- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2002

The latest sniper attack that killed an FBI analyst outside a home improvement store in Falls Church yielded evidence that Fairfax County Police Chief Thomas Manger said yesterday will lead to an arrest.
"There was some additional information that we were able to get from [Monday nights] case," Chief Manger said at a news conference. "I am confident that that information is going to lead us to an arrest in the case."
Meanwhile yesterday, U.S. military officials approved using military aircraft to help in tracking down the sniper who has spread fear throughout the Washington area for the past two weeks.
For the first time since the shooting spree began Oct. 2, witnesses were able to give information about license plates on vehicles leaving the scene, including a cream-colored Chevrolet Astro van with a burned-out taillight, police said. Police sources said that one witness gave a description of a dark-skinned man who may have been Hispanic or Middle Eastern, in a white van.
The latest victim, Linda Franklin, 47, was shot once in the head about 9:15 p.m. Monday outside the Home Depot store in the 6200 block of Arlington Boulevard in Falls Church. Mrs. Franklin and her husband, William E. "Ted" Franklin, were loading bags into their convertible when she was shot.
Ballistics evidence linked Mrs. Franklin's slaying to the other sniper attacks.
Meanwhile, Spotsylvania County, Va., authorities released new composite pictures of two vans seen near Friday's shooting that killed a Philadelphia man at a gas station near Fredericksburg. One is a Chevrolet Astro van, and the other is a Ford Econoline van. Both vehicles have ladder racks on the roof.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld last night gave approval for military surveillance planes to participate in the search.
The help will comply with the Posse Comitatus Act a 19th-century law that bans the military from domestic law enforcement. That means the military will relay data to civilian law-enforcement agents and not decide on its own what targets to watch, a Defense Department official said.
The Pentagon assistance also could involve a system of sensors that could detect flashes of gunfire on the ground, officials said.
The Bush administration also is considering the possibility that foreign or domestic terrorists are behind the sniper slayings. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said investigators are hesitant to rule out any possibility until evidence surfaces to the contrary.
"Under these horrific circumstances, you don't want to draw any premature conclusions," he said. Regardless of whether the attacks are the work of terrorists, he said, "The community is terrorized."
Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening issued a temporary ban on hunting and other outdoor gunfire to cut down on reports that can distract police personnel and equipment investigating the attacks. The ban goes into effect today in Montgomery, Prince George's, Anne Arundel and Howard counties. The ban does not apply to approved shooting ranges.
Attorney General John Ashcroft called the death of Mrs. Franklin "another tragic murder of yet another innocent life."
"The Justice Department will extend any and all resources needed to the team of local, state and federal officials working together to bring the individual or individuals responsible to justice," Mr. Ashcroft said in a statement.
During his news conference at police headquarters in Fairfax County, Chief Manger declined to discuss which state the license plates were from or whether police had a description of the shooter. He said investigators were still looking for the origin of the shot in Monday's shooting at the Seven Corners Center. He would not say whether it appeared the shot was fired from a distance, as has been the case with the other shootings.
"We have been receiving quite a bit of information from witnesses," Chief Manger said. "Information is always the key in solving cases like this."
WRC-TV (Channel 4) reported last night that one witness had seen the shooter, but it provided no other details.
A law-enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said investigators also have specific information that the sniper has been following the news. The official declined to elaborate.
The sniper has killed nine persons and wounded two during a 12-day span. Each victim has been shot with a single .223-caliber bullet. The sniper's only known communication has been a tarot Death card with the words, "Dear Policeman, I am God." The card was found near the Bowie middle school where a 13-year-old boy was critically wounded.
The latest shooting makes Fairfax County the sixth jurisdiction in which the sniper has struck. Other shootings took place in Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland, in Spotsylvania and Prince William counties in Virginia and in the District.
Police said yesterday there were no indications that the sniper targeted Mrs. Franklin because of her job. A mother of two grown children, Mrs. Franklin worked as an intelligence analyst at the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center, which assesses threats against major structures and cyber networks. Police said Mrs. Franklin was not working on the sniper case.
"Linda was a dedicated employee, and she will be missed," FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said. "All of us are deeply shocked and angry over this tragedy."
Mrs. Franklin and her husband were planning to move Friday to another home in the area and were at Home Depot to buy supplies for the move and the new house. She was also recovering from surgery for breast cancer.
Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose, who is leading the task force investigating the sniper attacks, would not comment on the kind of license plate information collected at Monday's shooting or a possible sketch of a suspect.
"When we can be accurate and can be sure about the information that we have, that's when we'll put something out there," Chief Moose said at a news briefing yesterday afternoon in Rockville. "Partial, or inaccurate, we're trying not to do that kind of thing. We all want to do what we can to bring this to closure."
Chief Moose also acknowledged for the first time that the killer could be using different vehicles to flee the crime scenes. "Certainly, it is not beyond any reality that the person or persons involved in this could have numerous vehicles they could be using," he said.
A huge dragnet that shut all major highways surrounding Fairfax County on Monday night failed to capture the sniper. Within 30 minutes of the shooting, police closed portions of Interstates 95, 495, 395 and 66, Wilson Boulevard, Route 50 (Arlington Boulevard) and Leesburg Pike, creating massive gridlock for several hours.
The roads were reopened in time for morning rush hour, and no arrests were made.
Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. said it will take a lot of basic police work, not forensic analysis, to solve the cases.
"It's going to be a lot of interviews and a lot of pieces of evidence to put together, basic investigation techniques that will bring a solution to the case," Mr. Horan said. "We need to be patient."
Outside the Home Depot yesterday, the yellow police tape that sealed off the perimeter was gone, the army of law-enforcement officers dwindled to a lone Fairfax County police officer, and the flock of reporters waned to a few dozen. But the same cars that were parked there Monday night remained, waiting for their owners who found another way home after the shooting to pick them up.
A green Honda Accord, parked in the space next to where Mrs. Franklin fell, had blood splattered across its rear window, and the parking spot next to it, where Mrs. Franklin's convertible stood, was littered with reminders that it was the scene of a horrific crime.
As the day wore on, the spot where Mrs. Franklin fell was turned into a makeshift memorial, where families stopped to lay flowers and light candles. A handwritten sign saying "Store Temporarily Closed" was taped at the main entrance of the Home Depot, where several employees received grief counseling. The store reopened to customers at 3 p.m.
Shoppers tentatively returned while officers made a last sweep for evidence and towed Mrs. Franklin's car.
"Lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place," Lorraine Burns said as she walked to the Barnes and Noble bookstore, several doors away from the Home Depot.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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