In October 2002, as a series of deadly sniper attacks terrified Washington area residents and gripped the nation, journalists from across the country descended on the region.
For three weeks, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo shot indiscriminately, killing 10 people in the District, Maryland and Virginia. During that time, reporters, editors and photographers from The Washington Post worked alongside journalists from local and national news outlets. They camped outside the Rockville police station, hurried from one shooting site to the next, covering the random killings and, ultimately, the shooters’ arrests, trials and convictions.
The Washington Post reached out to some of these journalists to ask: “What memory of the D.C. sniper killings in 2002 has stuck with you to this day?”
Read the responses we received, and share your own memories in the comments below, or tweet them at @postlocal or use the #lifeduringsniper hashtag.
Bill O’Leary, Washington Post photographer:“I was dispatched that first morning to the Leisure World area of Silver Spring to shoot the aftermath at the chicken restaurant. The victim was still slumped on a bench in front of the shop, covered by a sheet with a spreading bloodstain on it. Directly above was a glaring bullet hole in the front window.... After they were apprehended, I learned that the shooters had been using the YMCA in my neighborhood, Silver Spring, literally blocks from my house, throughout their murderous spree. They were right under my nose for almost the whole time.”
Matthew Barakat, northern Virginia reporter for the Associated Press: ”For the first week or so, the shootings had been in Maryland and in Fredericksburg, so I wasn’t involved much. In fact, there was a big murder trial going on in Loudoun County — Clara Jane Schwartz — who had convinced her Renaissance Fair friends to kill her father with a sword.... Then Dean Meyers was shot Oct. 9 in Manassas. I remember the morning of Oct. 10, all the reporters who had been covering the Schwartz trial were out at the gas station in Manassas, watching as police cadets walked shoulder to shoulder looking for shell casings or some other piece of evidence.”
Mary Ellin Arch, former Virginia news editor for the Associated Press: “I specifically remember the frenzy of trying to ‘match’ stories that had been fabricated by New York Times reporter Jayson Blair. We couldn’t match the stories, of course, because they weren’t based on fact.... Rumors abounded, and the 24-hour TV news ‘coverage’ of rumors made it even more difficult to do reporting based on facts. There were lots of long days and nights at work to try to come up with accurate coverage of this story.”
Hamil Harris, Washington Post reporter:“On three different occasions, I was in the area where the snipers struck, but the scariest moment came when I took a few days off to go pick up my aunt from Atlanta, and the sniper struck in Virginia [as I was driving through]. As a result, the Post paid the airfare for Aunt Betty [to fly up to Washington], and I reported from the scene. I was there moments after the attack.”
Dorothy Abernathy, Associated Press bureau chief in Richmond: “My eldest child, Maureen, was going to a campus-style middle school with all classroom doors leading outside. That school was only a mile or two from the gas station near the Parham Road-Broad Street intersection in Richmond where the snipers had made a phone call.... I still remember how uneasy she was about going to school that first day back. My mother wanted me to pack up the kids and go to Ohio until the snipers were caught.”
Ricky Carioti, Washington Post photographer: “The most memorable moment was the night that the snipers got caught. I remember lying down on my sofa with a police scanner at my side thinking that I could sit up all night and listen in on police calls. Well, I finally fell asleep with my scanner on and I got a call from my editor, Michel du Cille, at 3:30 in the morning telling me that the snipers were caught down the street from my house and to go and get on scene ASAP. As it turns out, I live down the street from the rest area where the snipers were finally captured in Myersville, Md.”
Michael Ruane, Washington Post reporter: “A lot of what I remember is sad and gruesome: The awful crime scene photos from the killing of Linda Franklin ... on her back in the Home Depot parking lot with her arms out, like she’d been crucified, and had a ghastly bullet wound to the head. The photo of the body of James Martin under a sheet in the supermarket parking lot, with his feet sticking out. The photo of Sarah Ramos, slumped over on the bench under a blood-soaked sheet... The morning of the arrest was glorious. I remember going up to Georgia Avenue, where Pascal Charlot had been killed, to get some [reactions]. It was a cloudy, cool, kind of misty morning and I recall thinking what a beautiful day it was.”