Posted 3:09 p.m. Oct. 21
by Rati Bishnoi
U-WIRE (DC BUREAU)
(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Law enforcement officials called an unexpected news briefing Sunday night in an effort to reach someone that may have left a note at the site of Saturday night’s shooting of a 37-year-old man suspected of being the twelfth victim of the elusive Washington-area sniper.
“To the person who left us a message at the Ponderosa [Saturday] night. You gave us a telephone number,” said Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose. “We do want to talk to you. Call us at the number you provided.”
The terse conference was one of the few held in response to the Saturday night shooting at a Ponderosa restaurant in Ashland, Va., a suburb located 85 miles south of Washington, D.C.
Although police officials have not been able to conclusively link the shooting to the sniper attacks, they are treating this case as if it were.
“We are working as diligently as we possibly can,” Hanover County Sheriff V. Stuart Cook said. “We are acting as if it is (related to the serial sniper) and will continue on that until told it is not,” continued Cook.
This weekend’s attack was similar to other sniper attacks in that it occurred outdoors, near a major road or highway, Interstate 95, and the victim was shot only once. The latest shooting was also the farthest from the District.
If related to the sniper attacks, this would be the first attack on a weekend-coming after a five-day lull attributed to the as of yet unidentified gunman.
Ashland Police Chief Frederic Pleasants Jr. said it was “very unusual” in the area for someone to be “shot for no apparent reason… from some kind of stealth position.”
Immediately following the shooting, law enforcement officials from a wide array of local, state and federal police organizations arrived at the scene and began combing the tree line located behind the restaurant parking lot as helicopters provided aerial surveillance. The victim was described as being a traveler from outside Virginia who had stopped in the area to get food and gasoline. According to Pleasants, the man left the restaurant around 8 p.m. with his wife, who heard a “heard a crack from the tree line” of the wooded area behind the parking lot. The victim then took three steps and collapsed.
The man was taken to Virginia Commonwealth University’s Medical College of Virginia Hospital where he remains in critical condition and is “still somewhat unstable,” said Pam Lepley, a spokesperson for the hospital.
He is conscious and responsive, but still heavily sedated said Lepley. Hindering the effort to link the weekend shooting with the sniper attacks was the inability of doctors to remove the bullet from the victim’s stomach at first to undergo ballistics tests. Authorities, who were successful at retrieving the bullet late Sunday night, may be able to confirm concrete links between last weekend’s and previous attacks by studying X-rays of the bullet.
Surgeon Rao Ivatury, said that the man’s “stomach was ripped apart” by the bullet, dislodging it from the pancreas and intestines, both of which were badly damaged. The bullet finally settled in the victim’s chest.
Ivatury said half the man’s pancreas was removed, as was his spleen, but because the man remained unstable, doctors, “did not go after the bullet.”
Police set up roadblocks in the shooting area immediately following the attack as well as major highway intersections. Police officers where also stationed at all entry points from Virginia and Maryland in to the District on look out for a white van that has been seen at many of the 12 shootings.
Although authorities were looking for a white van with a ladder rack, officials said no witnesses had described a suspect or a vehicle in reference to the weekend’s shooting.
Fear continues to pervade the Washington, D.C., area as high school football games are canceled or moved to less public areas. The day of the possible twelfth sniper also marked the day two of snipers victims were laid to rest: Dean Harold Meyers, a civil engineer slain on Oct. 9 and Pascal Charlot, a carpenter killed on Oct. 3.