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Police Believe They Have Captured Snipers

Aired October 24, 2002 - 10:14   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we're just waiting to see what happens after authorities get this search warrant that they would like to get to use to go through the vehicle these two men were captured in there outside of Frederick, Maryland, and that's where Bob Franken is standing by there. We're still waiting to see what's going to happen next, once that car is towed away from there and it's actually searched.
Let's check in now with Bob Franken and see what's happening there now -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're waiting for the car to be towed away. We've seen a steady parade of some of the investigators who have. After the arrests were made, they swarmed onto the scene. The arrests were made about 3:30 this morning. Then the investigators came. At one time, there were 70 different police officials on the ground, Montgomery county police, the local police here, Maryland state police, federal agents, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm. They also brought in dogs to do some sniffing.

Some witnesses told us that they removed from the vehicle in their cursory inspections that will, of course, be followed by the much more thorough ones at some point several hours from now, in the cursory ones, they removed a duffel bag full of material and what was described as a long box.

Of course we've been told by sources that there was not a weapon found in the car. But nevertheless, they took out what was a long box, and as I said, the duffel bag. Now, the arrests occurred about 3:30, as I mentioned. That was a couple of hours, a full couple of hours, after the original report had been called in by somebody who drove a white van, ironically. He and the person who worked at that rest stop were at the other side of the highway rest stop. In any case, he and that person were then told to stay in the caller's white van, and they were there through the whole ordeal, which lasted a couple of hours, while tactical squad members of the Maryland state police, very, very methodically assembled, and then they swooped down on the car and they were successful in making their arrests of these people who they were looking for so badly, making them without any resistance, without any trouble.

And then, of course, the state police blocked off that part of the rest stop. They still do have it blocked off, and they're continuing to do their investigation. The car is still there. It will be moved shortly, and presumably, at some point, they'll open the rest stop up again -- Leon. HARRIS: All right. Thanks, Bob. Appreciate that. What an incredible story you just painted there. Great picture you painted for us on what happened at that rest stop. Let's go now and get another piece of this story, because another break came in this case from a possible link to a shooting in Alabama.

Now a woman was killed and another one was wounded outside of a liquor store on September 21st. CNN's Brian Cabell is standing by now live in Montgomery, Alabama, and he's got that part of the story for us this morning -- Brian.

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a very intriguing part of the story, Leon. Apparently what happened is this, a tip came in to the task force a few days back saying you might want to take a look at a case in Montgomery, Alabama, and that's precisely what task force investigators did. They called here on Sunday, asking specifically about a holdup that occurred on September 21st, a holdup right in front of this store, as a matter of fact, a liquor store. Two women closing up the store, employees on a Saturday night, they were accosted by a young black male, 5'8" to 5'10", they were told. One of them was shot dead. Another one was shot seriously. She survived, however.

And out of that came a sketch of the alleged perpetrator. A young man, we'll show it to you right now. The question is, is this sketch anything like the sketch or the picture of John Malvo?


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


CABELL: A couple other questions put to the police chief, fingerprints. We had heard that finger prints were found on a publication here in this general area that might have matched John Malvo. The police chief said he did not want to address that question. Apparently, the mayor is saying, perhaps they may have matched. So we're getting a bit of a conflict here. Some information simply that they don't want to release at this point. There was also rumors of a credit card perhaps being taken from one of the victims here, matching some numbers up in the Washington D.C. area. The police chief said absolutely not. There was no match on that. There's no connection. That rumor was absolutely false.

Another question about the kind of bullet that was used, the kind of bullets that were used in this particular holdup. The .223 that is being used in the sniper attacks. Again, the chief addressed that question.


CHIEF JOHN WILSON, MONT. ALA. POLICE: I will clear up one matter for you. I did receive confirmation from an ATF 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.


CABELL: Now, the chief was asked about this training camp, which is also in Alabama, about 50 miles from here, in another county, a training camp that apparently was searched by FBI agents in the last day or so, training camp allegedly with ties to paramilitary types. Again, he did not know anything about it. The FBI is really not commenting on it. This is a live fire exercise area. Not all that active apparently. We talked to the owner of that camp late last night, early this morning. He says he doesn't know anything about the search. He denies any sort of connection to any paramilitary, any sort of connection to these two suspects. He doesn't know, frankly, according to him, what is happening here.

But we have been told by the FBI that they did, in fact, search this camp, about 50 miles from Montgomery, here in the last day or so.

So, again, two rather intriguing developments here in Alabama. The one here with this liquor store, certainly very intriguing. As the police chief said, he would like to talk to John Malvo as a possible suspect here. And as you heard, he said yes, the composite here does kind of resemble the picture of John Malvo -- Leon.

HARRIS: That's debatable to some. Let me ask you this, though, before we get you out of here, Brian. Because what also has been reported, there had been a couple of other things, and I've heard some confirmations and then some refutations of it. First of all, what's the word you've been hearing about a link between the credit card that may have been used in this case, some stolen credit card number that was perhaps used and mentioned in the letter that was dropped behind the restaurant in Ashland, Virginia, and is there a link with that credit card there in Alabama?

CABELL: Well, the initial report that we were getting that we were not reporting was that a credit card had been taken from one of the victims who was shot here, and that somehow matched the one in Virginia, Washington, Maryland. The chief said no, no connection whatsoever. So he refuted that absolutely.

HARRIS: How about the fingerprint of Malvo that was found there? Some have said, we've seen reports in various media outlets about this fingerprint of his being found on a magazine there. But it wasn't clear whether it was an ammunition clip magazine, or an actual paper magazine or a piece of paper left behind. Or whether or not there was a fingerprint. What have you heard about that?

CABELL: Conflicting opinions. The police chief doesn't want to talk about it, Perhaps not wanting to compromise the information. We are getting reports now that the mayor who was also at that press conference subsequently said yes, a finger print was found there, and that it did match Malvo. But, Leon, let's just be very cautious about this, we have not heard that from the FBI, we have not heard that from the police chief yet. HARRIS: Got you. Brian Cabell, standing by there in Montgomery, Alabama. Let's go to James Hattori, one of the other places that there's been a center point in this investigation, another point of triangulation in narrowing down the focus of these two people has been the search of a home in Tacoma, Washington.

James Hattori is standing by there.


A full half day before the arrest of the two suspects, federal agents were here at this home where they believed the two suspects lived for a time. They converged on it yesterday morning. They were looking, according to sources, for evidence, as well as specifically, possibly bullet fragments, or bullet -- or casings, perhaps. FBI agents scoured the property using metal detectors and heavy equipment. They removed at least one tree stump, which was among other evidence that they've taken in for examination. Of course, the possibility is that the tree stump might have been used for target practice by Mr. Muhammad when he lived here.

There were reports from various neighbors in the area, who reported hearing gunshots at a time around January, earlier this year. One of the neighbors called the police. They came out. Apparently nothing ever came of those reports. The mayor said that there is no record of anything in the police books.

Meantime, we should mention that investigators up in Bellingham were also looking at a high school where Mr. Malvo attended for a time. And we are told, and it's been reported that they had looked specifically at some handwriting samples from that school that obviously may be investigators will be looking at in terms of building their case in the D.C. area, comparing handwriting with perhaps the notes that were involved in the messages sent by the sniper there.

Now let's take a look at the profiles of these two suspects. John Allen Muhammad, also known as John Allen Williams, 41 years old. He's a Gulf War veteran, married at least a couple of times, divorced. Has one wife in Louisiana, and has been a resident in the Tacoma area, not necessarily at this house, between 1994 and 2000. The other suspect, John Lee Malvo, 17 years old, he is Mr. Muhammad's stepson, a Jamaican citizen. He attended, as I say, high school in Bellingham, Washington, which is about two, three hours north of here, near the Canadian border. Those two suspects now in custody. And investigators here will be going through all of the evidence, and materials that were collected over the past day yesterday in terms of building the case that will now go forward -- Leon.

HARRIS: James, in the time that you've spent there have you been able to talk with any of the neighbors to get a sense of what kind of relationship these two men had? And if any one of the neighbors happened to see what kind of weapon they were firing in that backyard?

HATTORI: They don't seem to have been very well known in the community. One of the neighbors says this is an area that tends to be rather transient. People come in and out. One man who's been here 25 years, or I'm sorry, more than that actually, says that he never saw them. He might have recognized them from TV once he saw them, but never had any contact with them. So there's not a lot, at least so far that we've heard from neighbors that would tie them specifically to anything in the case in D.C.

HARRIS: All right. James Hattori, reporting live for us from Tacoma, Washington.


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