- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 10, 2002

The shootings of eight persons in the past week has caused residents in the District, Maryland and Virginia to experience the horror and fear they felt in 1993 when the "shotgun stalker" was loose.
Nine years ago James E. Swann, who was called the "shotgun stalker," killed four persons and wounded five in 14 attacks. Swann conducted often-brazen attacks, mostly at nighttime, in two District neighborhoods, where he would approach people and shoot them down at close range with a shotgun.
Since last Wednesday an area-wide police task force has been searching for a sniper who shot and killed six persons and wounded two in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, the District and Spotsylvania, Va. The sniper is still at large.
In the earlier shooting rampage, Swann, who is black, chose his victims without regard to their race or sex. He killed one woman and wounded another in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood in Northwest. The remaining 12 attacks were in Columbia Heights, with nine of those on or within a block of Holmead Place.
In 13 of the 14 attacks, Swann was in a car and shot at or threatened to shoot pedestrians walking alone. Psychiatrists later diagnosed Swann as a paranoid schizophrenic, who said voices that only he could hear drove him to attack.
Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly found Swann not guilty by reason of insanity on four counts of first-degree murder, nine counts of assault with intent to kill, three counts of mayhem while armed, two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and 14 weapons-related offenses.
Judge Kollar-Kotelly sent Swann to St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast, ruling that he knew it was wrong to shoot people but could not control his actions. .
Police arrested Swann after he ran red lights following a deadly daylight shooting. They found a shotgun that was still warm from the shooting in the back seat of his car.
Like the sniper police are now searching for, Swann was suspected by investigators of taking the shots because of some sort of rejection, thrill or anger.
Family and neighbors said Swann often imagined himself as a police officer and pursued that by applying for several security guard positions. He was fired from two such jobs. One detective said the thrill of his first kill may have been such a pleasure that it drove him to continue acts of violence.
Other officials thought Swann could have had a bad experience in Columbia Heights and was crazy enough to associate that problem with the entire community.


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