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Police News Conference on Developing Sniper-Atlanta Connection

Aired November 7, 2002 - 14:52   ET


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to move to a news conference. This is news developing around the D.C. sniper case. The city of Atlanta says there may be a connection. Chief Richard Pennington, I believe, is going to be one of those speaking.
Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Deputy Chief Marion Brooks of the criminal investigation's division. Deputy Chief Dennis Knotts (ph) of the field operations division. Fulton County D.A., attorney Paul Howard (ph). Al Dickson, deputy chief of the major felony unit of the D.A.'s office. The Georgia Bureau of Investigations Acting Director Vernon Keenan. Deputy Director of Lab Dan Kirk (ph). Firearms section supervisor George Stanley (ph). Forensics firearms examiner Bernadette Davy (ph).

And we also have, from the Department of Treasury, special agent in charge John C. Killahorn (ph).

I will turn it over to Chief Pennington.


On September 21, 2002, shortly after midnight, Atlanta police responded for a person shot at 2021 Martin Luther King Drive, in southwest Atlanta. Upon arrival, officers discovered Woldemarian suffering from multiple gun shots. He later died from his injuries. During the course of the homicide investigation, forensic ballistic evidence was checked and forwarded to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for examination. The GBI crime lab determined that the weapon used in the shooting death of Mr. Woldemarian was the same type of pistol recovered from the homicide later in the same day in Montgomery, Alabama.

Forensic tests confirmed today that the pistol recovered in Montgomery matched the pistol used here in the city of Atlanta.

The homicide investigation is ongoing, and we are conferring with the district attorney, Paul Howard, as we move forward with this investigation.

You know the suspects are John Malveaux and John Mohammad.

I had a call recently with Chief Charles Moose in Montgomery County. We're going to work closely with the task force. We gave them all the information. So we will be coordinating our efforts with the task force in Montgomery County. And I'll continue to coordinate our efforts along with ATF, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Fulton County District Attorney and also other law enforcement entities.

At this time I would open it up for questions. Anything specific.

QUESTION: Chief, what can you tell us about how you got on to this? Did you just catalog...

PENNINGTON: Let me tell you. It was good police work. Our investigator, Johnny Fagler (ph), who is assigned to the homicide unit, followed up on the information. He kind of tracked the case in Montgomery, Alabama. And as a result of tracking some leads and information, he went back, took the evidence that was recovered from the scene here, forwarded it to ATF and -- forwarded it to GBI, and then GBI and ATF worked together. And subsequently a match was made.

QUESTION: We are told a man's wallet was missing?

PENNINGTON: We're still looking at that. At some point, I'll have to talk about that. But I really want to commend our homicide detective for doing a great job and also the GBI and the ATF for working closely with us.

QUESTION: Chief, in all the other (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the ballistics matches were to a .223 caliber rifle in Alabama and in Louisiana. How did Detective Fagler (ph) know, since you had a handgun used in your particular case, what rang the bell that he should look at those cases?

PENNINGTON: I think what happened is that -- remember the suspect dropped a .22 caliber in Montgomery, Alabama. That information was ascertained by our investigator. So the shooting that occurred here in the city of Atlanta, he took that information from that case and was smart enough to have a matching done on the gun that ATF did in Montgomery County. That person...

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Let's talk about that.

PENNINGTON: It appears as though they stopped in Atlanta coming from the north, and the shooting occurred about 12:15 a.m. on the 21st. And then eight hours later another shooting occurred, in Montgomery, Alabama. The shooting in Montgomery, Alabama, of course, the suspects used a .22 caliber pistol. So the shooting in Atlanta also, the subject was shot three times by a .22 caliber pistol. So it was good police work, linked the two shootings. The gun in Montgomery, Alabama, was positively -- it was recovered. And then the police officers that chased those suspects positively identified those suspects at the shooters.

QUESTION: Do you have any other information besides the ballistics? Either eyewitness or surveillance cameras? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) PENNINGTON: No. Actually no. We don't have any eyewitnesses. All we have is just evidence, forensic evidence, that was recovered. I have not talked to the police chief of Montgomery, Alabama, but I have talked to Chief Moose, who is the task force leader.

QUESTION: Can you tell us a little bit about the background, what we've learned so far about Mr. Woldemarian?

PENNINGTON: All that we were able to ascertain is that he was a hard working individual, working in that liquor store. Observed a vehicle outside, walked outside the liquor store to see why these subjects were sitting in a car. And then he was shot.

The other employee in the store came out, observed him lying on the ground and then called the police. That's all we know at this time.

QUESTION: Ethiopian descent?

PENNINGTON: Yes, Ethiopian descent.

Beg your pardon?


PENNINGTON: No description of the car at this time.

QUESTION: Chief, can you clarify again: We understood that the ballistics match in Montgomery was to the rifle...

PENNINGTON: No, that's not true.

QUESTION: That's not true?

PENNINGTON: To a pistol. The match in Montgomery was to a .22 caliber pistol. But I tell you what -- we have the ATF here.


PENNINGTON: They can also talk about the matching of the weapons.


QUESTION: What was the age of the victim?

PENNINGTON: The age was...


PENNINGTON: 1960. He was born in 1960.

You want to talk about how you linked the bullets.

JACK KILLORIN, ATF: Based on excellent police work by the Atlanta Police Department homicide investigator, who really sort of lead us all to this, yesterday afternoon Montgomery County, Alabama, detectives delivered the firearm that was recovered near the fatal liquor shooting to the ATF laboratory in Rockville, Maryland, where it was test fired. A previous test fire that was tried in Alabama -- we didn't have the right equipment to do it. So we flew it up to our national lab.

We delivered the results of that to Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is holding the ballistic evidence from the murder early that morning. At about 11:00 this morning. And my friend Mr. Keenan will talk about that: a permanent match was made.

I think it need to be understood that we're dealing in this -- and I sense the confusion -- and some of us who are becoming involved in the investigation recognize it -- that a number of the weapons in this case are essentially in the .22 caliber family.

And, in some instances, we're dealing with fragmented bullets. And until we've managed to conduct the investigation, there's going to be some confusion between .22 and .223. The gun in this particular case was recovered. We have identified it as having been stolen in Texas last spring. And we're continuing the investigation at this time.

But it seems clear at this time, as we track the timeframe, that these individuals were moving, conducting other business, contacting people. We're tightening the timeframe of where they were likely to be. And investigators across the spectrum of where they traveled are now looking at open and unsolved cases in their area. It's good police work and it's going to continue.


QUESTION: Before the shooting, were they in Atlanta for any period of time, any indication of that?

KILLORIN: At this time, we know that about shortly after 12:00 on the 21st, that we now believe they were in Atlanta with that .22, which was used in this homicide. And about 7:30 p.m., they're seen at the homicide at the liquor store down in Montgomery, Alabama.

QUESTION: If I could just clarify, the bullet that killed Ms. Parker in Montgomery, was that from a .22 handgun or was that from the rifle?

KILLORIN: I wouldn't answer that without checking, OK?

QUESTION: So, the gun that was found in Montgomery County, what is the link between that gun and Muhammad? Is there a definitive link, other than the fact it was found


KILLORIN: First, I don't think we're going to reveal all of the evidence. And in some cases, we're just working the investigation. I will only say in this case that they were identified as there, ran from a police officer there, and that this gun was recovered in that vicinity.

As we continue the investigation, we'll continue the ballistics work. But that's kind of the ballistics story of this.

Through the federal part, I would like to step away for a minute and introduce your district attorney, Paul Howard.

SAVIDGE: You've been listen to a news conference that is taking place in downtown Atlanta, in City Hall East, in which they have now said that there was a September 21 shooting in 2002 this year here in Atlanta in which a man was killed outside of a liquor store.

Apparently, they have matched the ballistics from the bullet that was taken from the victim with a similar weapon, a .22-caliber pistol that was used in a shooting just a short while later in Montgomery, Alabama. The critical link here is, they know the Montgomery, Alabama, case, they believe, was strongly connected with John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo, otherwise known as the D.C. area snipers. So, it is another link, another killing now being attributed to this pair. The list continues to grow as the investigation continues to go on.



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