- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2002

Last week, it was shootings on city sidewalks and crowded shopping centers. Now it's an attack on a 13-year-old walking into a Bowie school. Suddenly the mundane tasks of everyday life have taken on a frightful edge for people who live in the Washington area.
The latest victim in the spree of nine shootings that has left six dead and two wounded in Maryland, the District and Virginia was an eighth-grade student who had been dropped off by his aunt in front of Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie just after 8 a.m. The boy remained in serious condition after surgery at Children's Hospital in the District yesterday.
Fred Robinson, the mayor of Bowie, said the sniper attack jolted the town of 53,000 just 15 miles east of the District.
"We're a peaceful, family community," Mr. Robinson said. "You don't expect to send your child to school to have them shot."
After the school shooting and a false report of another shooting at a nearby Wal-Mart about an hour later benches in front of a Safeway and the outdoor cafe at the Starbucks in the Bowie Town Center on Excelsior Drive were empty. So were the parking lots and gas stations in the area.
Shops such as the Hair Cuttery shut down at noon because there were no customers. Others ordered their employees to stand away from the windows or keep a careful watch on the back doors to their stores. Some store employees didn't show up for work, managers said.
Tensions were high, and no wanted to be the next victim. One woman ducked and shielded her head with her hands as she quickly ran out of a store toward her car.
"People are scared," said Mike Price, 24, of Laurel, who is an assistant manager at the Petco near Tasker Middle School. "People are afraid to come over and shop today. What do you expect? These kinds of things shouldn't happen in your own neighborhood."
Outside the school, seventh-grader Kevin Rice was shaken up. Kevin lives directly across from the school and said he heard the gunshot from his living room.
"I thought it was a tire that popped," he said.
Kevin said he went to class like normal yesterday, but after hearing what happened he's not sure he wants to go back.
"I just don't want to go to school anymore," he said. "I'm afraid I'm going to get killed."
Meanwhile, 20 miles west of Bowie in Montgomery County, residents tried to go on with their lives as it became clear that the shooting spree that claimed five victims in the county Wednesday night and Thursday continued.
Yesterday was the first time Ethel Horton, 78, left her apartment to run errands at the Leisure World Plaza, the site of one of the six killings. Mrs. Horton stopped by the bench where Sarah Ramos, 34, was fatally shot Thursday morning while sitting in front of the Crisp & Juicy restaurant. Dozens of flowers adorn that bench, and a bright red and white poster that reads, "Thou Shalt Not Kill," hangs on the restaurant's storefront.
"It shook me up terribly, hearing the news this morning," Mrs. Horton said of the latest shooting as she stood next to the bench, looking at the hole that was left by the bullet. "But these are the times I guess that we live in now."
Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan acknowledged the heightened sense of fear in the county.
"I think this community is in a state of fear, a state of anxiety, and we all need to do our part to reach out and comfort each other," Mr. Duncan said.
Still, residents were nervous.
Willierd Glover, 83, who lives in the retirement complex next to Leisure World Plaza, said he's trying to take things "day by day."
Mr. Glover said he is more aware of his surroundings, always on the lookout for a white van or delivery truck that police have said was seen speeding away from one of the crime scenes.
"Look at that truck," Mr. Glover said, pointing to a white delivery truck parked near the entrance of the strip mall. "Maybe it's the truck that police are looking for. It's just sitting there, with its headlights on," he said. "You've always got to watch your back, especially now. You just don't know where he's going to hit next."


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