Police issue warrant for man linked to sniper case
Police hunting the serial sniper issued an arrest warrant for a 42-year-old man they believe has information about the string of terrifying shootings that have left 10 people dead in the Washington suburbs.
Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose said the man, John Allen Mohammed, should be considered “armed and dangerous” and that he was being sought on a federal weapons charge.
“Do not assume from this allegation that John Allen Mohammed, also known as John Allen Williams, is involved in any of the shootings,” Moose said.
Moose also issued another direct message to the sniper: “Let’s talk directly. We have an answer for you about your option. We are waiting for you to contact us.”
A US official in Washington said authorities were looking for two “people of interest,” including one who was formerly connected to Fort Lewis, an Army base south of Tacoma, Washington, that provides some of the most intense sniper training in the US military.
Moose made no mention of a second person.
The warrant raised hopes that investigators had a solid lead in
their search for the sniper who has also critically wounded three people since October 2.
The announcement came hours after the investigation jumped across the country. FBI agents converged on a rental home in Tacoma with metal detectors and chain saws, carting away a tree stump from the yard and other potential evidence in a U-Haul truck.
The FBI agents, acting on information from the sniper task force, were seeking evidence related to ammunition, a senior law enforcement official in Washington said on condition of anonymity.
FBI agents also visited Bellingham High School, 145 kilometres north of Seattle, on Wednesday. Mayor Mark Asmundson told the Bellingham Herald the agents were apparently seeking information on a male teenager who once attended the school and on an older man. He said both left the area about nine months ago.
Lt. Col. Joseph Piek, a Fort Lewis representative, said the FBI had asked for help from the base. He said he could not confirm reports that a Fort Lewis soldier used to live at the home.
FBI representative Melissa Mallon said the search was consented to by the property owner, but refused to say why agents were there. “There’s no immediate danger to anyone in this neighborhood,” she said.
The back yard was divided into grids, and agents swept metal detectors back and forth over the ground. Other crews used chain saws to remove a stump from the yard and load it onto a truck; a source said the stump would be returned to Washington, DC, for
Pfc. Chris Waters, a Fort Lewis private who lives across the street from the home, said he called police after hearing gunshots in the neighborhood nearly every day in January. “It sounded like a high-powered rifle such as an M-16,Â¯ he said.
“Never more than three shots at a time. Pow. Pow. Pow.”
More than 3 200 kilometres away, worried parents
sent their children off to schools across the Washington area with extra-tight hugs, defying the sniper’s warning that children are not safe “anywhere, at any time”.
Thousands of others kept their kids at home. As expected, police said ballistics and other evidence had confirmed that the bus driver shot to death on Tuesday was the sniper’s 13th victim in the three-week rampage.
Investigators waited three days to reveal the threat against children, which was contained in a letter found after a shooting on Saturday in Ashland, Virginia.
Michael Bouchard of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms insisted vital information was not being withheld.
“We’re all parents and are certainly concerned about the safety of our kids and of our co-workers,” he said. He said if information is released too early,“it inhibits our ability to do the job we
need to be doing”.
For the first time in three days, Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose did not issue a public statement to the sniper. Earlier this week, he implored the sniper to contact authorities and continue a dialogue, and he suggested police were having trouble complying with undisclosed demands.
The latest message believed to be from the killer was a letter found not far from where bus driver Conrad Johnson (35) was shot on Tuesday, two law enforcement said on condition of anonymity.
The message reportedly demands $10 million—the same request sources say was made in Saturday’s letter. - Sapa-AP