- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2002

The shooting yesterday of a 13-year-old boy at a school in Bowie could mean the sniper in last week's shooting spree is becoming more convinced that he can outwit and elude police, a pair of former FBI agents said yesterday.
The gunman responsible for five killings in Montgomery County, one in the District and the wounding of a woman in Spotsylvania County, Va., was most likely cognizant of the press conferences police have given telling parents to continue sending their children to school, even feeding off them, said Clinton Van Zandt, a former FBI agent.
"The person still sought out a target-rich environment where they could play God, where they could look down the barrel of their gun and say, 'I can kill you,'" Mr. Van Zandt said.
The shooter has so far used a three-fold "signature," Mr. Van Zandt said: a .223-caliber round, an apparently random victim and a long, single shot.
Mr. Van Zandt said the resumption of the attacks after two quiet days could be a signal that the shooter's wrath runs deep.
"This is some sort of precipitous anger," he said. "Anger over one thing would have dissipated."
Although the sniper probably is deranged and sees himself as all-powerful, two shootings near Michaels craft stores could signal some connection between the killer and the company, said Charles Bahn, a professor emeritus of forensics at John Jay College of the City University of New York.
A woman was shot in the back Friday afternoon outside a Michaels on the outskirts of Fredericksburg. And less than an hour before the first victim was killed Wednesday, the window of a Michaels craft store in Aspen Hill was shot out. If Michaels stores were a target of sorts, the other shootings could simply be diversions for police, Mr. Bahn said.
The school attack could also be an indication that the offender is younger than profilers originally believed, especially if it is the final shooting, he said. A younger person is more likely to target a school because he may have had a recent problem associated with an educational experience.
Gregg McCrary, another former FBI agent, said the sniper used the school shooting to further disturb people in the area.
"The motive here is to shock and offend the community, and there's nothing more shocking than shooting a kid," Mr. McCrary said.
Mr. Bahn said that because the victims appear to have been chosen at random, copycat killings are less likely to occur. Usually, those following the example of a killer identify with the cause and are themselves then sparked to kill.
The profilers also said police have to consider the possibility that the shootings could be related to al Qaeda sympathizers. Even if that scenario seems less likely than this being the work of an angry person, investigators shouldn't automatically exclude anyone.
"It's something law enforcement has to look into," Mr. Van Zandt said. "Al Qaeda has trained snipers."
However, Mr. McCrary said the gunman would probably have chosen more specific targets or worked in a manner that demonstrated a clearer motive if working on behalf of a political, social or religious terrorist group.
"It's terrorism in the broadest sense, but as far as having some sort of religious, political or social reason, there's usually some sort of clear message," he said.


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