- The Washington Times - Friday, October 25, 2002

Investigators probing the lives of the two men arrested in connection with the sniper attacks say one was recognized by the Army for his marksmanship and might have been motivated by anti-American sentiment.
John Allen Muhammad, 41, is a former soldier and Gulf war veteran who was stationed at Fort Lewis, south of Tacoma, Wash. He was sympathetic to the September 11 hijackers, according to published reports in Washington state that quoted federal officials.
Neither he nor John Lee Malvo, 17, a Jamaican citizen arrested with him, are believed to be associated with the al Qaeda terrorist network, authorities said. Mr. Muhammad converted to Islam in 1984 and legally changed his last name from Williams on April 23, 2001.
He enlisted in the Army in 1985 and was discharged as a sergeant in April 1994. He received an M-16 expert-marksmanship badge, the highest level for the average soldier. The standard test for expert marksmanship involves hitting 36 targets with only 40 bullets, from distances of 50 to 300 meters.
In 1995, he helped provide security in the District for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan's "Million Man March," according to a former Marine who at one time lived a block from Mr. Muhammad.
A Chicago spokeswoman for the Nation of Islam said it had no connection with Mr. Muhammad.
"We don't know him, and we don't know what he's part of," she said.
Mr. Muhammad, who was stationed at Fort Lewis in the 1980s, has four children by two marriages, both of which ended in divorce and involved bitter custody battles, the Seattle Times reported.
Court records show no felony convictions for him in Washington state.
Former neighbors yesterday in Tacoma said Mr. Muhammad was a quiet yet cordial man whose marital troubles prompted him to leave his family and the house where he lived from early 1995 through early 2001.
Mr. Muhammad, his second wife, Mildred, and three children lived in a small rambler in the 7300 block of South Ainsworth Avenue before he picked up and moved across town about 18 months ago, said Bob Bianchi, 47, who lives across the street and one house away.
In 2000, Mildred Williams was granted a restraining order against her husband. She wrote in the application: "I am afraid of John. He is a demolitions expert." Their three children were aged 10, 8 and 6. Her application also stated: "He wasn't going to let me raise these children."
"My dad heard them arguing outside," said Jonathan King, 20, who lives with his parents one house down on the same side of the street. Mr. King said police responded to the dispute and placed Mrs. Williams in a patrol car.
Mr. Bianchi, a semiretired retailer, said Mrs. Williams' restraining order prompted Mr. Muhammad to move to the 3300 block of South Proctor Avenue, less than five miles away.
Both Mr. Bianchi and Mr. King recalled that Mr. Muhammad used to work on older cars.
After he left the neighborhood, there was "a very extensive cleanup" at the residence, Mr. Bianchi said. The cleanup included equipment from cars in various states of repair that were parked alongside the home.
Mr. Muhammad and his first wife, Carol Williams, divorced about 17 years ago, about the time when he enlisted. She is the mother of his first son.
Carol Williams' attorney in Baton Rouge, La., said the ex-wife was distraught and had been asked by federal authorities to make no comment about her former husband.
Attorney Gail Horne Ray said federal authorities contacted Carol Williams late Wednesday.
"She is in no condition to talk to the press at this time," Miss Ray said. "She's in shock, complete shock."
On Wednesday, investigators searched through Mr. Malvo's records at Bellingham High School, where they reportedly sought handwriting samples.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo stayed at a homeless shelter in Bellingham, where Mayor Robert Asmundson said the teen had minor run-ins with police but was never charged with a crime.
Sharon Norman, a younger sister of Mr. Muhammad, told reporters yesterday he was born in Baton Rouge.
She said he and Mr. Malvo visited Baton Rouge to see family members in July, the first time any of the family had ever met the teenager, who was introduced by Mr. Muhammad as his son, she said.
She said Mr. Malvo was "quiet, acted scared" and ate nothing more than crackers and nutritional supplements.
"We talked about it later and agreed he didn't seem to enjoy the way he was living," she said.
Mrs. Norman said another family member mentioned the boy's discomfort to Mr. Muhammad, but he laughed it off and said, "He loves traveling, learning things."
Brian DeBose, Vaishali Honawar and Jerry Seper contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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