- The Washington Times - Monday, October 21, 2002

RICHMOND, Va. — Authorities took two men into custody today for questioning in the Washington-area sniper attacks after surrounding a white van parked at a pay phone.

Hanover County Sheriff Stuart Cook said the men were seized about 8:45 a.m. at or near an Exxon station in suburban Richmond.

"The two people we have in custody are being questioned as regards the sniper shootings," Cook said. "When we have further information that we can give to the public … that we've concluded this case we'll do so, but that's not the case at hand."

He refused to describe the men as suspects.

Investigators also confirmed that Saturday night's shooting at a steakhouse outside Richmond was the work of the sniper. The attacks have left nine people dead and three critically wounded since Oct. 2 in Maryland, Virginia and Washington.

The developments today came one day after police issued a public plea for the sniper to contact them at a phone number that was part of a message found near the steakhouse.

At least one of the people in custody was dragged out of the van, described by witnesses as a Plymouth Voyager with temporary Virginia tags.

Keith Underwood, service manager at an Oldsmobile dealership next door, said officers screamed at the person behind the wheel and yanked several times on the door before getting it open.

"They basically surrounded him with their shotguns," said another witness, Pathenia Fields, a title clerk at the car dealer. She said she saw just one man in the van.

Over the weekend, police said they found a note in the woods near the Ponderosa restaurant in Ashland, a few miles north of Richmond, after the latest victim was shot. Police urged whoever left the note to call them.

Early today, Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose, who is in charge of the investigation, said authorities had received a message and were "preparing our response."

He did not specify whether the message was a new communication or the one they discovered near the scene of Saturday's shooting. He refused to elaborate or answer questions.

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