- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2003

Cynthia Robinson walked down Rockville Pike in north Bethesda yesterday afternoon without the fear she had one year ago — when a man mowing grass at a nearby car dealership was shot and killed for no apparent reason.

The victim, James L. Buchanan, would be the first of five victims killed that day by a sniper or snipers. It was the start of three weeks of terror in the Washington area that ended with 13 persons shot, including 10 who died.

“That whole time the event was going on, I was afraid to stand anywhere outside,” Ms. Robinson said. “After [the suspects] were caught, I felt safe.”

Police arrested John Allen Muhammad, 42, and Lee Boyd Malvo, 18, at a highway rest stop in Frederick County, Md. Mr. Muhammad’s trial on two counts of capital murder is set to begin Oct. 14 in Virginia Beach. Mr. Malvo’s trial on the same charges is set to begin Nov. 10 in Chesapeake, Va.

Ms. Robinson and others in the area yesterday recalled the fear they felt knowing that someone was randomly shooting at people in the public places in which they worked, ate or shopped, and that it was being done from places where the shooter or shooters could not be seen.

“When it’s right outside your door, there’s a different dimension to it,” said Dottie Fitzgerald, vice president of Fitzgerald Automotive, where Mr. Buchanan, known as “Sonny,” had been mowing the grass behind the dealership.

Behind the dealership, potted chrysanthemums surround a utility pole that has a stuffed animal and a Gaithersburg High School pennant tied around it in Mr. Buchanan’s memory. Two of five spots where the victims were shot on Oct. 3 were marked with memorials for the victims.

Mrs. Fitzgerald said yesterday Mr. Buchanan was a friend as much as an employee.

“No matter who you were, he said, ‘Hi. How are you?’” she said.

Mrs. Fitzgerald said Mr. Buchanan’s co-workers have received counseling on how to deal with the traumatic experience.

The shootings, she said, made her think twice before going to certain places. She stopped getting gas at a nearby filling station.

Dan Bowden, who was walking in front of the dealership yesterday, said the shootings demonstrated the evil man is capable of creating.

“Before, it was somewhere else,” said Mr. Bowden, of Olney. “It was over in Israel, it was over in the bad part of town. It makes you see that, hey, that can happen anywhere.”

Exactly 31 minutes after Mr. Buchanan was shot — at 8:12 a.m. — Premkumar Walekar was shot while refueling his cab at the Mobil gas station at Connecticut Avenue and Aspen Hill Road.

Rafael Tan, a sales associate from Olney who was pumping gas at the same Mobil yesterday, said he clearly remembers Oct. 3, 2002. Though the shootings did not change his way of doing things or make him walk around more carefully, they did give him pause.

“I wasn’t really scared,” Mr. Tan said. “But I was wondering what was going through their minds to make them do this. They didn’t have any reason, so why were they doing this?”

There is no memorial on the bench on which victim Sarah Ramos, 34, sat when she became the third victim that day, at 8:37 a.m.

For weeks after her death, people would fill the bench in Aspen Hill near Leisure World Plaza with flowers, teddy bears and other mementos. It now sits inconspicuously down the street.

“People would come up and stand in front of the bench, praying,” Mary Anne Sonnenschein, 71, said yesterday.

Two small floral bouquets mark the spot where Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera, 25, was killed at 9:58 a.m. outside a Shell gas station in Kensington. She was vacuuming her minivan.

Flowers were placed at the spot for about seven months and Mrs. Lewis-Rivera’s husband came almost every day.

“But it has been some time” since flowers were there, Shell co-owner John Mistry, 48, said yesterday.

When Pascal Charlot, 72, was shot and killed near the Foot Shop store on Georgia Avenue, shoppers began avoiding the area, Chinedu Mgbodille, an employee of the store said yesterday. There is no memorial there, either.

“There was a lot of confusion,” he said. “A lot of people came in the store and asked what happened. People were scared. People were confused. People didn’t want to come out of their homes. … It doesn’t seem like a year.”


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