- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Public officials probably emboldened the sniper who has killed nine persons and wounded two in the metropolitan area when they called him a coward last week and urged him to surrender to authorities, criminal psychologists said yesterday.
The shooter has killed three persons since Oct. 8, when officials such as Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening and D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams denounced the sniper during a news conference on the wounding of a 13-year-old boy the previous day at Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie.
Regional officials have done better lately in tempering their frustration with the sniper, but even a conciliatory message asking the sniper to think about the harm he is doing would most likely fail, said Michael Aamodt, who teaches a forensic psychology class at Radford University in Virginia.
“Because the person is delusional, no event is going to change that person’s mind,” Mr. Aamodt said.”If you think this is a person you can reach through some type of appeal, then most often you’ll use something that will calm him down.”
During a news conference at Montgomery County police headquarters in Rockville, Mr. Glendening and Mr. Williams last week repeatedly called the gunman a “coward.” Mr. Glendening also said: “We will catch you and bring you to justice.”
Calling the incident a tactical error, Charles Bahn, a professor emeritus of forensics at John Jay College of the City University of New York, likened the current situation to that of a hostage standoff. Authorities working to tame the hostage-taker often have to keep superiors from denouncing and goading the offender, he said.
“It was probably a pretty politically popular thing for the governor of Maryland to say, but it’s my view that it was perceived as a challenge,” Mr. Bahn said.
Last Wednesday, Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose, who is heading the task force on the sniper shootings, expressed anger over the elected officials’ comments. “It never does any situation any good when people engage in name-calling, whether it’s a crime or two children on the the shooter by admitting in a press conference that he has planned his attacks well, saying, “You obviously want to get out some message. Why don’t you tell us what that message is?”
A request that’s falling on deaf ears is for the sniper to surrender, Mr. Bahn said.
“Chief Moose had the message: We ask you to turn yourself in to law enforcement,” he said. “That’s an ineffectual message at this point. There’s nothing attractive about that offer.”
Mr. Bahn said that, although some serial killers and other criminals hope to be caught eventually, this gunman has not taken a second shot at victims or waited for police to arrive at a crime scene. The sniper’s exits appear to be well thought out to evade police barricades, he said, indicating the gunman has no intentions of ever being caught or surrendering.
Mr. Aamodt said the sniper’s surrender is even less likely if he is working with an accomplice. One partner would probably keep the other going if one wanted to give up, he said.
The multiagency task force investigating the shootings is improving by shifting its focus to letting the sniper and the public know they are getting close to tracking him down, said John Baeza, a retired New York police detective.
He said the sniper appears to be detached from his victims and probably would not be troubled by law enforcement pleas for sympathy.
“Either the shooter would dismiss that or act in some other way to show he’s in charge," Mr. Baeza said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide