Video of SUV linked to Leesburg hammer assault released

Authorities say this is security footage of the SUV belonging to a man they believe is responsible for three recent attacks in Leesburg -- as well as five murders and 10 other attacks in Michigan.
By Caitlin Gibson and Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

An attack on Friday night in Leesburg that police said was the work of a serial killer targeting African Americans was captured by security cameras, providing investigators with an image of a man suspected of fatally stabbing five men and wounding 15 in three states.

As Leesburg detectives scrutinized the footage in search of clues to the man's identity, residents said they were shaken to learn that a killer might have been hunting for victims in their neighborhood.

"We're sad something like this could happen in our community -- and alarmed," said the Rev. Reginald A. Early, president of the Loudoun County chapter of the NAACP. He said police asked the group to "spread the word so the African American community is aware of the danger that is lurking."

Over four days this month, three dark-skinned men in Leesburg were attacked by a white stranger. Two were stabbed; the third was hit in the head with a hammer.

Leesburg police think that the assailant is the "Flint serial killer," suspected of stabbing 16 men in Michigan, five fatally. Toledo police think that the same man may also be responsible for a stabbing outside a church there Saturday. Almost all of the victims have been black.

"I truly believe his motivation is pure hatred," Leesburg Police Chief Joseph R. Price said Tuesday.

Authorities have not conclusively linked the crimes through DNA or other forensic evidence, but they said there are striking similarities among the attacks, which were unprovoked. Descriptions of the attacker -- a tall, muscular white man who often wears a baseball cap -- are similar. He often gets close to victims by asking for directions or for help with his car; other times he says nothing at all while he approaches his targets from behind. All of the victims were alone.

One of the most compelling links is the suspect's sport-utility vehicle, police said. In both Virginia and Michigan, he was seen in a dark-green Chevrolet Blazer with tan paneling at the bottom.

The security-camera video, taken Friday night at a downtown Leesburg strip mall, shows that SUV moving slowly through a parking lot as the driver apparently stalks his 19-year-old Hispanic victim.

Police released that portion Tuesday in hopes that someone will recognize the SUV.

Video taken from a second camera, police said, next shows the man approach the teenager under the guise of needing help fixing his car. Police have not publicly released that video.

The attacker stepped out of the SUV as the victim walked toward the vehicle to offer assistance. The man then pulled out a hammer and swung it at the teenager, police said.

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