- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2002

Montgomery County police are reviewing unsolved shootings for links to eight sniper attacks that have killed six persons in the metropolitan area in the past week, focusing on a similar attack in Silver Spring last month.
Police are investigating a Sept. 14 shooting at the Hillandale Wine and Beer Store in which Rupinder Oberoi, 22, was shot once in the back. Mr. Oberoi yesterday said detectives have contacted him twice since Monday, telling him the shooting may be related to the others.
Meanwhile, Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday, in his first public appearance during the sniper crisis, called the gunman a "coward" and urged him to surrender to authorities.
"We will catch you and bring you to justice," said Mr. Glendening, who joined other regional leaders in a show of solidarity during a news conference at Montgomery County police headquarters in Rockville.
Police officials also announced yesterday that the reward for information leading to an arrest in the sniper attacks has risen to more than $235,000.
A day after a 13-year-old boy was shot outside Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, schools around the metropolitan area reported that attendance was slightly less than usual.
The boy, whose identity has not been disclosed, was in critical but stable condition yesterday at Children's Hospital in the District, hospital officials said.
A 43-year-old Spotsylvania County woman who was shot in the back Friday at a mall in Fredericksburg, Va., was released from Inova Fairfax Hospital yesterday. Her identity has not been disclosed.
Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose yesterday said 1,450 credible leads have been culled from more than 6,000 tips from the public, although police acknowledged having few solid clues or eyewitness accounts to solve the killings.
Chief Moose refused to give specific details about the Sept. 14 shooting at the Silver Spring liquor store, saying only that investigators "are reviewing all cases that might possibly be tied" to the sniper attacks.
Mike Bouchard, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), said the Sept. 14 shooting "could be linked" to the other attacks but that the "ballistic evidence was inconclusive."
A task force of FBI agents, Secret Service agents and ATF officials mobilized yesterday to Montgomery County, where five of the six killings occurred within a 16-hour period last Wednesday and Thursday.
The sixth killing happened in Northwest near the D.C.-Montgomery County border Thursday night.
ATF officials have determined that .223-caliber bullets were used in most of the shootings. But no pattern has been detected among the victims. The victims were males and females of nearly all races and ranged in age from 13 to 62. Each victim was hit by a single bullet fired from a distance.
While police have spoken of a single sniper, the possibility that more than one person is involved has not been ruled out.
Police have ruled out as a suspect Robert Baker, 33, who was arrested Saturday in Fairfax County on an auto-theft warrant from Florida. Chief Moose said police traced a weapon that formerly belonged to Mr. Baker but added that Mr. Baker had returned the weapon to a store, where another customer bought it.
Mr. Baker's wife had reported him missing last week and told police he had a weapon similar to that being sought in the shootings.
Students in Montgomery, Fairfax and Prince George's county schools were kept inside yesterday, and after-school activities were canceled.
Fairfax and Prince George's schools today will continue to keep children inside for recess and other activities. Montgomery students are off today for a scheduled staff-development day.
Prince George's County police Chief Gerald Wilson said investigators are examining a shell casing found at the scene of the shooting outside the Bowie middle school.
He also said a man whose apartment was searched in Bowie late Monday was taken into custody. WUSA-TV (Channel 9) reported that the apartment search yielded seven weapons, including rifles and handguns. Chief Wilson said none of the guns found matched the bullets used in the sniper attacks.
Chief Moose pleaded with reporters and the public yesterday to remain patient with investigators. "If you have become impatient because no one is in custody then you have to check yourself," he said. "Americans have a tendency to become impatient."
Police are continuing to search for the white box truck that was seen leaving Leisure World, a retirement community in Aspen Hill, on Thursday after one of the fatal attacks. A similar truck reportedly was seen after the shooting near the Bowie middle school.
Chief Moose said Attorney General John Ashcroft assured him yesterday that he will provide the county with whatever federal resources are needed. "This situation now has the attention of our law enforcement leaders to the highest level in our local, state and federal governments," Chief Moose said.
He would not say whether psychological and geographical profiles that might describe the sniper were completed. He said such profiles might "limit the investigation" and create a "tunnel vision" in the public, discouraging people from calling in with information about people who did not fit the profile.
Asked whether the shooter might be watching the televised news conferences about the attacks, Chief Moose said, "This is not entertainment."
Jon Ward and H.J. Brier contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.


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