Police wait for response from sniper

Police on Tuesday were waiting for a response to their plea to the Washington area sniper, who has killed nine people, wounded three, spread panic to millions and stumped investigators for nearly three weeks.

Charles Moose, police chief for Montgomery County in Maryland where five people were killed since October 2, said on Monday that some kind of communication had been established with the sniper, or someone close to the killer.

“The message that needs to be delivered is that we are going to respond to a message that we have received. We are preparing a response at this time,” he said, refusing to take related questions.

A few hours later, Moose said investigators wanted a new chance to talk to someone who had made contact on a special line. “The person who called could not hear everything that you said.
The audio was unclear and we want to get it right. Call us back so that we can clearly understand,” the police chief told reporters, again declining to explain the apparent contacts but urging the media to repeat his appeal as much as possible.

Police reportedly found a telephone number near a restaurant in Ashland, Virginia where a 37-year-old man was shot and seriously wounded on Saturday night. Late on Sunday, Moose urged a person who left a message near the restaurant to make contact. “You gave us a telephone number. We do want to talk to you. Call us at the number you provided. Thank you.”

The only previous message from the sniper was left the at the scene of a previous shooting when he reportedly wrote on a Tarot card: “Dear Policeman, I am God”.

Hundreds of investigators swooped on a white van in Richmond, Virginia, early on Monday in what appeared a carefully planned operation by federal and local police that unfortunately did not nab the murderer.

Two men were detained and questioned: one of them was driving a white van that loosely fit the description given by witnesses to the shootings, the other called from a telephone that the suspected sniper may have used the night before. The pair was swarmed by heavily-armed federal agents, but they turned out to be undocumented workers from Mexico and Guatemala, and were turned over to immigration authorities for likely deportation.

“No local charges have been placed” against the pair, command sergeant Tom Shumate of the Henrico County police told reporters. Hanover County Sheriff Stuart Cook also confirmed that ballistic evidence from Saturday’s shooting in a restaurant parking lot had been linked to the other single-bullet attacks.

The 37-year-old male victim was in critical condition in hospital after being shot in the abdomen, but was expected to survive. Several counties in Virginia ordered schools closed on Monday under pressure from anxious parents.

Meanwhile, French authorities sought to temper speculation of a link between a 25-year-old military cadet who disappeared somewhere in the United States and the series of deadly sniper attacks in Washington.

The missing cadet left France’s prestigious officers’ training school in western France for a vacation in the Chicago area in August and never returned. - Sapa-AFP

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