- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2002

The Salvation Army fund for the Washington-area sniper attack victims and families will donate money to two Prince George's County men excluded by another charity, officials said yesterday.
The Salvation Army has received $73,000 of $121,000 pledged during a radio station fund-raising drive to benefit the 14 victims or their families, said Bernie Dake, development director for the Salvation Army's National Capital and Virginia divisional headquarters. The charity also will donate to Paul LaRuffa, whose shooting has been linked to the sniper attacks, and Muhammad Rashid, whose shooting has not been conclusively linked, said Prince George's police officials.
"We see it as two people in need that have been identified by Prince George's County as possible victims of the sniper attacks," he said.
Mr. Dake added that the Salvation Army will continue to take in donations because it has not decided what amount to raise or by what date to stop accepting donations.
The move contrasts with decisions by officials of the Sniper Victims' Fund to exclude certain victims, including Mr. LaRuffa and Mr. Rashid.
Board members of Gaithersburg-based Victims' Rights Foundation, which created the Sniper Victims' Fund, set parameters for who receives aid: The victims must have been shot in the Washington area; and they must have been shot at long range with the Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle found in the suspects' car, said foundation President Greg Wims. Mr. Rashid and Mr. LaRuffa were not shot by the rifle and the motive was robbery, which disqualifies them as beneficiaries of the fund.
Mr. Wims said his organization which distributed $260,000 to sniper victims and families during Thanksgiving would have lost credibility had it changed its parameters to include Mr. LaRuffa and Mr. Rashid.
"We advertised nationally, and we did it before we realized that robbery could become a motive," he said. "We kept our word on what we said we would do. And that's the key thing for a volunteer group."
Mr. Wims also said that he would meet officials from the Prince George's Chamber of Commerce and the United Way of the National Capital Area late this week to encourage them as he did the Salvation Army to raise money for other victims of the sniper attacks, including Mr. LaRuffa and Mr. Rashid.
But he added that robbery victims are entitled to thousands of dollars in assistance from the state.
So are other Maryland victims of the sniper and their families. The Maryland Criminal Injury Compensation Board pays up to $45,000 for lost wages, medical bills and dependency as a result of a crime if these are not covered by insurance or charities, says Executive Director Robin Woolford. The organization pays up to $5,000 for funeral expenses.
"We are the payer of last resort," Mr. Woolford said.
Montgomery County has donated about $80,000 to the United Way's National Capital Area Healing Fund out of $116,000 to be distributed among area sniper victims or their families. United Way officials will meet Sniper Victims' Fund and Salvation Army officials on Thursday to decide whether to include Mr. LaRuffa and Mr. Rashid.
Mr. LaRuffa called the exclusion "ignorant and ridiculous."
"They are customizing requirements to match who they gave money to as if getting shot weren't unbelievable enough," he said. "I suffered just as much, my family suffered just as much. It is degrading to be told I don't qualify. It belittles my experience."
"This is not about the money," he added. "It is the point."
John Allen Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17, have been charged in the sniper attacks. They're accused of shooting 18 persons, killing 13 and wounding five in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and the District.
Early last month, police linked the Sept. 5 shooting of Mr. LaRuffa to the two. The 55-year-old was shot six times at close range as he was closing his restaurant, Margellina's Pizzeria, in Clinton. The assailant stole Mr. LaRuffa's laptop computer and $3,000 in restaurant receipts.
Police have not definitively linked the Sept. 15 shooting of Mr. Rashid outside a Brandywine liquor store to the sniper attacks. An assailant shot the 32-year-old once in the abdomen as he was closing the store, and stole his wallet.
The gun used in the Mr. LaRuffa's shooting a .22-caliber pistol was also used in Mr. Rashid's shooting, police said.
Mr. Dake said the Salvation Army would help Mr. Rashid regardless of whether police link his shooting to the sniper attacks.
"We will help him as a human being in need of assistance," he said.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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