- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 26, 2002

Suspected snipers John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo took turns firing a .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle during a three-week shooting spree that left 10 persons dead and three others wounded in metropolitan Washington, authorities said yesterday.
"They were together for all of [the shootings]. It does not make sense that only one of them would do all the shooting," said a law enforcement source involved in the investigation. "The young one did not sit by idly and watch. He was involved, too."
Investigators believe Mr. Malvo, 17, was the triggerman in more than one of the shootings with Mr. Muhammad, his 41-year-old mentor, a former U.S. soldier and Persian Gulf war veteran who called his young companion his son. The two men, who are not related, were captured Thursday morning at a rest stop in Frederick County, Md.
They said some or all of the messages left for police at the crimes scenes and at other places appear to have been crafted by Mr. Malvo, a Jamaican, since investigators believe they were written by a foreigner. They also said the use of tarot cards left with the messages may have been the teenager's idea.
"He was the one into all the tarot cards," one investigator said. "He was into the voodoo stuff."
Last night, Montgomery County charged each with six counts of first-degree murder and State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler said he would seek the death penalty against the older suspect.
Mr. Gansler said the teenager will be tried as an adult, but that the state is prohibited from seeking the death penalty for a juvenile. Virginia prosecutors could bring a death-penalty case against the teenager in a separate case.
He said that while each of the seven jurisdictions in which the shootings occurred have an interest in prosecuting their cases, Montgomery County is the "community most affected and most impacted by the shootings." Six of the 10 slayings occurred in the county.
The brief warrants list each of the victims' names and accuse the suspects of "premeditated malice" in their deaths.
The shooting spree ignited a massive manhunt that stretched from Maryland and Virginia to Alabama and Washington state.
Since the men were taken into custody, authorities said, neither suspect has talked with investigators, who will have to rely on forensic evidence to sort out which of them was the shooter in each of the cases.
Mr. Malvo tried to escape from an interrogation room sometime after his capture by going through a panel in the ceiling, but investigators were able to pull him back down, a law enforcement source told the Associated Press. It was not known where he was being held.
Mr. Muhammad was being held in a maximum-security state prison in Baltimore, according to the Maryland Division of Correction.
The letter left by the sniper suspects outside an Ashland, Va., steakhouse began with a cover sheet that said "call me God" and demanded $10 million ransom in "unlimited withdrawal" around the world, law enforcement officials said last night.
"For you, Mr. Policeman. Call me God. Don't release to the press," says the letter, described by a federal law enforcement source familiar with the four-page document.
It was found tacked to a tree, wrapped in plastic, outside the Ponderosa restaurant where the sniper shot and wounded a 37-year-old man walking to his car after dinner with his wife Oct. 19. The man is recovering at a local hospital.
Investigators believe they can piece together which of shootings were committed by Mr. Muhammad since he had some military firearms training and it appears the teenager may have been trained by the experienced marksman.
Investigators also said the men used the 1990 Chevrolet Caprice in which they were found sleeping as a firing platform in some shootings. One of them also would set up in wooded areas and shoot at victims while the other one would wait inside a car, ready to pull away before the police could respond, they said.
The Caprice had a 3-inch diameter hole cut in the rear of the trunk lid, and the back seat was modified so that someone could crawl into the trunk to shoot. Before the suspects' capture, police believed the sniper was using some kind of a vehicle because of a dearth of evidence at the crime scenes.
One law enforcement source said it may have Mr. Malvo who shot and seriously wounded a 13-year-old boy outside Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie on Oct. 7 since a tarot card was left at the scene.
In a related matter, a material-witness warrant was issued yesterday in New Jersey for Nathanel O. Osbourne, who bought the 1990 Chevrolet Caprice on Sept. 10 with Mr. Muhammad. The car, which cost $250, is a former police cruiser from the Bordentown Township, N.J., Police Department. It was purchased from Sure Shot Auto Sales Inc. in Trenton, according to the dealer.
New Jersey officials said Mr. Muhammad registered the car the next day, September 11, at a motor-vehicle department office in Camden, N.J., paying $57.50 for his license plates. He listed his address as an apartment in south Camden and listed the co-owner of the car as Mr. Osbourne, who lived at the same address.
The FBI stressed that Mr. Osbourne, 26, was not a subject of the investigation in the shootings. A federal judge sealed the documents pertaining to the warrant, FBI spokeswoman Linda Vizi said in Philadelphia.
Authorities in Montgomery, Ala., also are convinced Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo took part in a Sept. 21 killing there and said yesterday they have no hesitancy to seek the death penalty for both.
"We want to send a very strong message to not only this community and this state, but the country, that this is not the kind of conduct, this is not what we expect of civilized society," said Montgomery Police Chief John Wilson. "We're going to make an example of somebody."
Alabama law enforcement officials filed murder charges yesterday against the two sniper suspects.
Chief Wilson said investigators believe Mr. Muhammad was the gunman during a robbery and killing at a Montgomery liquor store and that a police officer who chased a man running from the scene "made no hesitation whatsoever" in picking him out of a photo lineup.
"He actually shuddered when he saw the picture and said, 'That's the man I saw,'" said the chief, adding that the officer came within two feet of the shooter during the chase. "We intend to aggressively pursue the death penalty in our case."
Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright also said the teenager's fingerprint was found on a gun magazine found in a parking lot outside the liquor store. After the print was connected to the Alabama killing, authorities traced the teenager to a home in Tacoma, Wash., where Mr. Muhammad once lived. Authorities searched that house Wednesday.
Also, a Justice Department official familiar with the case said U.S. Attorneys Paul J. McNulty from Virginia, Thomas M. DiBiagio from Maryland and Roscoe C. Howard Jr. from the District met yesterday with Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson to decide if the sniper suspects should face federal charges.
The official said that under federal law, the two could face the death penalty under conspiracy charges if prosecutors can prove they were involved in a continuing criminal enterprise. The motive for their actions would have to be the $10 million ransom they are said to have requested in exchange for stopping the shootings.
Meanwhile, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III yesterday said that with the arrests of Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo, authorities believe the sniper killings have been stopped.
Mr. Mueller described the search for the killers as an "unprecedented, large-scale effort by local, state and federal agencies working toward a single goal." He said the unusual elements of the case brought particular challenges, but investigators overcame them and were able to do their job.
"Much remains to be done in pending legal and forensic arenas, but we are confident today that the killing is over and justice will be served," he said.
Ballistics tests conducted Thursday by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on a Bushmaster XM-15 E2S Shorty A3 .223- caliber rifle found in Mr. Muhammad's car confirmed it had been used in 11 of 13 sniper attacks during the three-week killing spree.
Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo were asleep in the car when heavily armed federal and state agents, tipped by a truck driver, burst into the rest stop off Interstate 70 near Myersville, Md., shortly before 3:30 a.m. The men were taken into custody without incident.
No motive for the killings has yet been established, although authorities said Mr. Muhammad who converted to Islam recently expressed anti-American sentiments and told associates he supported the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The Chevrolet Caprice was spotted at the rest stop 12 miles west of Frederick at 12:47 a.m. by truck driver Ron Lantz, who dialed 911. Maryland State Police arrived, confirmed the vehicle was the one named in an alert issued by Montgomery County Police and contacted the sniper task force.
Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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