- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 16, 2004


LAS VEGAS — The man suspected in two dozen sniper shootings that have terrorized motorists along Ohio highways was arrested at a Las Vegas motel early today.

Charles A. McCoy Jr., 28, was taken into custody two days after he was named as a suspect in the shootings that left one woman dead and pierced cars and homes in the Columbus area, said Las Vegas police Lt. Christopher Van Cleef.

“We got him in custody without incident,” Van Cleef said.

Police were told of McCoy’s whereabouts by a man who spotted him at the Stardust casino, recognized him from media reports and found out where he was staying, Van Cleef said. Las Vegas police staked out the motel and arrested McCoy in the parking lot.

“He wasn’t armed, but we haven’t been in the motel room or his vehicle yet,” Van Cleef said. He said police have impounded the car that McCoy was driving.

Authorities had said McCoy had a history of mental illness and was believed to be armed, with “suicidal or homicidal tendencies.” His family disputed that description, calling McCoy troubled but peaceful.

“I knew it would happen without incident because he was a very passive individual,” McCoy’s sister Amy Walton said on NBC’s “Today” show. “This came as a great shock to our family.”

When asked what she would say to her brother, Walton said, “We can’t wait to talk to you. Everything will be OK.”

Police have not suggested a motive for the sniper attacks, and few details have emerged about their suspect.

Conrad Malsom, 60, of Las Vegas said he told authorities he met McCoy at the Stardust casino Tuesday. He said he offered McCoy a slice of pizza but recognized the disheveled-looking man with a darkening beard.

McCoy was reading a copy of USA Today that featured his photograph, Malsom said.

“In my heart and mind, I knew this was the man the police in Ohio were looking for,” Malsom told The Associated Press.

He said McCoy told him his name was “Mike” and that he was staying at the nearby motel. When he left the casino, Malsom found “bizarre writing” on an 8 1/2 by 14-inch sports betting sheet the man left behind.

“It filled the whole sheet - about 30 lines,” Malsom said. “Each line started with ‘You’ or ‘You are’ but you can’t read it, you can’t read any of it.”

He said he turned the sheet over to authorities, along with a water glass, match book and lunch wrappers that McCoy left behind.

FBI special agent Todd Palmer said McCoy is being processed in the agency’s office and likely will be transferred to the U.S. attorney’s office. Authorities said McCoy had been questioned about the shootings, but not charged.

An arrest warrant accuses McCoy of felonious assault in a shooting with a 9 mm handgun that damaged a house Dec. 15.

The 24 shootings around several highways on the southern outskirts of Columbus pierced homes and a school, dented school buses, flattened tires and shattered windshields. They began in May.

The shootings prompted commuters to take detours and schools to cancel classes or hold recess indoors. Police increased patrols and the state installed cameras on poles along Interstate 270.

The only person struck, Gail Knisley, 62, was killed as a friend drove her to a doctor’s appointment Nov. 25. Lab tests showed that bullets from nine of the shootings - including the one that killed Knisley - were fired from the same gun.

Edward Cable of Lucasville, whose minivan was hit by a bullet as he was driving on Nov. 21, said Wednesday he was glad to see McCoy was picked up, “not so much for myself, but for anybody else who’s worried about getting him off the street.”

Authorities haven’t said what evidence led them to McCoy. Newspaper and television reports Tuesday said McCoy’s family gave investigators at least one of his guns.

In a missing person’s report filed Monday, McCoy’s mother, Ardith, said her son withdrew $600 from a bank account and left home Friday for a mall restaurant and bar with video games.

Neighbors on McCoy’s street said they didn’t know much about the suspect or his mother. A check of court records in nearby counties turned up a handful of traffic tickets for McCoy, but no other criminal or civil charges.

The tan garage doors at the house were splattered with three eggs Tuesday. Police said they did not know who hurled the eggs or when they were thrown.

McCoy’s high school football coach said he’s praying for his former player.

“He was an ornery kid, but a lot of kids are ornery at that age,” said Brian Cross, who coached McCoy for four years at Grove City High School. “I don’t remember him doing anything extreme.”

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