- The Washington Times - Monday, October 21, 2002

Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose, at an impromptu news conference in Rockville last night, said a message had been left for authorities Saturday night at a restaurant in Ashland, Va., the site of what authorities believe is the latest attack by the Washington sniper.
Chief Moose asked whoever left the message to contact law enforcement.
Both CNN and the Associated Press reported late last night that authorities believe the message was left by the gunman. Chief Moose said:
"To the person who left us a message at the Ponderosa last night: You gave us a telephone number. We do want to talk to you. Call us at the number you provided. Thank you."
After the briefing, Officer Joyce Utter, spokeswoman for Montgomery County police, took note that the cryptic message seems confusing, but said Chief Moose's statement "should make complete sense" to the person who left the message. "That is the only person Chief Moose wants to talk to."
Chief Moose refused to elaborate and asked that newspaper and television reporters repeat the message "clearly." Others speculated that the telephone number might be that of a third party regarded by the sniper as "safe."
The sniper investigation was extended to Ashland, about 30 miles north of Richmond, on Saturday, after a 37-year-old man was felled by a single shot to the abdomen.
The victim was awake and responsive yesterday afternoon at a Richmond hospital, and doctors indicated late yesterday his prognosis was "good."
The victim, who has not been identified, underwent three hours of surgery Saturday night at the Medical College of Virginia Hospital and went into surgery again last night. During the most recent procedures, doctors removed the bullet and handed it over to investigators, who will try to determine whether the bullet matches those recovered in other Washington-area sniper attacks that began Oct. 2.
Doctors removed parts of the man's stomach, spleen and pancreas, said Dr. Rao Ivatury, director of trauma and critical care at the hospital. Doctors performed additional surgery last night to reconnect his stomach and intestine.
"It is very serious," said hospital spokeswoman Pam Lepley. "From my understanding, he was a healthy, 37-year-old man, which is working in his favor right now."
Saturday's shooting in this town of 6,800 residents occurred about 8 p.m. in the parking lot of the Ponderosa Steak House, in the 800 block of England Street. The establishment sits in a cluster of restaurants and motels just off Interstate 95.
Hanover County Sheriff Col. V. Stuart Cook told reporters he would divulge only information he believed would assist the investigation. The sheriff said he wanted to reassure the public that investigators had recovered evidence and they had "numerous" leads to follow.
Witnesses told police they heard a shot coming from a tree line about 100 feet behind the restaurant, but investigators said they have no credible information identifying the shooter or a getaway vehicle.
The victim, a white man from out of state who was traveling through Ashland, was shot as he and his wife left the restaurant, police said. The wife has been at her husband's side throughout the ordeal, the hospital spokeswoman said.
The multiagency task force investigating the sniper case was still in Ashland yesterday after traveling to the scene Saturday night. The shooting and unprecedented onslaught of media attention has rattled this rural community, affectionately known by residents as the "center of the universe" and home to about 1,100 students at Randolph-Macon College.
"It makes me scared, because I am not safe," said Kathy Wyapp, 35, a motel housekeeper in Ashland. "It has a definite impact."
Her boyfriend, Antwan Smith, 29, said they would be spending more time indoors and keeping their two small children there as well. "From now, it will be going to work and coming home, until they catch the guy," he said.
Ashland Mayor Angela LaCombe said the shooting and its potential tie to the serial sniper would not unravel the tightknit community. "I have no doubt this community will bond together," she said. Mrs. LaCombe said the town's resolve would be apparent at the vigil for the shooting victim, which was planned for last night.
Police closed major roadways immediately after the shooting, with roadblocks on Interstate 95 and state Route 54 in Hanover County.
Traffic also was snarled at scattered points in the Washington area Saturday night, as police established checkpoints as part of a broad dragnet deployed in response to any sniper shooting.
The sniper last struck Oct. 14, killing a woman at a home-improvement store in Falls Church.
If the latest shooting is another sniper attack, it would be the first carried out on a weekend and in a different metropolitan area.
Authorities declined to say whether a bullet casing found inside a white box truck at a rental agency near Washington Dulles International Airport on Friday was linked to the sniper shootings, which have killed nine persons and wounded two in the Washington metropolitan area this month.
However, it has been widely reported that the casing was for a .30-caliber bullet.
Investigators have determined that each sniper victim was hit by a single, smaller .223-caliber bullet. They have released likenesses of a white box truck and a white van, perhaps a Chevy Astro or Ford Econoline, with a ladder rack on the roof.
Chief Moose, who is heading the task force, is expected to report today that the bullet casing was a different caliber than has been linked to most of the shootings.
Arlo Wagner contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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