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20 years Ago: Chilling Memories of the D.C. Sniper Attacks That Terrorized Montgomery County

October 2 marks 20 years for the reason that D.C. Snipers carried out their first assault in Montgomery County. It was just the start of a three-week capturing spree that may terrorize the Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia space.

The shooters, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, carried out a string of assaults from Oct. 2 via Oct. 24, 2002, murdering 10 folks and critically injuring three.

Lots of the assaults occurred in central Montgomery County, the place Muhammad and Malvo shot 9 folks over the course of three weeks. Individuals who lived in Montgomery County again then bear in mind the life-changing concern amid the indiscriminate killings.

“I don’t consider there’s ever been a case that has so profoundly affected our area as this occasion,” stated Montgomery County State’s Legal professional John McCarthy. He acted because the lead lawyer and authorized adviser to the sniper job drive on the time. “I believe, successfully, if you happen to lived right here, you lived in a different way throughout these 20 days in October of 2002.”


Week One

The shootings started at 5:20 p.m. on Oct. 2, when the attackers shot via a window of Michael’s craft retailer in Aspen Hill, narrowly lacking Ann Chapman, a cashier on the retailer. Chapman was unhurt and no alarms had been raised.

Virtually an hour later, the shooters killed James D. Martin, 55, at 6:02 p.m. at a Wheaton Buyers Meals Warehouse parking zone in Montgomery County. Martin was a program analyst with the Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Through the morning rush hour the next day, Oct. 3, Muhammad and Malvo gunned down 5 folks, 4 in Montgomery County between Silver Spring and Rockville within the span of two hours, from 7:41 to 9:58 a.m. 

The primary sufferer was James “Sonny” Buchanan, a 39-year-old landscaper, who was shot lifeless whereas mowing the garden of Fitzgerald Auto Mall in North Bethesda at 7:41 a.m. 

Not even thirty minutes later, Muhammad and Malvo killed Prem Kumar Walekar, a 54-year-old taxi driver whereas he was pumping gasoline in his taxi at a Mobil station in Aspen Hill. 

At 8:37 a.m., Sarah Ramos, 34, was killed after getting off of a bus and studying on a bench on the Leisure World plaza in Silver Spring. She was a housekeeper and a babysitter.

The ultimate sufferer within the morning capturing spree of Oct. third was Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera, 25, who was murdered whereas vacuuming her minivan at a Shell station in Kensington at 9:58 a.m.

By the afternoon, the assaults had been linked by the Montgomery County Police Division (MCPD), prompting a large multi-agency investigation. The victims in each assault had been struck by a single bullet shot from a sure distance earlier than the killers vanished. 

“This type of sequence of victims who misplaced their lives doing issues that everyone else was doing was terrorizing to this space, in that it was the sort of factor that individuals might relate to,” stated Lucille Baur, the Deputy Director of the MCPD public data workplace and one of many police spokespeople on the time. 

“It wasn’t as if this was an excessive scenario that they personally would by no means discover themselves in. These had been on a regular basis conditions that anyone might discover themselves in. So it actually hit residence to have so many individuals shot and killed in such a brief period of time.”

That night on Oct. 3, Pascal Charlot, a 72-year-old retired carpenter, was killed strolling down the streets of Washington D.C. After this assault, over 400 brokers across the nation had been engaged on the case. The assaults had breached the D.C. jurisdiction, inflicting federal companies to change into concerned. 

Solely 13 months after 9/11, fears rose amid worries that one other terrorist assault was underway. “I don’t suppose we knew for positive we weren’t coping with a unique type of a terrorist assault,” stated McCarthy. “ I believe that’s why the entire federal authorities instantly got here working to us that day… the ATF was there, the FBI was there. They had been there instantly.”

The preliminary wave of assaults spurred deep fears within the public. Every sufferer had been murdered whereas doing mundane actions and it started to look like merely going outdoors was to gamble with random horror. 

“Muhammad was actually attempting to create a terrorist environment, which he was in a position to do as a result of everyone was strolling on eggshells,” stated former Maryland lawyer basic Doug Gansler, the chief prosecutor for Montgomery County on the time

“Folks had been ducking after they had been filling up their gasoline tanks, folks had been strolling zigzagging into the grocery store after they had been going grocery purchasing. It actually really affected our space, in some methods, extra straight than 9/11.”

After 3 tense days, on Oct. 7, 13-year-old Iran Brown was critically injured after being shot outdoors his center college in Bowie. Following the assault, the Chief of Police for Montgomery County Charles Moose issued a code blue alert for all Montgomery County Public Faculties (MCPS), requiring youngsters to stay indoors always. MCPD additionally elevated safety presence on college grounds.

“It was an attractive October 2nd to the twenty second,” stated Gansler, who had youngsters in class on the time, “and the children weren’t allowed to exit for recess. They had been all locked all the way down to the colleges and so they had been younger, they didn’t perceive it.”

Though Moose knowledgeable residents that faculties had been protected, many dad and mom resorted to choosing up their youngsters early from college. Area journeys had been postponed.

Baur identified that Iran Brown marked a “turning level” within the sequence of shootings. “This was an harmless youngster on college grounds.”

“This was sort of a lack of innocence for youngsters,” Baur continued. “Households attempt to defend their youngsters from the worst that’s occurring on the market on the planet, however they knew one thing was happening. Faculties had been going into lockdown conditions, recesses had been canceled, and highschool soccer video games and practices had been canceled.”

Conflicting reviews led the police on a wild goose chase, till the Oct. 7 assault left them with their first strong clue. Close to the center college in Bowie the place the boy was shot, press personnel overlaying the scene discovered a tarot card with the phrase “Name me God” written on it. With it was a letter with a chilling message: 

“For you Mr. Policeman

 ‘Name me God’

 Don’t launch to the press…

p.s. your youngsters will not be protected”

The letter from the sniper demanded that $10 million be deposited right into a listed checking account. Further messages from the snipers relayed related rhetoric: youngsters weren’t protected.


Week Two

The media launched pictures of the tarot card and the letter earlier than handing it over to investigators. Moose, who headed the investigation on behalf of MCPD, started to have a tenuous relationship with the rising media presence. He had not meant for the tarot card to be launched.

In his guide Three Weeks in October: The Manhunt for the Serial Sniper, Moose recalled the connection. “There was an opportunity to construct that belief, after which by having the media put [the tarot card] on the market, it simply felt like every try at communication, any try at constructing that belief had been destroyed.”

The media launch of the tarot card was a “devastating blow” to the investigation, stated Baur. “Whenever you’re coping with indiscriminate capturing and you’ve got a clue believed to be from the shooters themselves that claims ‘don’t launch to the press,’ then that’s positively guarded proof. We didn’t know then what would occur subsequent.”

On Oct. 9, Gaithersburg resident Dean Harold Meyers, 53, was killed whereas pumping gasoline in his automobile close to Manassas, Virginia. Kenneth Bridges, father of six, was additionally pumping gasoline when Muhammad and Malvo murdered him close to Fredericksburg, Virginia on Oct. 11.

As FBI hotlines grew to become overwhelmed with the deluge of ideas, one in all their very own, FBI Analyst Linda Franklin, was gunned down whereas she and her husband had been loading their automobile in a Dwelling Depot parking zone in Falls Church, Virginia on the night time of Oct. 14.


Week Three

Jeffrey Hopper, 37, was strolling together with his spouse via a Ponderosa Steakhouse parking zone in Ashland, Virginia on Oct. 19 when he was shot. He survived. 

Three days later, Muhammad and Malvo killed their final sufferer, Conrad Everton Johnson, a 35-year-old Silver Spring bus driver, whereas he was standing on the steps of his bus in Aspen Hill. 

With the tenth dying, strain on authorities reached a fever pitch. Additional, nobody knew that Johnson can be the ultimate sufferer. 

“It was very actual for me, seeing the ache these households felt, feeling the loss they’d skilled,” Moose wrote. “It made the case all of the extra human and horrible.” It additionally grew to become clear that there was no chance of feeling pleasure on the prospect of discovering the killers. 

Across the time of the final capturing, a caller claiming to be the sniper phoned the police. The caller, found later to be Malvo, claimed duty for a liquor retailer theft in “Montgomery.” After vast hypothesis, investigators found he had been referring to a capturing in Montgomery, Alabama. 

The separate assault on Sept. 22, 2002, lower than a month earlier than the primary Maryland assault, had occurred outdoors an Alabama liquor retailer. The supervisor, Claudine Parker, was killed. 

Working in collaboration with the Cellular, Alabama workplace, which had the document of the incident, the FBI was in a position to establish Malvo’s fingerprints on {a magazine} left on the scene. Authorities had been in a position to hyperlink Malvo to Muhammad and establish them because the prime suspects.

On Oct. 23, authorities launched a late night time alert for 2 males in a blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice with New Jersey plates. 

Round 3:15 a.m. the next morning, police positioned the snipers as they slept at a relaxation cease off Interstate 70 close to Myersville. They arrested 41-year-old John Allen Muhammad and 17-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo with no wrestle.

“Nobody anticipated a peaceable decision, everybody anticipated that the snipers would exit in a blaze of gunfire,” stated Baur. “The officers that responded to the scene knew that they had been actually placing their lives in danger.” 

Gansler echoed that sentiment, saying that he by no means thought the snipers would dwell. “They had been considered killed by, you already know, dying by police or suicide by police,” he stated.

After the arrest, authorities investigated the blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice and found a modified backseat and trunk compartment. Resting within the hidden compartment was the suspected homicide weapon, a .223 Bushmaster rifle.

FBI photos of the car present a small gap drilled above the rear license plate as a line of sight to view via a gun scope. The distressed look of the automobile and the small gap made it inconspicuous from a distance and allowed the attackers to flee the crime scenes swiftly or to attend close by till the police exercise was over.

(Chevrolet Caprice/FBI)

After the snipers had been taken into police custody, the horror within the DMV space lastly got here to an finish. “There was monumental reduction,” stated Baur. “For me, tears, I imply there was super strain all through this investigation. Feelings ran excessive. Everybody was exhausted.”



With the press closing in on each tip relating to the placement of the shooters, authorities moved Muhammad and Malvo to an offsite constructing for questioning. “We didn’t take them to the police headquarters due to the media circus,” stated Gansler. “We introduced them to an workplace park for juvenile justice to interview.”

Authorities struggled to get Muhammad to confess involvement within the crimes. Malvo, then again, finally opened up and admitted guilt. 

Prosecutors now had grounds for a trial.

Earlier than a trial might start, prosecutors labored to resolve which jurisdiction Muhammad and Malvo can be tried in. Prosecutors sought the utmost punishment. The 2 had been each extradited from Maryland to Virginia.

“Virginia had an out there dying penalty for each individuals within the sniper shootings,” stated McCarthy. “We had already outlawed the dying penalty on the time for these beneath the age of 18, so Mr. Malvo would by no means have been eligible for dying in Maryland.”



When Muhammad’s trial got here a couple of 12 months after the arrest, a jury heard from greater than 130 witnesses and noticed over 400 items of proof. The prosecution had one main hurdle to beat to get him convicted on particular fees: they had been unable to show which shooter dedicated every of the murders. 

Virginia state attorneys finally introduced 4 fees in opposition to Muhammad. On Nov. 17, 2003, he was convicted of all of them: one rely of first-degree homicide, homicide with the intent to terrorize the federal government or public, conspiracy to commit homicide, and the unlawful use of a firearm. 

In a Virginia courtroom on March 9, 2004, he was sentenced to dying for the homicide of Dean Meyers. Muhammad was later executed by deadly injection on Nov. 10, 2009. 

After a separate simultaneous trial, Malvo was convicted of capital homicide within the state of Virginia and sentenced to life in jail with out parole. A 2012 U.S. Supreme Court docket ruling decided obligatory life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional, permitting Malvo to request new sentencing hearings. He requested parole in August of 2022 however was denied. 

“I believe this may be a very robust case for somebody to cut back his sentence and have him launched again into the neighborhood, merely due to the sheer quantity of victims that had been in these circumstances,” McCarthy said.

Malvo stays in jail to at the present time. 

No matter Muhammad and Malvo’s sentencing, this neighborhood lacked a way of justice. “This factor has left an emotional scar on this neighborhood that is still 20 years later,” stated McCarthy.

Bob Meyers, the youthful brother of sufferer Dean Meyers, spoke about their household’s emotions of closure amid their loss. “We consider that the justice system labored and it took the scenario to its applicable finish,” he stated. “However so far as closure, personally, you solely get that if you happen to get your relative again and we’ll by no means have that.”

He recalled fond reminiscences of his brother and spoke of their connection as younger youngsters. “He taught me to experience my bike, I discovered to play baseball beneath his tutelage,” he stated. “So we had been actually brothers in that sense.”

Charles Moose gained nationwide fame and acclaim because the face of the investigation. He signed a profitable guide deal to put in writing about his experiences shortly after Muhammad and Malvo had been apprehended.

The Montgomery County ethics fee dominated that taking cash from a writer violated a legislation that prohibits county officers from profiting off of their positions. After the controversy,  Moose resigned as chief of police for Montgomery County in June 2003 . He was paid $170,000 to put in writing the guide and obtained a $4-per-book royalty.

Moose later labored as a patrolman for the Honolulu Police Division from 2006 to 2010 earlier than retiring to Florida. He died whereas watching a soccer recreation in his residence in Palm Harbor, Florida on Nov. 25, 2021, in response to a Fb publish by his household. He was 68.

The neighborhood remembers the ten victims of the assaults and extends sympathies to households dealing with heavy loss. “Each single life that was misplaced was private to all of us, there was no jubilation when it had come to an finish,” stated Baur.

MyMCM has produced a one-hour present referred to as “3 Weeks of Hell”: The D.C. Sniper Assaults, 20 Years Later that debuts Friday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. on MCM cable channels 21 (SD) and 995 (HD) and MCM’s YouTube web page. The present may even be on mymcmedia.org and all of MCM’s social media platforms.

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