Intelligence Specialist's Shooting Stirs Speculation
Sunday, March 4, 2007
In some ways, the shooting of Paul Joyal last week in a quiet, middle-class enclave of Prince George's County would seem like nothing more than a random act of violence.
But for those who know the 53-year-old expert on Russian intelligence and former staff member of the U.S. Senate's intelligence committee, the shooting has raised suspicions that his background might be behind the incident.
Law enforcement sources have said it is unclear whether the gunmen were trying to rob Joyal. He was shot in the driveway of his home shortly after returning from a trip to the International Spy Museum in the District with a friend.
Two men shot Joyal about 7:35 p.m. Thursday, sources said. The shooting occurred four days after Joyal alleged in a television broadcast that the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin was involved in the fatal poisoning of a former KGB agent in London.
Prince George's police officers have released few details about the incident, and several calls requesting comment were not returned yesterday. Joyal remained hospitalized yesterday.
But an FBI official confirmed yesterday that the agency is looking into the shooting. Joseph Persichini Jr., the FBI's assistant director in charge of the Washington field office, said his office is assisting Prince George's and the Baltimore office of the FBI in the investigation.
"We're pursuing this as hard as possible. We're not at all sure of the motive," Persichini said.
Joyal, who has long been an outspoken critic of the Putin regime, appeared in a segment on "Dateline NBC" Feb. 25 about the Alexander Litvinenko case. Litvinenko's death in November from radiation poisoning has caused widespread speculation that Putin and the Russian government were involved, because Litvinenko, a former KGB agent, was looking into the killing of a Russian journalist. Putin and Kremlin officials have repeatedly denied involvement.
In the "Dateline" interview, Joyal pointedly accused the Putin regime of silencing its critics and poisoning Litvinenko with polonium-210, a rare radioactive substance.
"It's clear-cut. It has to be a state-run or a state-managed operation," Joyal said in the interview.
The circumstances of Joyal's shooting seem worthy of a spy novel.
"I would not rule out anything, but it's hard to believe that a few days [after the broadcast] that some guys would shoot him. It could be just a regular criminal assault," said longtime family friend and former business associate Oleg Kalugin.
Kalugin, a former KGB general and Putin's former boss in the agency, met with Joyal for drinks at a restaurant at the Spy Museum a few hours before the shooting. Kalugin, a member of the museum's board, said in a phone interview yesterday that Joyal seemed in good spirits before leaving for home.
Kalugin said he was shocked when he received a panicked phone call from Joyal's wife about an hour after the men had parted, saying that Joyal had been shot in front of his Adelphi area home.
"I could not believe my ears when she said he was shot. She said Paul drove up to the house, and as he opened the door and left [the car], there were two guys, and they shot him," Kalugin said.
A source close to Joyal, who requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said the unidentified assailants shot Joyal in the groin and escaped.
Joyal's wife, who is a nurse, was at home at the time and ran to assist her husband as he lay bleeding in the driveway, the sources said.
Joyal was taken to a hospital, where he was initially in critical condition. A source said yesterday that Joyal had improved and that doctors were "cautiously optimistic" that he will recover.
Yesterday, four cars were parked in the driveway at Joyal's brick ranch on Lackawanna Road. A boy who answered the door declined to speak to a reporter.
Neighbors and friends said Joyal, who is a member of the Prince George's law enforcement task force, is the father of three and coaches youth basketball.
Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey, who befriended Joyal through his work in local law enforcement, said he did not know details about the investigation.
"He's a wonderful man with a strong commitment to the community," Ivey said.
Staff writers Sari Horwitz, Eric Rich and Meg Smith contributed to this report.