- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2002

For the Washington region sniper, it isn't enough to just kill. He wants to match wits with investigators.
Like some of the most notorious criminals in history Jack the Ripper, San Francisco's Zodiac Killer and the Unabomber the sniper is trying to communicate with authorities trying to catch him.
The sniper has attempted at least six times to call local police and the FBI tip line, once angrily telling a dispatcher to "Shut up and listen" and "I'm in charge" before the dispatcher cut the conversation short.
He also has left behind at least two handwritten letters and a Death tarot card at shooting scenes.
Since Sunday, when one of those letters was opened, police have been conducting a dialogue with the sniper over phone lines and through the media.
"It is important that we do this without anyone else getting hurt," Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose said Tuesday night, addressing the killer via news cameras more than 12 hours after the 10th fatal attack.
As of last night, Chief Moose had sent five televised messages to the sniper in less than 72 hours. He was expected to send a sixth last night but canceled, citing "new developments in the investigation."
For the killer, such messages a satisfy morbid and desperate ego, heighten the sense of command over the world, or intensify the rush of the cat-and-mouse game with police, crime analysts say. For the police, the messages may provide a wealth of clues, from DNA on a licked envelope to poor English that can help fill in the blanks in a killer's profile.
In the sniper's case, the letter found tacked to a tree behind a restaurant in Ashland, Va., where he critically wounded a man Saturday night, was neatly printed on lined paper and included a number of grammatical errors, including sentence fragments and misspellings.
He also threatened more killings, particularly of children, or as he put it in a postscript, "Your children are not safe anywhere at any time." The sniper tried to kill a 13-year-old boy Oct. 7 outside a middle school in Bowie.
"It's all about arrogance," said Suzanne McComas, a private investigator in upstate New York. "It's a tactic to get more attention and to up the ante. If you're going to play the game, then communication with police is the logical next step."
Jack the Ripper bragged to British police about his murders in a series of letters. David Berkowitz declared memorably in a note, "I am a monster. I am the Son of Sam." The Zodiac Killer, blamed in the deaths of six, was never caught and complained to police in letters, cards, phone calls and ciphers about being lonely and ignored.
It is not clear when the Washington sniper began to make contact with those investigating his crime spree, but he reportedly wrote in his first letter that "Five people had to die" because police hung up on him every time he called.
If that's the case, the sniper began calling authorities sometime after 9:58 a.m. on Oct. 3. That's when Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera was killed as she vacuumed her burgundy minivan at a Shell gas station in Kensington. Nearly 12 hours later, the sniper killed Pascal Charlot, 72, of Washington.
The next day, Chief Moose appealed for an end to the shootings. "We implore him to surrender, stop this madness," he told reporters at a morning press conference.
The violence did not stop. Instead it spread to other places. The sniper wounded a Fredericksburg, Va., woman at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 4 as she loaded her purchases into her Toyota minivan.
His next attack was at 8:09 a.m. Oct. 7 outside a middle school in Bowie where he wounded the boy.
For the first time, police sources leaked information about a tarot card and shell casing found at the scene of a shooting.
The sniper's next victims were Dean Meyers, a 53-year-old project manager from Gaithersburg, who was gunned down at 8:15 p.m. Oct. 9 outside a Sunoco station in Manassas. A little more than 37 hours later, on Oct. 11, Kenneth Bridges, 53, of Philadelphia, was killed at 9:30 a.m. at an Exxon gas station in Fredericksburg.
Three days later, at 9:15 p.m., the sniper killed FBI analyst Linda Franklin, 47, of Arlington, as she loaded packages into her car parked outside a Home Depot in Falls Church.
Five days later, the sniper wounded a 37-year-old Florida man at 8 p.m. outside a restaurant in Ashland, Va. The discovery of the first letter that night prompted Chief Moose to send a message to the sniper the following night.
When investigators opened that letter, they reportedly found a phone number that the sniper said police would receive a call on, at a specified time on Sunday, The Washington Post reported yesterday.
Investigators quickly learned there was a problem with that phone number, and took time to straighten it out. Before the officials had finished their work, the time for the call had passed, The Post reported.
At 7:10 p.m. Sunday, Chief Moose made his first of five direct appeals to the sniper: "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."
Sometime Monday morning, a person believed to be the sniper called again, The Post reported. This time, police traced it to telephones in the vicinity of an Exxon station near Richmond.
Police set up a sting operation in the area. At 8:30 a.m., an undocumented worker pulled up to a phone in a white minivan and started making calls, while another man, also a laborer, waited nearby. Local police moved in and nabbed the men, though it was later determined they had no connection to the case.
At 10 a.m. Monday, Chief Moose again went before the cameras with a plea for more time. The appeal elicited a telephone call but one that was garbled, which resulted in another carefully scripted message from the chief at 4:15 p.m.: "The person you called could not hear everything you said. The audio was unclear and we want to get it right. Call us back so that we can clearly understand."
At 6 a.m. Tuesday, the sniper fatally shot Montgomery County bus driver Conrad Johnson, 35, in Aspen Hill.
A fourth message from the sniper came sometime before 4:40 p.m. that day, Chief Moose said, but he would not reveal its content or form, and said only he would respond soon. The chief spoke to reporters at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday and said, again speaking to the sniper: "We have researched the options you stated and found that it is not possible electronically to comply in the manner that you requested. However, we remain open and ready to talk to you about the options you have mentioned. It is important that we do this without anyone else getting hurt. You indicated that this is about more than violence. We are waiting to hear from you."

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