- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 15, 2002

The sniper responsible for 10 shootings, eight of them fatal, in the Washington area in the past two weeks seems to be becoming more of a risk taker as law enforcement steps up its pursuit, a professor of criminal justice says.
That change may lead to carelessness on the assailant's part, he said.
Like Oct. 7, profilers and law-enforcement officials said yesterday they couldn't understand why the killer who has struck in Maryland, Virginia and the District wouldn't shoot anyone over the weekend, but guesses ranged from him having more freedom to move around on weekdays to him taking Saturday and Sunday off to enjoy or fantasize about his kills.
Since firing five deadly shots in Montgomery County in a span of 17 hours Oct. 2 and 3, the killer has deviated from a secure plan, even killing a man within 50 yards of a state trooper Friday in Massaponax, Va., said Scott Thornsley, who teaches criminal-justice classes at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania.
"He's now risen the bar as to what will provide him with the thrill of the hunt," Mr. Thornsley said. "Once an individual ventures out into the realm of becoming a risk taker it's very difficult for them to resume killing where you get less of a rush."
In Montgomery County, the shooter faced no immediate police chase or immediate news reports. But both have followed with every attack since, making an escape more difficult.
If the sniper saw the state trooper nearby when he last struck at the Exxon station in Massaponax and feels bold enough to leave a tarot card near the school where he shot a 13-year-old boy, he probably is becoming more comfortable, not careless, said James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston.
Even with an apparent boost in audacity, though, the sniper seems to want to elude police forces. Escaping in the nick of time may be part of the thrill, the professors said.
"I don't think he has a death wish," Mr. Thornsley said. "[If he did], he would have used a handgun and gotten closer."
He added that it's hard to tell just how brazen the sniper could become. The killer, who seems to be nonconfrontational, would have to take a great leap if he goes from killing from afar to killing when he is close to the victim, he said.
Not enough evidence is yet available to determine why the shooter hasn't killed over the last two weekends, said Reid Meloy, an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine.
The significance of such a pattern may not be known until the shooter is in police custody, profilers said.
"The only thing we know is that this person is organized," Dr. Meloy said.
The anxiety the public feels even following a weekend that included no shootings is probably rewarding for the person who falls somewhere in between a spree killer and a serial killer, Mr. Fox said.
"The victims to him are the millions of citizens in the area," Mr. Fox said. "While most murderers might enjoy seeing their victims suffer, this person probably enjoys seeing the people in the area suffer."
Feeling insecure and on the outside of society could explain the gunman's reason for going after people wrapped up in everyday tasks, Mr. Thornsley said.
Some have speculated that the shooter targeted a child because he wanted to outwit police who said students were safe in schools, but that decision may have been based on a child simply seeming an easier target.
"The less powerful the victim, the more powerful he becomes," Mr. Thornsley said. "If he has to go after a child, who is vulnerable by definition, in a vulnerable situation that should beg the question, 'How powerless does this individual feel?'"


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