- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 17, 2002

The first time Jose Moreno's white Chevy Astro was stopped by police in Alexandria, he didn't mind after all, he had firsthand knowledge that area police were doing everything possible to catch the serial sniper.
But after five more searches in the past week and a half, Mr. Moreno isn't feeling secure anymore.
"I get scared when police follow me and stop me and people are giving me looks, and I'm worried about someone attacking me because I'm in my van," said Mr. Moreno, 26, a husband and father of two who works as an independent construction contractor to feed his family.
Eyewitness accounts in the shootings have police in the Washington area on the lookout for a white van Chevy Astro or Ford Econoline E250 with a rooftop-ladder rack, Dodge Voyager or the Isuzu box truck. Every vehicle in sight matching any of the descriptions is being scrutinized or pulled over and searched.
But with so many white vans on the road, the search is taking a toll on law-abiding contractors and delivery men.
Mr. Moreno, who lives in Mount Rainier, said he was stopped twice last week and four times this week. He said area residents are so terrified by the recent wave of sniper attacks that any white van will do, and "anyone driving one has to be the guy."
"It isn't hard to find a white van at a Home Depot," he said at the store's Hyattsville location.
Julio Rivas, 37, a fiber-optic cable technician, said driving his white Chevy Astro van with ladder rack every day is "becoming irritating." He's been stopped and searched twice by police in less than a week.
"I have been stopped, as a matter of fact this morning at the gas station behind the Pentagon," Mr. Rivas said outside of Pentagon Row shopping center an hour after being searched.
The stops and searches are becoming a nuisance he said it's to the point that he wonders each morning if he will be stopped again.
"I understand it. I have the exact type of van they are looking for. I get aggravated, but it's the only lead they've got, and we all want this guy caught," he said.
Mr. Rivas was stopped by Pentagon police Tuesday. His first encounter with officers desperately searching for the mysterious white van came Friday, near the Arlington County courthouse.
Hundreds of business contractors across the region electrical workers, telecommunications technicians, heating and air-conditioning repairmen and others buy or lease fleets of white full-sized vans and minivans for their workers every year, said Gerald Blunt, 40, a carpenter who lives in New Carrollton with his wife and son.
He was stopped just once at a gas station in Greenbelt.
"You'd be surprised how many are out there. We all use them because they're versatile and the car companies offer packages by the dozens to businesses," Mr. Blunt said.
He said the stops could become a hassle for him and others if they become frequent.
Loudoun County resident Steve Simkist, 27, a cable technician who also drives a white, company-issued Chevy Astro, said the scrutiny from other drivers seems to be "constant."
"I have gotten the looks and seen people stare at me at stoplights and even pick up their cell phones and call me in," Mr. Simkist said.
Still, Mr. Simkist said hadn't been stopped yet though five of the eight men who work for his company were on Friday night.
"Everyone, all [contracting] companies have fleets of white vans. You can see dozens of them at any construction site; there is no way they can search them all," Mr. Simkist said.


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