As Wrenching Funeral Is Held, Police Get New Tool in Manhunt
By Sue Anne Pressley and Phuong Ly,
He was the uncle who loved to wink and play practical jokes, the father who proudly showed off his son's first pay stub, the husband who bought a piece of property so his beloved wife would be secure, should something happen to him.
Premkumar Walekar, 54, a cabdriver whose dream was to retire to his native India, was eulogized yesterday in a long, emotional service that included heartfelt reminiscences from his large family and unanswerable questions about the indiscriminate violence that took his life. Walekar, who was killed in Aspen Hill as he pumped gas into his cab, was the third victim of last week's sniper attacks in Montgomery County, the District and Spotsylvania that left six people dead and one wounded -- all of them gunned down by an elusive assailant as they went about the mundane activities of daily life.
"We are here to give the highest honor and respect to Premkumar, an innocent victim who was shot and killed in an instant," said his brother-in-law Lazarus Borge, addressing hundreds of mourners at Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church in Takoma Park. "He was indiscriminately shot dead. . . . He was killed by a single shot. Those cruel hands ended his life like a snap."
As the process of burying the dead began yesterday, law enforcement officials continued their massive manhunt for the sniper.
Speaking to reporters in Rockville, Kim Rossmo, research director of the nonprofit, Washington-based Police Foundation, said he had given investigators a "geoprofile" of the assailant's attack pattern -- a computer-generated analysis that Rossmo said indicates where the killer may live and where the next shooting could occur. He explained the science behind the profile but did not publicly disclose the results of the analysis.
Montgomery Police Chief Charles A. Moose cautioned at a news conference that "it is not 100 percent" dependable. "It does not mean that right now the case will be closed. . . . Now we will take this information and give it to our investigators, and they will add it to their tool belt."
He said police are still awaiting a psychological profile of the sniperfrom the FBI.
In preparing the geoprofile, Rossmo said, researchers analyzed information already gathered by investigators, examined all the crime scenes, interviewed police and witnesses and studied the demographics of the areas where the shootings occurred. They then produced a report that may help police anticipate the next attack and concentrate their search for the sniper on a specific area, Rossmo said.
He said the technique has been used to help solve serial crimes in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, notably a series of rapes in Lafayette, La., in 1998. Even when victims appear to have been chosen indiscriminately, Rossmo said, "there's a pattern there. If we understand this pattern, then we can decode it. . . . We're trying to decode that pattern right now."
One man was shot to death Wednesday night, and two men and two women were slain Thursday morning, all in a 2 1/2-mile radius in Aspen Hill, Glenmont, Kensington and White Flint. Another man was killed Thursday night in the District near the Montgomery line, about five miles from the other shooting locations. The seventh victim, a woman, was wounded Friday afternoon in Spotsylvania, about 50 miles south of Washington.
Ballistics experts have concluded that the same gun was used in at least five of the shootings, and police said they believe that the weapon also was used in the other two, although bullet fragments from those attacks cannot be accurately tested.
"What a profile can do . . . is provide a way for police and investigators to manage the large volume of information that comes in in these types of cases," Rossmo said.
The only surviving victim, the 43-year-old mother of two who was shot outside a Spotsylvania shopping mall, has told investigators that she did not notice anything unusual before she was hit, authorities said. Her condition was upgraded yesterday from serious to fair at Inova Fairfax Hospital.
In Spotsylvania County, investigators continued reviewing surveillance tapes from businesses near the shooting site, and deputies in unmarked cars kept watch over malls and shopping districts.
As investigators began studying the geoprofile yesterday, they appeared to lose all interest in a Rockville man who earlier had been a suspect.
Robert G. Baker III, 33, was reported missing by his wife Sept. 30, along with a rifle he had purchased that fires the same kind of .223-caliber bullets used in all the shootings. But Baker returned that rifle to the store, and his whereabouts at the time of the shootings have been accounted for, authorities said.
In the Takoma Park church, Walekar's wife, Margaret, sat in a front pew, at times crying audibly and being comforted by her son, Andrew, 23, and daughter, Andrea, 24. Photographs of the family flashed on a large screen, along with the words "Dutiful Son," "A Devoted Husband" and "Dedicated Father."
Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) described the feelings of many of those present when he talked of waking up Friday and briefly enjoying a beautiful morning before being struck again by the realization of what had taken place. All of the victims were slain as they did routine things -- mowing a yard, sitting on a bench, pumping gas.
"We have to use our faith to sustain us," Duncan said. "We have to rely on our loved ones. Because if we let the fear, the anxiety overcome us, then we lose our generosity, we lose our caring, we lose our compassion, we lose our kindness, we lose our goodness. Then what will become of us? Evil will have ruled the day."
A funeral is scheduled this morning in Silver Spring for Sarah Ramos, 34. A memorial service is to be held tonight, also in Silver Spring, for Lori Lewis Rivera, 25, who will be buried in Idaho. James L. "Sonny" Buchanan, 39, who lived in Rockville, is to be buried Friday after a private service. Funeral arrangements are incomplete for James D. Martin, 55, of Silver Spring and Pascal Charlot, 72, of Northwest Washington.
A doctor who was at the gas station when Walekar was shot recalled that they had exchanged glances as she sat in her car and Walekar stood beside his vehicle. Then she heard a loud bang. "He looked shocked," said the doctor, who spoke at the funeral at the family's request but would not identify herself later, citing safety reasons. "He walked toward me, toward the open window, and said, 'Call an ambulance,' and then he collapsed."
The doctor said she performed CPR but that there was no response. A Montgomery police officer also performed CPR. Walekar "looked up at the sky," the doctor said, "and he looked extremely peaceful, and he did not look like he was in pain."
Premkumar Walekar was born Sept. 13, 1948, in Pune, India, the eldest of four children. At 18, he immigrated to the United States for better educational opportunities. In his late twenties, he "fell in love" with a photograph of his wife, according to Borge, his brother-in-law. The two were wed in an arranged marriage in 1976.
Margaret Walekar was too upset to address the mourners, her son said. Instead, the service ended with one of the couple's favorite songs, "Every Breath You Take," by the rock group the Police.
Staff writers Michael Amon, Maria Glod and Eric M. Weiss contributed to this report.