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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Police Investigate Sniper Shootings as Possible Copy Cat Crime

Aired August 18, 2003 - 19:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: First though, we begin in West Virginia, on the trail of a possible sniper. Investigators near Charleston, West Virginia, say three sniper-like shootings all share alarming similarities and could be the work of a single shooter.
CNN's Jeanne Meserve reports now. She is from the West Virginia community, looking for both clues and also tonight, looking for reassurance.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHERIFF DAVE TUCKER, KANAWHA COUNTY, WEST VIRGINIA: We have 100 suspects at this time. And they're being interviewed as we speak now.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sheriff Dave Tucker is confident law enforcement is close to breaking this case.

On the hunt for a heavy-set white man in a dark truck, possibly a Ford F-150, spotted at the scene at one of three shootings that are apparently linked. All took place at night at convenience stores. Bullets from two of the shootings are similar. The bullet from the third, too damaged to be analyzed.

While law enforcement investigates, the advice to the community, go about your business, but beware.

TUCKER: Be very cautious, use good sense and don't stop what we're doing. I think this is important.

MESERVE: Spooked area residents are avoiding nighttime stops at gas stations and convenience stores, gassing up during daylight hours. At one Charleston Go-Mart, where business was brisk, a customer was shocked to hear this was the scene of the first shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh really? I didn't know that. I wouldn't have stopped here.

MESERVE: At the Central United Methodist Church right across the street, they have offered prayers for the victims and the shooter. But as they took down tables, the pastor insisted the shootings have not rocked his community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yesterday, for example, we had a picnic here with 60 people here right out here on the front lawn while the news people were across the street here, never phased us one bit. MESERVE (on camera): At this point in the investigation, the sheriff refuses to say definitively that he's dealing with a sniper, but members of a Washington area sniper task force have been brought in to assist. And this evening they put out this flier with a picture of the vehicle they're looking for and a description of the individual.

Daryn, back to you.

KAGAN: Jeanne, I know from all the weeks that you were covering the sniper case in the Washington, D.C. area, you can't help but notice the similarities. Is there any thought in this investigation that they could be related or are they going on the tact that it's a copycat crime?

MESERVE: Related to the Washington area snipers, do you mean?

KAGAN: Yes.

MESERVE: Or relate to these shootings? No, no indication I've received of that at off. You'll recall there are two people in custody for those shootings. Once they were arrested, there had been no further sniper shootings in the Washington area. Also, their trials are upcoming this fall.

I haven't heard anyone here speculate that there could be any direct connection. As to a copycat, that's always a possibility -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Jeanne Meserve in Charleston, West Virginia, thank you for that.

KAGAN: Well, investigators looking for a suspect in the West Virginia shootings no doubt are frantically trying to guess his next move, or her next move. Next hour, we're going to speak with a criminal profiler about what investigators might be looking for.

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