- - Friday, October 4, 2002

Five persons were fatally shot within six miles of one another in a 16-hour span Wednesday night and yesterday morning in Montgomery County.

Police had made no arrests in the killings as of last night. They said the murders appeared to be “random” and crossed sex and ethnic lines. The victims were two white men, an Indian man, a white woman and a Hispanic woman.

Authorities said area schools, which had been in a “code blue” lockdown, will open at their regular times today, though evening activities were canceled yesterday.

Montgomery County and D.C. police last night said a shooting that occurred about 9 p.m. near the Capital Beltway probably was not related to yesterday’s shooting spree. A man was shot in the neck in the 7700 block of Georgia Avenue and was taken to a hospital.

In the shooting spree, county police are searching for a white truck, perhaps an Isuzu, with black markings on the side and a dent in the rear left side. It was not clear last night whether there were two or three persons inside. Police pulled over several similar vehicles throughout the region yesterday, tagging vehicles they had checked.

“Nothing like this has ever happened in Montgomery County,” Police Chief Charles Moose said. “We’re working it. We’re doing everything we can, but this is like nothing we’ve ever seen.”

Montgomery’s median household income nearly $71,000 is among the highest in the nation, and the county averages fewer than two dozen homicides a year.

Chief Moose said each victim was killed with a single shot, but couldn’t say how close the gunman was to the victims, whether the shots were fired from a vehicle or what type of firearm was used. He said police were awaiting more information from autopsies.

Police located only one witness to the killings. They said the witness was cooperative but could provide little information. There was no interaction between the shooter and the victims, Chief Moose said, adding he could neither support nor rule out the possibility that the killings were related to terrorism or race.

“We’re not closing any avenue, but we’re not labeling anything until we’re absolutely sure,” he said.

Police last night said they expect to review today autopsy results, which could provide information about the distances involved in the shootings and the trajectories of the bullets.

The rampage started Wednesday evening, when someone fired a single shot into Michaels craft store at 13850 Georgia Ave at 5:20 p.m. No one was hurt. But less than an hour later, the first fatal shooting occurred.

James D. Martin, 55, of the 15200 block of Centergate Drive in Silver Spring was fatally shot in the Shoppers Food Warehouse parking lot in Wheaton at 6:04 p.m. on Wednesday. The store, located at 2201 Randolph Road, is directly across from a Montgomery County police station.

However, the two shootings drew little attention before the second wave hit early yesterday.

At 7:41 a.m., James L. Buchanan, 39, of Blacksburg, Va., recently living in Arlington, was fatally shot while pushing a lawn mower at the car dealership where he worked in the 11000 block of Rockville Pike.

Tung Truoung, 25, a stock clerk at the Fitzgerald Auto Mall, said he heard the gunshot that killed Mr. Buchanan and ran toward it. He said Mr. Buchanan had been shot in the chest, and a trail of blood snaked 20 feet from where the victim was shot to where he collapsed in a nearby parking lot.

Just over a half hour later, at 8:12 a.m., Premkumar Walekar, 54, of the 18800 block of Rolling Acres Way in Olney was fatally shot while pumping gas into his taxicab at a Mobil station at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Aspen Hill Road.

Shin H. Song, the manager of the gas station, said Mr. Walekar came in frequently.

“I knew him well,” Mr. Song said. “He was one of our regular customers. He’d come in usually every morning. He’d always buy a lottery ticket here.”

Yesterday morning, Mr. Walekar put the gas nozzle into the tank of his taxi and headed for the Mobil mart. Mr. Song, who heard the shot, said Mr. Walekar stumbled toward a minivan and collapsed.

“Blood was all over the place,” Mr. Song said. A female customer who was also gassing up at the station tried to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Twenty-five minutes later, at 8:37 a.m., Sarah Ramos, 34, of the 11400 block of Lockwood Drive in Silver Spring was shot in the face and killed as she sat on a bench outside a post office in a shopping center at 3802 International Drive in Silver Spring.

Suzi Cooper, 57, of Rockville, a hair stylist at Images Hair Design near the post office, said she was in back of the store drinking coffee when she heard a single shot.

“I didn’t go over. I didn’t want to see that,” Mrs. Cooper said. “It’s unbelievable. It’s amazing. I’ve been working here 18 years and we always thought that it was a pretty safe place to be.”

Kathy Walsh, 49, of Scaggsville, who works as a merchandiser at the Giant food store in the shopping center, said she saw Mrs. Ramos’ wound and knew there was no hope.

“You don’t have to go any further to know she was dead,” Mrs. Walsh said.

The final killing came just over an hour later at 9:58 a.m., when Lori Ann Lewis Rivera, 25, of the 1500 block of Hampshire Court in Silver Spring was fatally shot in the back at a Shell gas station at Knowles and Connecticut avenues in Kensington.

John Mistry, 47, the co-owner of the service station, said he and his crew of three men were working in the garage when they heard a bang. He said Mrs. Lewis-Rivera had been vacuuming her purple Dodge van, but was lodged under the car.

“We tried to pull her out, but we couldn’t,” Mr. Mistry said. The men got a jack, propped up the van and pulled the woman out. “We saw a little blood. We thought she had had a heart attack or something like that.”

Chief Moose said the killer was a “skilled shooter” and “reckless,” firing in broad daylight and choosing one victim close to a police station.

John Masserini, owner of the Outpost Gun Shop in Spout Spring, Va., said the shooter probably was using a high-powered weapon with centerfire ammunition high-quality bullets that provide consistent velocity and accuracy.

“With an open site, at long distances and from the inside of a van, these would have been difficult shots,” said Mr. Masserini, a former New Jersey policeman.
“If the shooter hit five people with six bullets, he is a damn good shot,” Mr. Masserini said. “This is a person who has practiced his shooting and has developed into what many would consider a marksman.

S.A. Miller and Jerry Seper contributed to this report.

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