- The Washington Times - Friday, October 4, 2002

They canceled hair appointments. They delayed grocery shopping. They resisted the urge to pick up their children.
Five seemingly random fatal shootings in public places around Montgomery County during the past two days left residents jittery and shaking their heads in disbelief yesterday.
"I can't believe something so horrible can happen here," said Frank Poku, a chef at the Bedford Court Marriott, a senior living facility in the Leisure World retirement community. "This is such a quiet neighborhood. There's nothing but senior citizens living here."
As police scoured the roads for a white van described by a witness at one crime scene, residents said they wouldn't feel safe until someone's in custody.
"I'm staying in until that guy's caught," said carpet cleaner Mauricio Lizarzaburo, 25, of Wheaton, as he headed home early yesterday afternoon. "I'm staying home."
Terry Thomas, manager of Master's Tuxedo in the 10500 block of Connecticut Avenue, said she often sits outside on the sidewalk but was going to keep the door locked yesterday, "because we don't know who this person is and I don't want him running up in here on me."
"I'm afraid. My family keeps calling to make sure I'm OK," said Miss Thomas, 44.
Employees and area residents in the Northgate Shopping Center and Leisure World Plaza, where two of the five shootings occurred, expressed concern for their safety as they tried to move on with their daily routines.
Throughout the day, patrons of the Leisure World shopping center stopped to look at the bullet hole in the storefront of the Crisp and Juicy Charbroiled Chicken, one of four stores that closed.
Sarah Ramos, 34, of Silver Spring was sitting on a wooden bench in front of the restaurant near the post office when she was killed. One man, who did not want to be identified, laid a bouquet of red roses in front of the bench.
Mr. Poku, of Aspen Hill, said he saw the woman get off the bus, sit on the bench and take a book out of her purse just minutes before she was shot in the head.
"She was a pretty young woman," Mr. Poku said as he looked at the bench. "Now she's gone, and I'm very sad."
Alice and Leonard Mintz, who live in Bedford Court, said they very easily could have been victims. They eat breakfast at Nancy's Kitchen two doors down from where the shooting occurred almost every day and always unwind on the bench afterward. But Mrs. Mintz wasn't feeling well yesterday.
"This is our seat. We always sit here every day at about the same time," Mrs. Mintz said as she walked home with her husband. "If we made it out today, we may have been killed."
Lillian Ansell, 79, who lives in Leisure World, showed up for her appointment at Images Hair Salon near the post office.
"It's scary," Mrs. Ansell said. "This is a safe neighborhood. For this to happen is unusual."
At Northgate Shopping Center a few miles away, people felt similarly shaken.
"I'm scared to death," said Sharon DelBorrell, a hair stylist at Classic Hair Design, a few stores down from the Michaels craft store where a window was shot out Wednesday. No one was hurt in that incident.
Miss DelBorrell's manager, Kay Waugh, said the salon had at least 15 cancellations yesterday.
"People are just afraid to come out here everyone is nervous," Miss Waugh said as she looked out at the parking lot. "If police catch the people who did this, then the people may come in. If not, they won't."
Next door at the Animal Place Veterinary Hospital, employees are taking extra precautions to stay safe. They are "buddying up" when they walk the dogs and cats in the back alley.
"There's not much we can do, except for looking out for ourselves and the animals that are staying here," said Phill Vassell, a veterinary technician from Silver Spring. "We just need to be vigilant and keep working, and not let this affect us."
At the Shoppers Food Warehouse in Wheaton where the first victim was killed Wednesday, employees and customers said the grocery store was significantly less crowded yesterday.
"There's nobody in there," said 60-year-old Taylor Pontin of Wheaton in the parking lot as she left the store.
Others said they would continue to work as usual though they would be especially cautious.
A D.C. taxi driver who lives in Wheaton said he would continue driving despite the slayings.
"I will be more vigilant, and I will be looking around," Hassan Abadico, 42, a taxi driver from Wheaton, said in the parking lot of the Shoppers Food Warehouse. "I'll be watching out more, but you have to work to survive."
Employees at the Aspen Hill Barbershop spent most of the day sitting in front of the television, listening to the news conferences that were broadcast throughout the afternoon.
Ken Velasquez, a barber from Derwood, said he decided to leave his young daughter at school where he said she would be safe.
"It's safer for them to be at school," Mr. Velasquez said as he watched the news. "Why bring them home? If you take them out, they're more at risk."
Schools were locked down after the shootings, and a few parents came by earlier in the day to pick up their children.
Parents who wanted to take their children early had to show some form of identification and provide a school administrator with the names of their child and the child's teacher.
At Harmony Hills Elementary School in Aspen Hill, Ceciliea DeSousa hugged her young daughters, Julia and Carla, after they walked out the front door. Usually, Mrs. DeSousa's older son walks his sisters home from school. Yesterday, Mrs. DeSousa said she had to pick them up herself.
"This has taken five years off my life," said Mrs. DeSousa, who works at Just My Style hair salon near a gas station in Kensington where a woman was fatally shot while vacuuming her minivan.
Near Colonial Dodge, where another victim was killed while mowing the lawn, Jack Papinchak said he was worried for his own safety.
"I don't want to walk outside in case some maniac shoots at me," said Mr. Papinchak, who runs a Nationwide Insurance office across the street from the dealership. "What a world it is today."
H.J. Brier and Guy Taylor contributed to this report.

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