Charles Moose looks deeply pained on the cover of his book about his life and sudden vault into fame as head of the Washington area sniper investigation. His brow is screwed tightly and his eyes cast downward in the close-up photo.
Much of what follows in the 319-page “Three Weeks in October” may explain why.
Anger over a life he said was tinged by racism. The tremendous pressure of leading the massive manhunt. Sorrow over the loss of life. And a simmering bitterness over the criticism that followed when he signed a deal in January with publisher E.P. Dutton to tell his story.
“It’s the story of how I went from being lionized for helping bring the snipers to justice to being vilified for writing a book about it,” the former Montgomery County police chief writes in his introduction.
Mr. Moose’s book goes on sale today, nearly a year after the sniper shootings in the Washington area. It is his insider account of the manhunt for perpetrators of the shootings, combined with the story of his North Carolina childhood and his rise through the police ranks.
The release caps nine months of dispute over whether Mr. Moose could write the book. Montgomery County’s ethics panel ruled he couldn’t profit off his job as police chief. He filed lawsuits to overturn the decision, but ended up quitting in June, concluding that he couldn’t keep his job and write the book.
He has no regrets about leaving and partially blames the news media for his problems. He said coverage of the case helped make the situation in Montgomery County “untenable” for him to stay on as police chief.
“I could have turned my back on that option,” he said of writing the book, in an interview on Saturday. “But at the same time, it just seemed like the right thing to do.”
Mr. Moose sees much of life through the prism of race. He writes about the segregated school he attended and of seeing his father turned away from a whites-only restaurant. He tells of being shunned by blacks as well as whites for marrying a white woman. He says he still faces discrimination, even in the health club in his apartment building.
He reveals little about the three-week sniper investigation that isn’t public knowledge. Much of his story simply describes the players involved and chronicles his thoughts as the shootings unfolded.
When six persons were shot in 24 hours starting Oct. 2, the chief and his commanders were dumbfounded. There was no connection between the victims and no big clues. He said he thought the shooter was someone having “one hell of a bad day” who would be caught or killed quickly.
But as time passed and more people were shot, Mr. Moose had to admit that he couldn’t give the public what it needed most from the police — safety.
“People want the police to tell them what to do, that it is going to be OK,” he said in an interview. “We couldn’t do that. You felt like you were letting everybody down.”
He worried for his job as the shootings grew and struggled with relinquishing some control to federal law enforcement. When the shootings were over, he had a hard time feeling happy and apologized to the victims’ families for not solving the crime earlier, he writes.
He frequently criticizes the press, especially reporters and news organizations that reported on leaks from investigators. He says the release of a tarot card left at a Bowie shooting scene may have prolonged the spree by cutting off fragile communications with the sniper.
Although prosecutors and defense attorneys for sniper suspects Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad have expressed concern about Moose’s book being released before the trials this fall, Mr. Moose believes his story won’t sway potential jurors.
He writes that he has mixed feelings about Mr. Malvo and Mr. Muhammad facing the death penalty. Both are black, a racial group that faces death sentences in disproportionate numbers, Mr. Moose writes.
“I don’t think there was a lot of cheering in the black community that these guys were going to go on trial in a death penalty state,” he said.
Mr. Moose embarks on a book tour this week, with appearances on morning talk shows and NBC’s “Tonight Show.” He has talked to Greensboro, N.C., and Sacramento, Calif., about police chief openings, but hasn’t been offered a job.
His life is much different now, out of uniform for the first time in 28 years and dealing with sudden, possibly fleeting fame and a hazy future.
“I’ve just chosen to say that it was all part of God’s plan, and I will just go with it,” he said.