- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 13, 2002

Montgomery County police yesterday released composite images of a white box truck they are searching for in connection with the manhunt for a sniper responsible for fatally shooting eight persons and critically wounding two in suburban Washington areas since Oct. 2.
"It is very close to what the witnesses tell us from their memory," said Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose.
Chief Moose said the composite came from the recollections of "witnesses from more than one location," but they declined to say how many witnesses saw the truck or at how many shooting sites.
He also said police "remain interested" in a white Chevrolet Astro van seen turning south on Route 1 after the latest shooting on Friday near Fredericksburg.
Spotsylvania County officials yesterday announced that the man shot and killed in that latest incident was the 10th victim of the serial killer.
"The ballistics evidence has conclusively linked the shooting [Friday] in Spotsylvania County to the other shootings in Virginia, D.C. and Maryland," said Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Department Maj. Howard Smith.
The victim, Kenneth H. Bridges, 53, was returning to Philadelphia from a business trip in Virginia when he was shot once in the left upper back as he pumped gas at an Exxon station on Route 1 just off Interstate 95 in Massaponax at about 9:30 a.m. Friday.
A Virginia State Trooper responding to an unrelated accident on Route 1 in the vicinity of the gas station was only 50 yards away from where Mr. Bridges was shot, but he didn't witness the shooting. A massive police manhunt, which shut down traffic as officers with guns drawn searched every white van on Interstate 95 from Thornburg, Va., to the District, yielded nothing.
Beyond definitively linking the latest shooting to the other killings over the previous 10 days, officials revealed little else about the investigation.
Maj. Smith said the Bureau or Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had called him about 8:30 p.m. Friday to inform him of the ballistics match. He defended his decision to withhold the information from the public until yesterday morning.
"That's the kind of information that we don't need to get out there right away," Maj. Smith said yesterday. "We knew we were having a press conference this morning. We knew we could release it. And it certainly in no way at all jeopardized this case."
Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat, praised the efforts and the cooperation of law enforcement officials investigating the case and ensured that "all available public safety resources are being brought on to this task and this challenge."
Maj. Smith said his department is busy trying to sort through 1,900 phone tips they have received, as well as numerous accounts from people in the area at the time of the shooting.
He said lead investigators from the sheriff's department, the FBI and the BAFT are working together to sift through the tips and isolate the most critical ones. That information is entered into the FBI's Rapid Start computer program, which compares and exchanges information with other jurisdictions in the task force.
At least one witness reported seeing such a white van with a blond woman driving and a clean-shaven blond man in a black baseball cap in the passenger's seat approaching the Exxon station minutes before the latest shooting.
Maj. Smith said police would issue a description of the persons in the vehicle if investigators thought it was in the best interest of solving the case. But he said the fact that they haven't done so doesn't mean that police have dismissed witness accounts.
Chief Moose declined to say whether police have any composite pictures of possible suspects in the shootings that might have been operating the box truck.
When discussing the box truck, the chief pointed out several details distinguishing what looks otherwise like a fairly common delivery truck. He said witnesses remembered a back roll-up door and damage to the right rear bumper, which is difficult to see in the picture. He said the truck's paint had no gleam or sheen, indicating it was an older vehicle. He said witnesses remembered a loud motor, which would also be consistent with an older vehicle.
In addition to the release of the composite, Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan announced the reward for the arrest and indictment of the killer has reached $500,000 a goal he set. Mr. Duncan said additional donations will go to a fund to help the families of the shooting victims. Donations to that fund can be made by calling 240/777-2500.
The fund reached the half-million-dollar mark after the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors approved a $50,000 contribution.
But throughout the region yesterday, as well as near the site of Friday's shooting in Massaponax, customers at gas stations could be seen waiting in their cars for their tanks to fill. Four of the shootings have targeted persons filling up their cars at gas stations, and four were near highway entrance ramps.
According to a Newsweek poll released yesterday, 47 percent of the 1,000 adults surveyed said they were either "very" or "somewhat" concerned that someone in their family might become a victim of a sniper attack. That compared with 43 percent who said they were somewhat or very concerned about family members falling victim to a terror strike.
When asked if he thought the series of shootings could be related to terrorism, Spotsylvania County Sheriff Ronald Knight said: "The terror is here, and that is terrorism. Whether it's local terror or global terror, I don't want to say. But it is striking terror in people's hearts."


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