media that's not accurate and I'm not going to go into that much detail about our case.

QUESTION: Do you know if the fingerprints were found on the hood of a car? WILSON: Say again?

QUESTION: The fingerprints were found on the hood of a car?

WILSON: No, don't think that we ever said any fingerprints were found on the hood of a car.

No. We were looking for a car and the description of car we were looking for was not necessarily a suspect car. That was somebody that we were simply treating as a witness that we wanted to talk too.

QUESTION: Was any of Claudine Parker's (ph) personal possessions, like a checkbook, for instance, taken?

WILSON: We don't want to comment on that. That's getting too specific.

QUESTION: Can you say if you have any physical evidence? Let's say you arrest somebody that would link -- put them at this scene at that time, other than a ballistics?

WILSON: I will only --

QUESTION: A fingerprint or saliva, I mean, a cigarette.

WILSON: I will only answer that by saying that we have a good case. And once we have a chance to talk to any suspects, I think we can make an arrest in this case, but I don't want to go into details about what our evidence is. That could jeopardize our case.

QUESTION: Are you are still actively searching for that witness? Are you still searching for the witness?

WILSON: Yes. Every aspect of our case is opened. Just because people have been arrested in Washington, D.C., that does not mean our case is closed here, nor does it theirs is closed.

QUESTION: Would you like to talk to John Malvo about this particular case?

WILSON: AT some point`, our investigators are very interested in talking to him.

QUESTION: Are you in contact with any other Alabama authorities?

WILSON: Yes. I would be safe to say that every facet of the Montgomery area law enforcement community has been involved in this, to some degree.

QUESTION: Any other cities?

WILSON: Not necessarily any other cities. I'm talking, primarily, about the capital city here.

QUESTION: How much has the phone call from the task force helped out in your investigation on this case slow it up? WILSON: Let me just say that we're optimistic, without going into any detail. We simply cannot draw conclusions, at this point.

QUESTION: Sir, how close (inaudible) the car that was described at the scene here match the description of the car found up there, in D.C.?

WILSON: I don't really know that much about the car that was found in D.C.. All of this has kind of fast and I have not received any firsthand information. All I've heard is media reports, so I would really not rather comment on that part at this time.

QUESTION: So what were you lookiing for here, as far as the car?

WILSON: As I said, we were treating that car as a material witness. I mean, it's somebody that we know, based on our officer that was in foot pursuit, his count was that the suspect may have ran past this car, close enough that, whoever was driving it, may have been able to give is a description. So that's the only reason we were looking for that car at the time.

QUESTION: Chief, have you talked to Chief Moose?

WILSON: No, I have not.

QUESTION: Chief, it seems like, jsut taking a step back from the situation, somewhat remarkable that a robbery at a liquor store here in Montgomery, Alabama, could be linked to what's going on up in the D.C. area. When you take a moment to reflect on this, what goes through your mind, and what reaction do you have?

WILSON: Well, right now, you know, the only reaction I can have is to be optimistic that this will help us solve our case because, you know, we're not directly involved in the Wshington, D.C. case. I know it's a very important case for the community up there. It's received a lot of attention. But the very fact that it may have, and I stress the word "may," have a connection to our case, certainly gives us reasons to be enthusiastic.

QUESTION: How long will your men stay up there in D.C., do you know?

WILSON: We can't answer that. You know, I don't anticipate it being a long time, but he's going to be there long enough to either draw ...

BRIGHT: As long as he needs to be.

WILSON: The mayor's right, as long as he needs to be.

QUESTION: Is there more processing of information needed to be done?

WILSON: Yes, there is a lot of information that has to be processed yet. I think we are just now beginning to learn anything about the suspects they have in custody, particularly if they do or do not have any connection here.

QUESTION: Mayor Bright, the president, of course, has followed this case, I bet (ph), as it's gotten a lot of national attention. You'll be with the president today. Do you think you'll have a discuss of any kind?

BRIGHT: I'm not sure. If he asked me some questions about it, I'll glad to try to bring him up to date as to what our involvement is, to date. I'm not going to focus too much on this, because he's going to be with us a very short period of time. He's got another --

QUESTION: Since this happened, can you describe the flow of calls to your office and the police department in the city?

WILSON: Oh, it's been an overwhelming number of calls last night. I don't think I've slept very much because the number of calls that we've had from people, the media, mainly, interested in the facs and the connections between the crimes up in New England and the crimes here in Montgomery or the crime here in Montgomery. A lot of calls.

QUESTION: Have the federal authorities asked you all to kind of keep your mouth shut about certain things or?

WILSON: No. This is our case here. This is not a federal case. Now professionally and ethically, we don't want to do anything here that jeopardize theire case there. That's just an obligation we have to the law enforcement community. But no, we what we say here is strictly in our ballpark.

BRIGHT: It's a cooperative effort also. We're working with them and they're working with us.

QUESTION: Does this meet the requirements (inaudible) law, as a capital crime?

WILSON: Yes, absolutely.

QUESTION: Does Maryland have the death penalty?

WILSON: Does Maryland have the death penalty?

QUESTION: Do you know?

WILSON: I don't know. Alabama certainly does. So I think that, pretty much, concludes it. I guess I've addressed everything you need. I do appreciate you coming out and hhelping us clear up some of these these facts. Thank you very much

BRIGHT: Thank you all for being here.

ZAHN: For those of you watching, we're trying to make sense of what little we learned from that news conference from Chief John Wilson. Fully understanding what his challenge is. He's saying he was being very careful not to jeopardize what he called "a very hot active murder case." TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT

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