- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 6, 2002

The bullet that wounded a woman in Fredericksburg, Va., matches ammunition that killed at least four persons in a shooting spree around the Washington area, investigators said last night.
Maj. Howard Smith of the Spotsylvania County, Va., sheriff's office said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms reported that a round collected at the site of the woman's shooting is a match to rounds collected at the scenes of some fatal shootings in Montgomery County and one in the District.
Late last night, police said they were investigating whether there was any connection between an apparent shooting victim whose body was found near the Montgomery-Howard County border. Authorities said they had no indication the man's death was related to the sniper spree.
Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose said yesterday bullet fragments from the other two fatal shootings in the area are "in pretty poor shape," adding that investigators may not be able to determine if they came from the same weapon.
It is just one example of what local, state and federal authorities investigating the random sniper killings are up against. The series of shootings has left a trail of mayhem, sorrow, anger and fear and not much else.
There are no witnesses, except for one person who reported seeing a white box truck or van driven by two men. That vehicle a six-wheeled truck with a roll-up rear door and dark lettering reportedly sped away from a parking lot where one killing occurred.
There are no suspects, although Montgomery County police said they would question Robert Gene Baker III, a North Carolina man who was detained in Fairfax County yesterday on an auto-theft warrant from Florida. Chief Moose said police traced a weapon that had once belonged to Mr. Baker, but that Mr. Baker had returned the weapon to a store and someone else bought it.
There are no apparent similarities or connections among the victims, who are of varying ethnicities and ages.
There are no fingerprints to compare, no footprints to examine, no reports of suspicious persons to pursue.
The only evidence so far: Each victim died from a single bullet fired from a high-powered rifle or handgun across some distance, perhaps as much as 650 yards. Tests on bullet fragments indicate the same gun a weapon most likely using .223-caliber ammunition was used in three of the Montgomery County shootings, the D.C. slaying and the Fredericksburg shooting.
The 43-year-old Spotsylvania woman was shot in the back in a parking lot at a Michaels craft store in Fredericksburg, about 55 miles south of Rockville, at about 2:30 p.m. Friday. Less than an hour before the first victim was killed last Wednesday, the window of a Michaels craft store in Aspen Hill was shot out.
"At this point, it's a very difficult case to solve," said Jim Pasco, a retired assistant director at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). "But we're only several days into this thing. And I think that, with the high technology our police agencies have, the federal agencies involved, these murders will be solved."
Chief Moose said his department is the lead jurisdiction examining these "local crimes," adding that the FBI has offered its resources and assistance but has not sought to take charge of the investigation.
Each victim was gunned down in a very public place during a 26-hour rampage that began Wednesday evening and ended Thursday night:
James Martin, 55, of Silver Spring was killed at 6:04 p.m Wednesday outside a grocery store in Wheaton.
James L. Buchanan, 39, of Blacksburg, Va., was killed at 7:41 a.m. Thursday while mowing a lawn at an auto dealership on Rockville Pike.
Premkumar Walekar, 54, of Olney was killed at 8:12 a.m. Thursday at a gas station in Aspen Hill.
Sarah Ramos, 34, of Silver Spring was killed at 8:37 a.m. Thursday outside a post office in a shopping center near Leisure World.
Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera, 25, of Silver Spring was killed at 9:58 a.m. Thursday at a gas station in Kensington.
Pascal Charlot, 72, of the District was shot about 9:15 p.m. Thursday while standing at Georgia Avenue and Kalmia Road NW. He died later at the Washington Hospital Center.
Five of the six fatal shootings occurred during evening and morning rush hours, when it is more difficult for police to respond, law enforcement noted. One police official said the time of the shootings shows the killers may have planned their attacks to lessen the chance of their being caught.
Backed by U.S. Park Police helicopters, officers have raced around the metropolitan area in a massive manhunt. Dozens of white vans have been stopped throughout the area, including interstate highways and rural roads.
Police have received more than 600 tips, county officials said.
Yesterday, federal and Montgomery County investigators examined the vehicle of the woman who was shot in the back outside a Michaels craft store at the Spotsylvania Mall in Fredericksburg about 2:30 p.m. Friday. The car was brought from Virginia to Montgomery County for the examination.
"We are convinced, or we certainly strongly think, there are possible evidentiary items in that vehicle," said Chief Moose.
The chief also said investigators are talking to Mr. Baker, who was arrested in Fairfax on a 10-year-old auto-theft warrant from Florida. He would not elaborate on why detectives would seek to interview Mr. Baker, 33, who had been reported as a missing person in Montgomery County.
"We don't want to make any assumptions. We simply want to talk to him," he said, stressing that Mr. Baker is not a suspect.
The News & Observer newspaper of Raleigh, N.C., reported yesterday that state police had issued a bulletin for Mr. Baker, formerly of Raleigh. The newspaper described Mr. Baker as a drug user affiliated with various militia and white-supremacist groups.
Investigators have collected private security camera videos from the numerous businesses near the murder scenes on the chance that the shooter's vehicle had been photographed at one of the sites. Police officials said authorities were reviewing a surveillance tape from one of the sites, declining to release details except to say "it has been helpful."
With the surveillance videos, police will need to rely on ballistic evidence since it's the only physical evidence that's been recovered from the crime scenes, said Mr. Pasco, the former ATF agent.
Police believe the bullets used in the attacks may be .223-caliber, the ammunition used in the AR-15, a popular weapon among hunters, recreational shooters and others. The AR-15 is the civilian version of the standard M-16 military assault rifle.
A federal law enforcement official said if the shooter used .223-caliber ammunition, the bullets were probably armor piercing black-tipped, copper-jacketed missiles with a solid steel core. More powerful than regular loads, armor-piercing ammunition can penetrate a target and pass through a person, making it difficult for police to find a sample for a ballistics test.
A ballistics test compares fired bullets or cartridge casings to identify the firearm from which they were discharged through the identification of unique characteristics or marks that each firearm leaves on the bullets and cartridge casings when the weapon is fired.
Investigators will check gun stores and other outlets for the names of people who might have purchased an AR-15 or bought armor-piercing bullets, the official said. Theoretically, that evidence could be matched to a registered weapon or one that has been confiscated at a crime scene or from a suspect.
"That would be a huge step toward solving these crimes," said Mr. Pasco, who is the executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police. Beside that, he said, police can only "pound the pavement," looking for clues or witnesses.
An important tool in the investigation, authorities said, will be an FBI psychological profile, which helps identify culprits based on an analysis of the nature of their offenses and the manner in which they are committed.
The profile usually is combined with other pertinent details and physical evidence, and then compared with the characteristics of known personality types and mental abnormalities to develop a working description of the culprit.
Police and FBI investigators were working on a profile of the shooter yeserday. The ATF also brought in a "geographical profiler" to help determine if there is a pattern in the location of the slayings.
Profilers have said the killer is probably a calculating white man in his 20s or early 30s who lives near the sites of the Maryland killings, is well-trained in shooting and has a score to settle.
"This isn't somebody who just snapped," said Clinton Van Zandt, a former FBI agent and bureau profiler. "This is someone who likes what they're doing. This is someone who is playing God. They're sticking their finger in the face of the authorities and society."
Mr. Van Zandt, a noted profiler who served as the FBI's chief hostage negotiator in the 1993 siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, said the gunman "is somebody who is cold, who is calculating, who has the skills and doesn't care who they hurt."
Meanwhile, the mourning for the victims formally began yesterday with a memorial Mass led by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Rockville. Hundreds of people packed the church to pray for the victims, their families and peace. Cardinal McCarrick urged them to not change their daily routines.
"We must say to ourselves at this time, as at every time when problems come, as on September 11 do not let anxiety, do not let fear turn us back," he said.
Matthew Cella contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.


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