- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2002

A Silver Spring wine store clerk, shot in the back as he left work on Sept. 14, may have been overlooked as the first victim of a sniper who has killed six persons and wounded two others in the area over the last week.
"I think I am [a sniper victim] because he has been shooting other people the same," said Rupinder Oberoi, a 22-year-old employee of the Hillandale Wine and Beer Store in Silver Spring. "I have injuries like the small boy. No motive. No reason."
Mr. Oberoi, whose nickname is Bennie, was shot outside a wine store in the 10100 block of New Hampshire Avenue about 10 p.m. on Sept. 14 almost three weeks before the recent spate of shootings began.
He said he was contacted by a Montgomery County detective twice on Monday night and told that police believe he may have been the first of the sniper's victims.
"They think they are [related]," said Mr. Oberoi, who is still recovering. "The evidence [bullet fragments] they took from my body are so small they are not sure."
The attacks since last Wednesday have occurred in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, the District and Fredericksburg, Va.
The shooter doesn't discriminate: Victims have been old, young, male, female and a variety of races:
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 Washington Hospital Center.
Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose said yesterday the shooting of Mr. Oberoi is one of the cases detectives are trying to link to the sniper. He said it was inappropriate to talk about the bullet recovered. He could not confirm that it is linked.
"All investigators are reviewing all the cases that might possibly be tied to this," Chief Moose said.
Mr. Oberoi said his doctor told him the wound appeared to have been made by a .22-caliber bullet about the same size as the .223 caliber bullets used by the sniper. The bullet recovered from Mr. Oberoi's torso had fragmented into so many small pieces officials were uncertain of the size.
The shooting of Mr. Oberoi was first reported yesterday by WUSA-TV (Channel 9).
Mr. Oberoi said he was shot as he crossed the store parking lot after he and his boss closed for the evening.
"We heard the shot. I thought it was a kid playing with a firecracker or something," he said. "Then I stopped breathing for about 10 seconds and my boss looked at my back and there was a small hole. He knew I got shot."
He said that he believes the sniper set up in a wooded area across the street from the store, and that the sound of the shot echoed between the buildings.
Police believe a sniper hid on the ground in a wooded area near Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie Monday morning and shot a 13-year-old boy, who is still in critical condition at Children's Hospital.
The wine and beer shop is located about four miles from other shootings in Montgomery County and is near the line between Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
"I was standing next to him," said Mr. Oberoi's boss, who asked that he not be identified. "We were walking, and the shot rang out and my employee fell. There were people around, but nobody approached us. Nobody tried to rob us."
"He may have been the first victim," the store owner told The Washington Times.


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