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Montgomery, Alabama Press Conference on Sniper

Aired October 25, 2002 - 10:00   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, let's go to Montgomery, Alabama, and get the latest on the investigation from that angle.
MAYOR ROBERT BRIGHT, MONT. ALA.: ... informative. And I want to go ahead and turn it over to Chief Wilson, our police chief here in the city of Montgomery, and he will explain to you, in detail, the additional information and we'll take questions after he explains it to you.



Good morning, everybody. Chief John Wilson, Montgomery Police Department. I appreciate very much your indulgence yesterday. I hate to play cat and mouse with you, but a lot of what we were talking about had to do with the case in Washington, D.C., and I want to revisit that a little bit and say that we don't want to hurt that case.

So today, we're focusing on the case in Montgomery, Alabama, which, as far as we know, was the first killing involving the snipers. And as we speak this morning, we are signing capital murder warrants on both suspects. That would be Lee Malvo and John Muhammad. We have made a positive I.D. that places John Muhammad at the scene of the bodies behind me here.

Our police officer was shown a photo lineup late yesterday evening and positively identified him as the person he saw standing over the body. Lee Malvo, we can place at the scene of the crime because of other evidence you've already discussed.

Once the warrants are served, and we do intend to charge Malvo as an adult, we do intend to seek the death penalty through our D.A.'s office here. So we also intend to do everything within our power to have those warrants served today. They are being signed, as we speak.

I know you probably are wondering why the delay. We had some delay. We tried our best to make it happen for you by five o'clock yesterday afternoon, but we had to get the photo lineup from Washington. And because of all the activity there, we had some delay in getting the photo lineup here.

We had to keep our officer isolated, so that he couldn't see any of the newscasts or broadcasts or see any of the photographs on TV. We did not want that taint our case, in any way. It was late yesterday evening, about three hours after we had our last briefing, that we were able to show him the photo lineup and, without hesitation, he picked Muhammad out as the guy he saw standing over the body.

Our officer never actually saw Lee Malvo, as he chased him through the ditch. Malvo was located somewhere over here to our side by this gas station. We have a tentative I.D. made on him by a second independent witness.

We have a third independent witness that seems to place Muhammad or Malvo, once -- she's not sure -- here at this scene earlier. We're not too much relying on that. We have strong evidence by the other two witnesses to place them here at the scene, as well as other evidence that we have already sent to Washington, D.C.

So we're very excited about this. I felt -- you kept asking me yesterday how I felt, my gut instinct, I feel terrific today. We are absolutely sure we have a very strong case. We can place them positively here in Montgomery, Alabama, at the scene, by both eyewitness accounts and physical evidence. We still have some more physical evidence that's in the process of being evaluated. I think, once that's done, we're going to have even a stronger case, so we're really excited about the conclusion today.

Yes. I don't want to go into great detail, again, about the fingerprints. I had to play that game with you yesterday because that impacts the case in Washington.

I will tell that you that that will probably play a role in it. What I am able to talk about today, and the reason I'm not so restrained is because this evidence has absolutely nothing to do with the case in Washington, D.C. It's not germane to their case. This is about Montgomery, Alabama's case and we intend to aggressively pursue the death penalty in our case.

Well, there's two approaches that could be made here. One, let's assume it takes us two or three years to actually have access to them. I really don't care. We're going to give them something to read in the meantime.

But secondly, I'm going to make a personal plea to the law enforcement authorities there to see now that we have the first capital murder warrants, if I can get an investigator to have access to the suspects and start talking to them and then my detectives will explore whatever extradition process we need to explore.

QUESTION: When are you going to seek an indictment?


QUESTION: When are you going to seek an indictment?

WILSON: Well, first off, we're going to get the warrant signed and served and that will come next.

QUESTION: Will the indictment go before the next grand jury?

WILSON: I would hope so. The D.A. here is working very closely with us and I would anticipate that to be the case.

QUESTION: Chief, if Malvo fled the scene, where did Muhammad go?

WILSON: Mohammed is ...

HARRIS: You've been listening to the Montgomery, Alabama, police chief describing the case that he believes has now been made ironclad, the case being made against John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo, the two men who were arrested in Montgomery County, Maryland yesterday. And they're being held now, charged with -- actually, not charged yet, but they're being held in the sniper investigation, the investigation of the shootings in the Washington area.

And it seems as though the troubles they'll be facing in that area will only be multiplied by the troubles they'll be facing down here in Montgomery, Alabama.

You heard the chief say that they intend to aggressively pursue the death penalty in the case -- in the charges that they were planning to file against these two men.

We want to get some reaction to this news, as well as to the news of the last 48 hours or so from John Lee Malvo's father. We have Leslie Malvo on the phone with us, calling in from Jamaica.

Mr. Malvo, are you there?


HARRIS: I'd like to know what your thoughts are this morning, after hearing all of this news.

L. MALVO: Well, I feel very bad. Hello?


L. MALVO: I feel very bad about what my son -- hello? I don't know how (INAUDIBLE) Hello.

HARRIS: Yes, we're still here. I'm sorry about the telephone. Can you turn your television down? Mr. Malvo, you -- can you turn that down?

L. MALVO: Yes. Hold on.

HARRIS: Sure. That's what we call feedback here. That happens when the signal goes on the television and comes back on the satellite and gets looped back around.

Mr. Malvo, did you have any idea at all what your son was up to?

L. MALVO: No, no. When he was growing in my village (INAUDIBLE) very long time. I don't know (INAUDIBLE)

HARRIS: When was the -- Mr. Malvo, can you tell us when was the last time you spoke with your son? L. MALVO: Huh?

HARRIS: When was the last time you spoke with your son?

L. MALVO: Four years ago.

HARRIS: Two years ago?

L. MALVO: Four. Four. Four.

HARRIS: Four years ago. I'm sorry. Four years ago. Do you believe the news that you've been hearing about him?


HARRIS: Does it sound like the son that you have?

L. MALVO: Hello?

HARRIS: Yes. Well, do you -- Mr. Malvo, do you plan on coming to the U.S. to see him?

L. MALVO: No, no. I couldn't talk to him (INAUDIBLE). Hello.

HARRIS: Yes. Mr. Malvo. We thank you very much for your time this morning.

L. MALVO: Hello, hello.

HARRIS: Yes. Leslie Malvo, we want to keep you on the line. We want to talk with you, once we get the line straightened out. Leslie Malvo, the father of John Lee Malvo, the young man now who is going to be facing charges in Montgomery, Alabama, and perhaps in addition to what he'll be facing in the Maryland and, perhaps, Virginia area, as well. We'll talk about that later on this morning, the possible different venues where charges may be filed.

Let's go back to the press conference that is still under way in Montgomery, Alabama.

QUESTION: ... in discussing what happened there, can you tell us maybe why they made that phone call? Was there an element of remorse? Maybe they weren't getting credit for a killing that they wanted credit for?

WILSON: Well, I will tell you that I think that we have all seen and realized that these people took some kind of bizarre pleasure in doing what they were doing, and I think there's probably some truth to the fact that there was another killing out here that they hadn't gotten credit for and they were bragging or wanted to verify their viciousness. They called and talked about that killing. And they themselves placed themselves here, by doing that.

QUESTION: Chief, why do you think it's so important for you to seek out now the death penalty...

WILSON: You're going to have to speak up a little louder.

QUESTION: Why do you feel it's so important to seek the death penalty, be the first person to jump out and seek the death penalty?

WILSON: We're going to seek the death penalty. We want to send a very strong message to not only this community and the state, but the country, that this is not the kind of conduct, this is not what we expect out of civilized society, and we're going to send a message. We're going to make an example out of somebody.

QUESTION: Are you concerned -- can I follow up -- that the state of Maryland might not pursue a death penalty?

WILSON: No. This is not about Maryland. This is not about Virginia. This is about Montgomery, Alabama.

QUESTION: Do you think you (INAUDIBLE) over the body, but can you tell us who you believe the actual shooter was in this case?

WILSON: It is our intention to prove that Muhammad was the shooter.

QUESTION: Will the investigating officer going to be made available to us?

WILSON: Yes. His name is Dwight Johnson, that is his name. We're not going to make him available for interviews, because his testimony will be evidence. And I would appreciate that you respect that request and do not try to approach him, but that is his name, Dwight Johnson, he's a patrol officer with the police department.

QUESTION: Two questions then. Yes, I was going to say -- can we get a picture. Is it Officer Johnson? Can we get a picture of Officer Johnson?

WILSON: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Can we make a picture?

WILSON: Can we make a picture. Let me answer that, because I knew you'd probably ask that. As long as the D.A.'s office does not see that would jeopardize our case in any way, I don't have a problem with you having a picture of the officer.

Yes sir, we will, we'll certainly do that.

One question at a time. Hold on a second.

QUESTION: Motivation. Do you have any sense of -- we talked to Kellie Adams, she doesn't think it was a robbery, she just thinks these guys were (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I was just wondering, do you think that the motivation up here, why they were here, do you think it was robbery or do you just --

WILSON: No, I'm still convinced it was a robbery.

QUESTION: Why would they not go in the store? Why would they have not -- because they were locking...

WILSON: Well, those are questions that will be answered, but I can tell you her question is related to yours, why did he not take anything? If he had the chance, he would have. A police officer rolled into the parking lot just as this was unfolding. And so he never made a request to go in the store. That's the viciousness, that's what makes this crime so bizarre, he walked straight up to the people, shoots them and then starts rifling through their purse.

QUESTION: How did Malvo's print show up?

WILSON: Well, I don't want to get into specifics again of Malvo's prints. Let say there if in fact there are prints that we're going to use as evidence, and I do think that there will be, it's because something was left behind on the scene.

One question at a time.

QUESTION: You were telling us this morning, chief, that this intersection close to the interstate, well traveled, this may have been why they picked this because easy access on and off, that sort of thing.

WILSON: I think that's very probably the motive.

QUESTION: Chief, do you -- because Maryland doesn't have a death penalty for a 17-year-old, do you have any concerns that the state may try and block you from extraditing him to seek the death penalty here?

WILSON: No. I think if there's any delay in us pursuing our case here, it will simply be because they're trying to prosecute cases there. I can't in my wildest dreams imagine that Maryland would try to block them coming here simply because they don't have one and we do. I don't see that.

QUESTION: Chief, who did the police officer chase? We're a little confused here.

WILSON: The police officer chased John Muhammad.

QUESTION: Was that Muhammad sketch Muhammad, then?


QUESTION: Does it look like Muhammad to your mind?

WILSON: Yes, it does.

QUESTION: Do you know why Malvo and Muhammad were in Montgomery, Alabama...


QUESTION: ... in the first place? Did they live here?

WILSON: No, they did not. No, we do not. The question was do we know why he was here? We do not know that at the time.

QUESTION: Are you receiving any cooperation from the D.C. authorities, or has the relationship between the two cities changed?

WILSON: No, We're still working very closely with them. And we're not -- and I'm trying to be very careful not to do anything to jeopardize their case. Everything I released to you today is germaine to our case, not theirs. It will not do anything to jeopardize their case. We're going to be very careful about that.

QUESTION: Chief, where was the magazine found?

WILSON: Muhammad was standing over here in this direction across the ditch, according to a witness -- I'm sorry, excuse me, you're correct, Malvo was standing over here across the ditch according to a witness's account.

QUESTION: Where specifically? Where specifically?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're hashing over evidence that we covered yesterday. We'll take a couple more questions for the chief.


WILSON: You can do that. You can do that if he's a conspirator of the crime. There's no problem of doing that. And we intend to pursue that. One more question.

QUESTION: Do you know how long they were in --

WILSON: No, ee do not know. One more question.

QUESTION: Kellie says that she was told after the crime that fingerprints were found on some of the items from her purse?

WILSON: That's some evidence that we're still processing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you all very much. When we get additional information, we'll come back to you.


WILSON: As long as the officer doesn't have a problem with it, we will get it to you. If the officer doesn't have a problem with it and...

HARRIS: We're stepping away now from this press conference. As you see, they start to break it up. And our Brian Cabell trying to get some extra questions in to Chief Wilson there. We heard Chief Wilson say that it is their intention there in Alabama to pursue a death penalty case against both John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo, this in relation to a shooting incident, an unsolved one up until now we believe, a shooting incident last -- in September at a liquor store there in Montgomery, Alabama. One woman died in that incident. And we got some more information on that incident. The chief really had not been forthcoming about what happened until this morning. We now understand that there were eyewitnesses that did place Muhammad there at the scene of the shooting next to the body. However, John Malvo, who he's now asserting was his accomplice was some distance away in a ditch. Now, the key is that wherever Malvo was was a certain magazine which ended up with his fingerprints on it and that is what the police did recover.

Chief Wilson here did not want to talk too much about that because that magazine with the fingerprint is going to play quite a role in the investigation in Montgomery County and perhaps in Virginia as well, so he didn't want to go into that. But that was the key linchpin that really gave an identification, gave some names and finally really broke this case wide open.


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