- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2002

Drivers are hiding behind gas pumps while filling up their vehicles to shield themselves from a sniper who has randomly shot nine persons, killing seven and wounding two in Maryland, Virginia and the District over the past nine days.
"I'm trying to get this between me and the street," said Donna Parrott, 65, a nurse from Rockville, pointing to the pump at the Sunoco gas station on Rockville Pike near Congressional Plaza.
She pulled in there yesterday around 8 a.m. and parked at the pump farthest from the road. "I told my husband this morning that I was afraid to come and get gas," said Mrs. Parrott.
After getting out of her car, she put the nozzle in her tank and never moved from behind the 5-foot-high pump until she was done.
The shooting of a Gaithersburg man in Manassas on Wednesday night made her more apprehensive, she said.
Dean Harold Meyers, 53, was killed by a single shot to the upper body while pumping gas at the Battlefield Sunoco station on Sudley Road. He became the seventh person fatally shot by the sniper since the shooting rampage began Oct. 2.
Two of the five persons killed in the Kensington-Wheaton area on Oct. 3 were shot at gas stations. Premkumar Walekar, 54, of Olney, was killed while pumping gas at an Aspen Hill Mobil, and Lori Lewis-Rivera, 25, of Silver Spring, was killed while vacuuming her van at a Kensington Shell station.
The sniper shootings have made people fearful and hesitant to perform even the most mundane daily tasks like buying gas. But using a gas pump as a shield from a bullet isn't a good idea. If the bullet strikes the pump it would cause a conflagration, and the result would be the same death.
Mark, a 39-year-old Rockville lawyer who refused to give his full name, drove up in a Jeep Cherokee moments later and parked in front of Mrs. Parrott, at the other pump farthest from the street. He got out quickly and looked around while he unscrewed his gas cap.
He said he didn't want to get gas, "but I figured since it was raining, and since he's probably listening to the news conference on the radio right now, it's as good a time as any."
He also did not move from behind the gas pump.
"It's impossible not to be concerned. Other than being cautious while gassing up, there's not much we can do, it seems to me," he said.
Michael Aridi, 22, of Gaithersburg, who has worked at the Sunoco station on Rockville Pike every day for the last week, said motorists have been behaving differently since the shootings began.
"Usually, when people come to pump gas, they walk around. Maybe they'll wash their windshield or check their tires. Now, some tell me, 'We just pump gas and leave,'" said Mr. Aridi.
He said it has become common for people to wedge themselves between their car and a gas pump, to cut down the angles on their visibility.
"You're looking around and wondering where the vantage points are," said Jim Wilson, 38, of Rockville, who was filling up his car at an Exxon across the street from the Fitzgerald Auto Mall, where the second sniper victim, James Buchanan, 39, was killed on Oct. 3.
A woman at an Aspen Hill Amoco, a few hundred yards from the Mobil where Mr. Walekar was shot, remained in her car while she filled up.
"I'm terrified. What do you think I'm sitting in the car for?" said Helen Shively, 43, of Aspen Hill.
At a Manassas Texaco just up the road from the Sunoco where Mr. Meyers was shot, however, most people said they were not concerned as afternoon rush hour got under way.
"When I was pulling up here for gas, the thought was, 'Lightning doesn't strike the same place twice,'" said Denise Gauthier, 44, an insurance saleswoman from Arlington, who washed her windshield while her car filled up.
"Chances are I'm not a target right now. Look at all these cars," said Brian Anderson, 37, an Internet technology manager from Woodbridge, Va., who served as a medic in the U.S. Army during Desert Storm and in Somalia. He said he was basing his confidence on the law of averages.
"It's hyped up because it's the thing to talk about, but when it comes down to it, nobody has changed the fact that they're going out to buy milk tonight," he said.
But moments later, up drove Gala Johnson, 48, a corporate trainer from Centreville, who had put off getting gas as long as she could.
"I drove in this morning and did not stop for gas, even though I was on empty, because I had to go to work and collect my thoughts," Mrs. Johnson said.
"I'm basically forcing myself . I thought about asking my husband to do it, but then I realized, 'That's a cowardly thing to do,'" she said.
"I have to get on with my life."

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