- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 10, 2002

Montgomery County and Prince William police last night were investigating a deadly shooting at a Manassas, Va., gas station for ties to the string of sniper killings in the past week.
Meanwhile, a report of a suspicious man with a "long bag" sent federal and local agents on a fruitless search of woods near an elementary school in southern Prince George's County.
Also yesterday, law-enforcement sources told The Washington Times that they believe publicizing the existence of the tarot card found at the scene of Monday's sniper attack in Bowie will help police catch the shooter terrorizing the Washington area.
"It could help. I doubt it will make a difference to [prosecuting] the case," said a police source, who called the tarot card which had the words "Dear policeman: I am God" written on it one of the first real pieces of evidence in the case.
NewsChannel 8 reported that police were looking for two men in a white van and that witnesses were taken by police for interviews from the scene of a shooting last night at a Sunoco station in the 7200 block of Sudley Road in Manassas, near the interchange with Interstate 66.
A man pumping gas was fatally shot just after 8 p.m., and there was no sign of an assailant. Police said it was too early to tell whether the shooting was related, but investigators from Montgomery County and other agencies involved in the sniper investigation headed to the scene.
Prince William County police spokeswoman Sgt. Kim Chinn would not release details.
The remarks on the tarot card were in contrast to yesterday's sharp criticism by Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose, who complained that such reporting about evidence could compromise the investigation of the shooting spree that has left six persons dead and two wounded.
Chief Moose also faulted WUSA-TV (Channel 9) for airing the tarot card story Tuesday night, saying citizens should let officials know if they want the media to investigate the shootings instead of police. He later apologized for his remarks.
Chief Moose said he did not make public the tarot card evidence on the advice of his detectives. He declined yesterday to comment about its significance.
The tarot card a Death card was found beside a spent shell casing in a wooded area north of Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie where the sniper apparently lay in wait before shooting a 13-year-old boy outside the school Monday morning.
Law-enforcement sources told The Times that the tarot card and spent shell will help them catch the sniper because the information could jar the memory of someone who knows a person that uses tarot cards and high-powered rifles.
Meanwhile, funeral services were held in Montgomery County yesterday for the sniper's first victim, James Martin, who was gunned down Oct. 2 in the parking lot of the Shoppers Food Warehouse in Wheaton, as he picked up food for his son's church group.
About 200 people packed his funeral at the Ashton United Methodist Church, where Mr. Martin served on the board of trustees and his wife teaches Sunday school. Pastor Jeff Jones told mourners, "Our hearts are broken."
Earlier in the evening, a man was wounded in the forearm in the 7300 block of Lee Highway in Fairfax County. Police quickly disassociated the shooting from the sniper, saying the suspect was an acquaintance of the victim.
Yesterday afternoon, in the Friendly area of southern Prince George's County, a report of a suspicious man with a "long bag" prompted police and federal agents to conduct an extensive search of woods near an elementary school. They didn't find the man or anything to link the report to the shooting spree, police said.
The police activity, including an FBI helicopter circling overhead and a SWAT team combing the woods, unnerved some residents.
William DeVaughn, 54, said he came home early to be with his elderly mother after hearing reports that police were searching for the sniper in his neighborhood. "They feel a lot better with a man in the house," he said. "You don't know what might happen from day to day now."
Other incidents in the Washington area yesterday spurred speculation that authorities were closing in on a sniper suspect.
A homicide suspect barricaded himself in a house in Marlow Heights in Prince George's County, and the standoff with police lasted for hours yesterday afternoon.
In the Montgomery County community of Kensington, a domestic shooting incident inside a home prompted police to close off the street in front of the house.
Neither incident was related to the sniper attacks, police said.
Investigators yesterday were trying to determine why the sniper left the card with the handwritten note. They are investigating whether the shooter is linked to some occult organization or trying to leave an explanation for his crimes.
Tarot cards, used mainly for fortunetelling, are believed to have been introduced into Western Europe by the Gypsies in the 15th century. The pack of 78 cards includes 56 that roughly resemble a modern 52-card deck plus 22 pictorial cards with allegorical images, such as Death, the Fool, the Devil, the Magician and the Hanged Man.
Methods of determining the meanings of the cards vary greatly.
A psychic in Alexandria who did not want to be identified said that the card should be taken literally. "The Death card is a bad sign with so many other cards in the deck. The card symbolizes death a hospital. The card is to be taken literally," she said.
In a 16-hour period last week, the sniper killed five persons in Montgomery County and one near the D.C.-Montgomery County border. The sniper wounded a woman on Friday in Fredericksburg, Va., and a schoolboy on Monday in Bowie.
Investigators have not detected a pattern among the victims.
The victims were males and females of nearly all races and ranged in age from 13 to 62. Each victim was hit by a single bullet fired from a distance.
The wounded boy, whose identity has not been disclosed, was in critical but stable condition yesterday at Children's Hospital in the District. The 43-year-old Spotsylvania County woman shot Friday at a Fredericksburg mall was released Monday from Inova Fairfax Hospital. Her identity has not been disclosed.
Police have been able to connect the eight shootings to the sniper through ballistics tests of the bullets. The Washington Times reported yesterday that they also are trying to link the Sept. 14 shooting of a Silver Spring wine and beer store clerk to the sniper. Investigators had not ruled out a connection yesterday.
County Executive Douglas M. Duncan reported that the reward fund for information leading to an arrest exceeds $305,000. He thanked contributors from 20 states for contributions from $7 to $100,000. The biggest came from the state of Maryland.
Jerry Seper, Jon Ward and Denise Barnes contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.


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