- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 13, 2002

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. Across the street from where police say a Washington area sniper claimed his 10th victim, Raja Abilnona parked three of his tow trucks alongside his filling station to protect customers from gunfire.
In Alexandria, a local chapter of the Guardian Angels pumped gas all day yesterday at two stations near Interstate 495.
Despite jitters from a 10-day shooting spree, however, motorists continued to gas up along the interstate, looking over their shoulders now and then for whoever is terrorizing the community.
"There's what, about 4 million people living around here?" said John Sewell, 70, a retired schoolteacher who stopped at a RaceTrac station in Spotsylvania County on his way to refill his blood pressure medication. "I think my chances are pretty good that that guy isn't going to shoot me."
Next to Mr. Sewell's van, Clarence Shook leaned over his truck bed and scanned the road as his son pumped unleaded gas into the tank.
"I'm not afraid," said Mr. Shook, 48, who keeps a 9 mm Ruger pistol under his dashboard, "but I am cautious."
A massive task force of county, state and federal officers continued to track down leads yesterday in the sniper attacks that began Oct. 2 in Washington's Maryland suburbs. Eight persons have been killed and two wounded since then.
The latest victim, Kenneth H. Bridges, was killed across the street from Mr. Abilnona's filling station while pumping gas at an Exxon station. Mr. Abilnona stood outside in the parking lot yesterday as a mechanic installed new tires on a turquoise Kia.
"Maybe my customers will think it's safer," he said of his tow trucks parked along the curb. "It's harder to see in here. At least, it will make it more difficult for someone to shoot."
Some business owners near the shootings said fewer people were coming into their stores this weekend, but others saw no effect.
"I'm fine," said Robbie Hearn, 22, who sells blue crabs out of a bucket in the parking lot of a Spotsylvania County strip mall. He was pulling a steady business yesterday despite a sniper shooting last week just two miles away at a craft store.
"I just kind of stay hunched over my pots, but I think I'm safe."
About 50 miles away, several Guardian Angels from the group's Washington chapter pumped gas for motorists at a Texaco station near I-495. Wearing their traditional red berets, the voluntary crime-prevention organization carried customers' money to the sales clerk and brought back change.
"We just wanted to do our part to make people feel safe," director John Ayala said. "People have been calling us and saying, you know, 'What are you guys going to do about this?'"

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