- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2002

Police swept into a rest stop on Interstate 70 at Myersville, Md., 60 miles northwest of Washington, early this morning and took into custody two men as suspects in the three-week rampage of sniper shootings that have left 10 persons dead and three others wounded.John Allen Muhammad, 42, and Lee Malvo, 17, were asleep in their 1990 Chevrolet Caprice when heavily armed federal and state agents - members of the sniper investigation task force - burst into the rest stop off Interstate 70 near Myersville, Md., shortly after 3:30 a.m.
The two men were arrested without incident.
Mr. Muhammad, also known as John Allen Williams, is a former Army soldier and Persian Gulf war veteran who recently converted to Islam and had been stationed at Fort Lewis, just south of Tacoma, Wash. Mr. Malvo is a Jamaican citizen and high school student in Bellingham, Wash. He also was named as Mr. Muhammads stepson, but police later said the two men are not related.
Authorities said last night that Mr. Muhammad had recently expressed anti-American sentiments.
A .223-caliber weapon and tripod were found in a bag in Mr. Muhammads car, and that investigators were looking at a hole drilled in the trunk as a "gun port." Authorities said the vehicle was rigged so that a shooter could have used the trunk to fire undetected.
The weapon has been taken to a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) laboratory for comparison tests with the bullets found in the sniper shootings.
The two men were arrested on federal weapons charges and taken by task force members to an undisclosed Maryland location rather than police headquarters, where they were being questioned about the sniper shootings that began Oct. 2 in Montgomery County with the shooting death of James D. Martin, 55, of Silver Spring.
Mr. Muhammads Chevrolet Caprice was spotted at the rest stop 12 miles west of Frederick at 12:47 a.m. by an unidentified Maryland motorist driving a white van after an announcement by Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose that the task force was looking for the vehicle. The motorist dialed 911, and Maryland State Police confirmed that the vehicle was the one being sought and contacted the task force.
Authorities had issued an alert for the Chevrolet Caprice with New Jersey license plates, which was registered to Mr. Muhammad at an address in Camden, N.J.
Investigators began to target the two men at least three days ago after a call to the sniper task-force hot line suggested a connection to a murder and robbery at a liquor store in Alabama. Investigators said Mr. Malvos fingerprint was matched to one found in the Alabama crime.
They then traced the teenager to Tacoma and to Mr. Muhammad.
This morning, more than a dozen Maryland troopers were dispatched to the site, setting up a perimeter and moving other vehicles out of the rest area.
Task-force members arrived and at about 3:30 a.m., according to law-enforcement authorities, they rushed the vehicle, breaking out two windows and taking the sleeping suspects into custody."There was no resistance, there was no problem," said Maj. Greg Shipley, spokesman for Maryland State Police. He said authorities approached the vehicle "very carefully, very quickly."
A police source involved in the investigation said they are sure Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo are involved with the snipers.
"Its over. Thank God, its all over," said a source involved with the investigation.
Police and FBI agents took almost three hours after getting the rest-stop tip before they arrested the two men. Authorities said task force members took the time to clear out the rest stop and set up a wide perimeter in case the two men had slipped out or may have been sleeping in the woods.
About 100 officers from the Maryland State Police, Frederick County, Washington County and the FBI encircled the rest area and then moved in on the car. The FBI also watched the vehicle from a high-flying airplane equipped with sophisticated night vision and heat sensing technology.
Authorities evacuated others from both the west bound rest stop, where the car was located, and the east bound rest area across I-70.
"They got all the other vehicles away. They evacuated everyone in the rest areas, but no one could tell if there was anyone in the vehicle or not," said a police source who was involved in the arrest. "When they actually made their move, these guys were asleep," the source said.
"It was the two people they were looking for," the source said.
Authorities said police approached the rest stop cautiously because they could not tell if there was anyone inside the car, they were not sure if they had abandoned it or may have been sleeping in the wood. Officers used night-vision goggles to check the inside of the car from a distance and they could not see anyone inside.
"They deployed their SWAT teams quietly. It is a pretty rugged area, and they were afraid these guys would take off into the woods," authorities said.
Earlier in the day, Chief Moose had told reporters that Mr. Muhammad might have information "material to our investigation," although he cautioned that it should not be assumed he "is involved in any of the shootings we are investigating."
The arrest came after federal agents had searched a house in Tacoma once rented by Mr. Muhammad, and after a call to the task force from a man believed to be the sniper who claimed he also had committed a murder and robbery in the South.
It was a Sept. 21 murder and robbery at a Montgomery, Ala., liquor store that led investigators to Tacoma. The Alabama incident resulted in the death of one woman and the critical wounding of another woman.
In Tacoma, where Mr. Muhammad lived with his wife, now divorced and living in Clinton, Md., federal authorities spent more than nine hours searching for bullets, casings and weapons. Using metal detectors and chain saws, they dug up one tree stump from which investigators pulled bullet fragments for comparison with .223-caliber fragments taken from the shootings in Maryland, Virginia and the District.
The tree, according to authorities, had been used for target practicing.
Authorities declined to elaborate on the search, but said it was related to the sniper shootings.At a press conference in Montgomery, Ala., Police Chief John Wilson said his department was cooperating with the sniper task force and had sent evidence from the September murder and robbery at the liquor store in that city to task force investigators.
Chief Wilson also said a composite sketch of a suspect from the Alabama murder showed "some very good similarities" to Mr. Malvo, although he declined to elaborate. He also said that ballistic evidence from the gun used in the Alabama shooting did not match the one used in the sniper shootings in Maryland, Virginia and the District.
"Its way too early for any of you to say there is an absolute connection," he said.
Chief Wilson also would not confirm whether evidence in the Alabama shooting included a fingerprint on a magazine, but did deny other reports that a credit card and a note had been found at the scene.
In Bellingham, Police Chief Randy Carroll described Mr. Malvo as "quiet" and said he "spent a lot of time in the library studying, and was not openly gregarious with the other students."
Armed with a federal subpoena, the FBI confiscated several documents from Bellingham High School, which Mr. Malvo attended for at least one year. Chief Carroll did not say what information the documents contained, but said the young man arrived at the school October, 2001 without transcripts or documents.
"We were unable to determine where he came from," Chief Carroll said, adding that the two men appeared to be acting on their own and not with a group or organization.
"As a citizen, I feel the angst and the sorrow for the people back there and what law enforcement is going through," the chief said.
Authorities also said Montgomery County officials, on the advice of the FBI, withheld some information about a tarot card found at the site of the Oct. 7 shooting of a 13-year-old boy in Bowie and that the sniper, angry that his message had been ignored, delivered the rest of the message withheld by the media at the polices request.
Audrey Hudson and Judie Pearson contributed to this report.

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