Posted 2:36 p.m. Oct. 25
by Carolyn Polinsky
U-WIRE (DC BUREAU)
(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON–Police believe they have caught two men responsible for the Washington, D.C. area sniper attacks that have terrorized residents for the past three weeks and drawn national and international attention.
The suspects are John Allen Muhammad, 41, a Persian Gulf War Army veteran who had lost custody of his children, and his 17-year old companion, John Lee Malvo, an illegal immigrant from Jamaica.
The two men were apprehended on early Thursday morning at approximately 3:30 a.m. in Frederick County along Interstate 70, while sleeping in a blue Chevrolet Caprice. Police said the men were in possession of a rifle that has been linked to 11 of the 14 sniper attacks.
After receiving several tips, police had released information about the suspects and were alerted by a motorist of the car fitting the description. The two men apparently had driven across country from Tacoma, Washington and committed a deadly liquor store robbery along the way, in late September in Montgomery County, Alabama.
The suspect mentioned this attack in two angry phone calls to police and a Virginia priest, compelling FBI agents to look into the Alabama shooting which left one woman dead and another wounded
Police were able to link a fingerprint left behind in Alabama to Malvo, who had been turned into the Immigration and Naturalization service in the state of Washington. Police recalled a previous tip from a Tacoma man who had said Mohammad was a former neighbor known to shoot a rifle in the neighborhood.
Police also traced the ATM number of an account, that a note left by snipers told police to deposit money in, to having been last used in Washington. They issued arrest warrants for Malvo and Muhammad and released a description of the suspects’ vehicle late Wednesday night.
Details are unclear about the relationship between the men, but they are thought to have lived at the same homeless shelter.
The attacks began on Oct. 2, killing 10 people and injuring three others over a three week period. Motorists in the D.C. area avoided stops at gas stations, college students avoided venturing to far away from campus and parents wouldn’t allow their children to play outside.
Discussion was often centered around the probability of being struck by the gunman, trips almost taking to the scene of the shootings and creative ways to avoid being hit, such as driving in a zigzagged manner or constantly adverting one’s head.
People were on the lookout for a white male shooter driving a white van, a description that doesn’t fit the two black men who were arrested. Theories as to what motivated the men range from sympathizing with Osama bin Laden to anger over a possible war against Iraq.
Yesterday, Muhammad was arraigned on charges of possessing a firearm in violation of a restraining order from an ex-wife. Although the suspects have yet to be charged with murder, they face prosecution from Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C., and the federal government.
The shooting spree differed from murders committed by serial killings because it was done from distance and with detachment from the victims. After one shooting, the shooter left behind a tarot card that had “I am God” written on it and after another, a note demanding $10 million dollars and issuing a threat toward children was placed by the scene.
This article appeared in the October 24, 2002 issue of the Hatchet.