2 arrested in D.C.-area sniper case

Posted 12:14 a.m. Oct. 24

by Melissa Kronfeld
U-WIRE (DC BUREAU)

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – John Allen Muhammad, 42, a Gulf War veteran, and his stepson John Lee Malvo, 17, were arrested early Thursday morning.

Wednesday, federal authorities issued an arrest warrant for Mohammad, who is wanted for federal weapons charges.

Law enforcement officials confirmed that the Tuesday morning shooting of 35-year-old Conrad Johnson, a bus driver in Silver Springs, Md., was in fact the work of the sniper.

Within hours of this revelation, federal officers searched a home in Tacoma, Wash., 2,400 miles away from the scene of the sniper crimes. Officers searched in the yard of a duplex residence for shell casings from a gun that may have been fired into a large tree trunk. Officials removed a large section of the tree, wrapped it in plastic and hauled away the evidence in a U-Haul truck.

Neighbors in the area told reporters that when the previous resident of the apartment had lived there, noises similar to those of gun fire were heard often and at times the neighbors had called police. But they told reporters that nothing came from these calls.

A series of breakthrough events have unfolded since Saturday’s sniper shooting in Ashland, Va., which critically wounded a 37-year-old man. A handwritten note discovered Sunday behind the Ponderosa Steakhouse, the scene of Saturday’s shooting, was written directly to the police and instructed them to wait at a certain phone number to receive further instructions.

Information leaked to the press has described the note as containing demands for money and the threat of renewed attacks if a monetary payment was not received by the specified deadline. But by the time the FBI investigators opened the letter the deadline had passed.

The note was found after an anonymous call was made to the tipster hot line by a man with an “accent of unknown origin.”The call was answered by the deployment of 150 to 200 officers in the area south of the restaurant.

Two men were brought into police custody Monday morning for questioning in regards to their involvement in the sniper shootings. The men, one Mexican and one Guatemalan, were arrested in Richmond, Va., and were described as undocumented workers and have since been turned over to the Immigration and Naturalization Services. When discovered by the police, the men were in a white van with 30-day Virginia tags and a small Marine Corps sticker on the back window.

The pair was taken into custody while sitting near a pay phone at an Exxon gas station for an extended period of time. The men have not been charged with any crime related to the shootings and, according to police sources, appear to have simply been at the wrong place at the wrong time.

A few hours following their arrest, Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose announced that in fact the sniper had attempted to contact police through the tipster hot line.The call, which lasted less then a minute, was traced to a pay phone number in Richmond, Va. It was later revealed that various tips had been called in from pay phones in a similar geographical location. The trace of the call was what led to the arrest of the unidentified Mexican and Guatemalan workers.

Monday, Chief Moose issued his second and third statements in two days, in which he utilized the media to reach out to the unidentified tipster or supposed sniper.

“The person you called could not hear everything you said,” Moose told reporters. “The audio was unclear and we want to get it right. Call us back so that we can clearly understand.”

The phone calls and the restaurant note were not the first attempt by the sniper to contact police. The first contact was made at the Oct. 7 shooting of a 13-year-old boy outside a Middle School in Bowie, Md. The sniper left the Tarot card for death near the scene of the crime that read “Dear Policeman, I am God.”

Public School Superintendents in Richmond, Chesterfield, Goochland, Henrico and Hanover counties have closed schools in response to the strong of shootings and are encouraging other districts to follow their lead. One hundred and forty-one thousand students have been dismissed from classes until further notice.

The French government has contacted Interpol with information regarding a 25-year-old army deserter that was supposed to return to France in August. The second lieutenant was known for his excellent skill as a marksman. Additionally, the officer was enrolled to start classes in September at an elite military training school in Brettany, west France.

On Monday, funeral services were held for sniper victim Linda Franklin, a 47-year-old FBI agent who was gunned down in Arlington in a shopping center parking garage. It was also the arraignment date for 37-year-old Matthew Dowdy, who is being charged with supplying the police false information. If convicted, Dowdy could face up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.

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