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Press Conference on Status of Sniper Capture

Aired October 24, 2002 - 19:56   ET


CHIEF CHARLES MOOSE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: Before we start, I'd like for all of us to share in a moment of silence for Virginia State Trooper Mark Cosslett who died as a result of a motorcycle accident will responding to a call, shoot fired on I-95 at 5:30 p.m. yesterday afternoon.
We are gathered to hear some information with regards to a sniper situation that has been occurring in the Washington metropolitan area. So for some further details on that situation and the status of the investigation at this time, it gives me great honor to introduce Special Agent in Charge, Baltimore Field Office, Special Agent Gary Bald.

GARY BALD, FBI BALTIMORE FIELD OFFICE: At approximately 1:00 a.m. today a motorist called 911 to report seeing 1990 Chevy Caprice bearing the New Jersey license plate NDA 21Z, associated with John Allen Muhammad, parked in the parking lot of the rest stop located at I-70 and mile marker 42, approximately four miles from the Washington County line, 11 miles west of Frederick City, Maryland.

Maryland State Police responded, verified the tag and kept the vehicle under surveillance. Task force members responded to the location, approached the vehicle and found two males sleeping inside. They took both men into custody without incident. The individuals were transported to an undisclosed location in Montgomery County, Maryland. The vehicle was secured and transported to a Montgomery County facility and a search warrant was secured and executed on the vehicle.

One of the individuals in the vehicle has been identified as John Allen Muhammad, also known as John Allen Williams. He is a black male with a date of birth of 12/31/60. The other individual is a 17-year- old male who will remain unnamed at this time because of his age.

MOOSE: As we all know, this was a very complex investigation, and the information you've just heard would not have been possible without the tremendous cooperation of all of the men and women in law enforcement, but specifically members of the task force. And because of the task force's size, we can only introduce at this point the key leadership members of this tremendous team.

I'd like to introduce certainly Don Thompson, FBI SAC, Richmond; Van Harp, FBI assistant director, FBI Washington Field Office. You've met Special Agent Bald. You've met on numerous occasions Special Agent ATF Mike Bouchard, Baltimore Field Office; Special Agent, ATF, Washington Field Office, Jeff Rimm (ph), Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Washington Field Office, Michael Stinger; Chief of Police, Metropolitan Police Department, Washington, D.C., Charles Ramsey; Chief of Police, Prince George's County, Gerald Wilson; Sheriff, Spotsylvania County, Ronald Knight; Chief of Police, Fairfax County, Virginia, Thomas Manger; Chief of Police, Prince William County, Charlie Dean.

Representing Sheriff Cook, Hanover County, is Lieutenant Colonel Steven Wright (ph).

Unable to be with us tonight because of an illness, Chief of Police, Ashland, Virginia, Chief Pleasits (ph).

Superintendent Dave Mitchell, Maryland State Police; representing Superintendent Massengill of Virginia State Police, Lieutenant Colonel Don Martin; representing all of the U.S. marshals deeply involved in this case, U.S. Marshal Johnny Hughes.

Certainly this team is larger but its unprecedented cooperation has made this case possible and it has been very, very honorable to work with all of the men and women involved in this matter.

Clearly, ballistics have been a major focus point of these briefings. I'd like to introduce Special in Charge, ATF, Baltimore Field Office, Mike Bouchard, to give you some information about that matter.


Sorry to keep everyone waiting tonight. The search of the vehicle today yielded a weapon, which is a Bushmaster XM-15 .223 caliber rifle, which was sent to the ATF lab in Rockville for analysis.

The results of forensic testing are that the weapon seized from the vehicle occupied by Muhammad has been forensically determined to be the murder weapon in the following shootings.

And as I read these, I will not read the names of the victims who survived the shooting for obvious reasons.

October 3, Prem Kumar Walekar in Montgomery County; October 3, Sarah Ramos, Montgomery County; October 3, Lori Anne Louis Rivera, Montgomery County; October 3, Pascal Charlot, Washington, D.C.; October 4, a female was wounded in Spotsylvania County, Virginia; October 7, a child was wounded in Prince George's County, Maryland; October 9, Dean Harold Myers, Prince William County, Virginia; October 11, Kenneth Bridges, Spotsylvania County, Virginia; October 14, Linda Franklin, Fairfax County, Virginia; October 19, a gentleman was wounded in Hanover County, Virginia; October 22, Conrad Johnson, Montgomery County, Maryland.

There were three other shootings that were inconclusive, as we stated before. Those that are inconclusive remain linked through other evidence, and we continue to investigate them in connection with all of the other incidents. We are also continuing to investigate any other unsolved shootings that are similar in nature.

And certainly, our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the victims' of these shootings.

Thank you.

MOOSE: Thank you, Mike.

Throughout this situation, many communities, millions of individuals have been impacted. It has been my good fortune that a very strong voice throughout this entire matter just happens to be the person that I look to as my boss. So let me introduce to you County Executive of Montgomery County Mr. Doug Duncan.


Tonight people in the Washington metropolitan region are breathing a collective sigh of relief hearing the news that was just announced in relation to this case. The residents of Montgomery County, the Washington region, and indeed our entire nation owe profound thanks and deep appreciation to Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose, ATF Special Agent in Charge Mike Bouchard, FBI Special Agent in Charge Gary Bald and all of the men and women on this combined law enforcement task force for their dedication, resolve and determination.

This task force worked together in an unprecedented and remarkable fashion. So on behalf of this community, I want to thank you to all of the members of the task force.

I also want to thank the people of this region. Throughout this horrible ordeal, the residents of this community proved that faith and hope always triumphs over darkness and despair. We continued to go about our lives, caring for our neighbors, educating our children, reaching out to help others, and providing comfort to the victims' families, while at the same time calling the tip line and contributing to the reward fund.

Over the past 13 months this nation has proven that we will not be deterred by acts of terror, whether from outside our borders or from within.

At this time I want to read the names of those who lost their lives and pause for a moment of silence to reflect upon and honor the memory of these innocent victims, in addition to the other three victims who are continuing their recovery.

James Martin, Sonny Buchanan, Prem Kumar Walekar, Sarah Ramos, Lori Louis Rivera, Pascal Charlot, Dean Myers, Ken Bridges, Linda Franklin and Conrad Johnson.

Thank you.

MOOSE: Thank you, Mr. Duncan.

The juvenile being held in this case is being held as a material witness at this time. John Allen Muhammad is being held on a federal firearms charge. Therefore, please understand that these two individuals are under arrest and detained on unrelated charges to the situation we've been investigating.

However, we now consider them suspects in the string of shootings in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Tomorrow, the prosecutors from all involved jurisdictions will be meeting to discuss the filing of charges against John Allen Muhammad and a juvenile in this case. They will make a joint public statement regarding potential criminal charges and jurisdictional issues.

We want to thank all of the law enforcement personnel, local, state and federal, from throughout the country who have worked around the clock for the last three weeks on this investigation. This joint effort continues and it remains unprecedented. This investigation is not done, and the work will continue until we can assure that it is complete.

But most of all I'd like to join Agent Bald, Agent Bouchard, in thanking all of the members of the public that have called, that have paid attention, who have remained vigilant, observant, aware and, most importantly, have remained resilient. We have not given in to the terror. Yes, we've all experienced anxiety. But in the end, resiliency has won out.

And then certainly, there's no words that I can think of for all of the men and women in law enforcement who again have shown the desire to go to the danger in order to keep other community members safe.

I know that this has also been a trying time for the law enforcement community and the media. I would be remiss if I don't acknowledge the cooperation that we received from the media in conveying the many messages that we've needed in order to bring this case to where it is tonight.

Although there remains competition among all of the various people in the media, we've also made great note of the restraint, the cooperation, the willingness on your part to withhold information for fear that it would somehow jeopardize this investigation.

Your professional ethics are indeed commended in this matter.

And lastly, I, too, want to tell you that my heart goes out to the victims and the families of these shootings. If I can speak for all of law enforcement, our thoughts and prayers are with these people. Agent Bald and Mr. Duncan and myself spent some time this afternoon with the families of the Montgomery County victims. It brings a perspective and tells me that all the men and women who've taken the oath and served in the law enforcement community, we do it for those victims and their families.

So we will never forget. We'll never know their pain and we only wish we could have stopped this to reduce the number of victims.

We'll take a few questions.

QUESTION: How important was it that you established a dialogue with the person out there, how important was that and what was some of the rationale behind that dialogue that was established?

And, obviously, it looked like you were going through great pains to even do that. Tell us a little bit of what you can about the rationale behind that.

MOOSE: Sir, Agent Bald would like to respond to your question.

BALD: I'd like to emphasize before I start that this case was very important to the community and to all of the people standing before you, and we're going to be very careful in our responses because we have additional proceedings that have to take place in this investigation, including potential charges and potential trials.

Your question on the communication, the communication in this particular situation was instrumental in our being able to pursue the investigation.

QUESTION: Are you convinced that these are the only two people you need to look for? Talking to whoever interrogated the so-called sniper today, can you tell me was there any reason behind him doing all these shootings? Has he given you any indication whatsoever for the reason behind this?

MOOSE: Ma'am, you know, we were trying to be very thoughtful. I'm not sure if we should even take any questions. I think Agent Bald was trying to explain that questions of your type that want to talk about interrogation and active investigation, we've really tried to focus that people have lost their lives. People have had their lives altered, and we will not do anything to jeopardize this investigation. To discuss anything about the interrogation would be totally inappropriate.

QUESTION: Chief, is there any evidence that anyone else was involved and that there might be any continuing danger to the public?

MOOSE: Sir, we feel very positive about being here. We have the weapon; it is off the street. As we've stated throughout this investigation, we've been very diligent, very methodical. We have not completed all of our work.

Again, we feel that things are progressing quite well. Anything remains possible. We continue to look at every angle, every possibility, but we feel very positive about where we are right now.

QUESTION: Do the suspects have a residence or an address in the greater metropolitan area?

MOOSE: Again, sir, we, you know, are just not going to discuss any of those types of details.

QUESTION: (off mike) talk about the motives?

MOOSE: No, sir.

OK, we really appreciate the -- excuse me, ma'am, excuse me. We really appreciate, again, all of the citizens that have called us and given us information.

I want to stress that, as you continue to think about this case, as you see photographs, as you see perhaps pictures of vehicles in detail, we still need you to jog your memory. We still need you to talk to us, help us continue to finalize this puzzle.

We think we put some giant pieces of the puzzle together, but there is more. We need more cooperation. The tip line remains up. Your local police department remains very engaged. And if you thought somehow that tonight meant that all of the task forces were packing boxes and going home, we're still working. We're going to make sure we give everything our prosecutors need.

And so members of the media, thank you for helping us get this message out.

And we thank all of the citizens for all of their work.

We're going to let a lot of the members of the task force, the people you see here, we're going to let them go home, hug their children, hug their spouses and just think about the fact that we continue to live in the greatest nation.

So thank you all.


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