By Maria Glod and Kafia Hosh
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, October 30, 2010; 2:48 AM
The shooter who has targeted three U.S. military sites in Northern Virginia in recent weeks may be a Marine or someone with a grievance against the U.S. Marine Corps, federal officials said Friday.
FBI officials released a limited profile of the suspect after he or she shot again at the Marine Corps museum near Quantico - the same place the shooter started almost two weeks ago.
FBI officials also tried to coax the shooter to contact them, promising to try to resolve whatever is bothering him or her.
Authorities stressed that the identity and motive of the shooter remains unknown. They said the involvement of a service member is only one possibility they are investigating.
Officials stressed that the shooter has not yet displayed any intention of hurting or killing anyone. So far, the shooter has struck overnight or in the early morning hours when no one would be around the facilities.
But because they think Marine Corps locations are being singled out, security has been stepped up for Sunday's Marine Corps marathon.
As they try to track down the elusive shooter, FBI officials have pieced together a profile. "We believe the suspect has a grievance surrounding the U.S. Marine Corps," said John Perren, acting head of the FBI's Washington Field Office. "We'd like to know what this grievance is, and what we can do to try and resolve it. We're willing to listen to him and hear his side of the story."
The shooter may have a grudge against the Marine Corps as an institution, but could hold the servicemen and women in high regard, officials said. He or she may recently have experienced a trauma such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a job. The shooter likely is familiar with the Northern Virginia area, and if the shooter lives with family or friends, may have offered excuses after slipping away at night.
"It may be that he feels he's been wronged by the Corps in his professional or personal life," Perren said.
Perren said the shooter may be under stress, and found some relief in shooting at buildings. He urged that person to reach out to authorities by going to local police, or calling 911 or the FBI at 202-278-2000.
The unexplained spree of shootings began the night of Oct. 16 or into the next morning when bullets were fired at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle. In the following days, ballistics evidence has shown, the same weapon was used to shoot at the Pentagon and an unoccupied Marine Corps recruiting center in Chantilly. In each case, windows were struck.
The museum again was targeted overnight Thursday. The most recent incident had not been conclusively linked to the other three by forensic evidence, but authorities think it is the work of the same person or people.
As a precaution, security will be heightened during Sunday's marathon, which starts at Arlington National Cemetery and finishes at the Iwo Jima Memorial, officials said. They declined to discuss specifics, but said the measures were "robust" and would not cause delays.
"We are going to run this race taking into account the incidents that have taken place, said Col. Dan Choike, commander of Marine Corp Base Quantico and senior Marine with oversight over the race. He said race officials are working with the FBI and local authorities in Arlington.
Wayne Hinaman, who came to the Washington area from Cincinnati to run the marathon, was among the visitors turned away from the Marine Corps museum on Friday by police who were searching for clues.
Hinaman said his wife told him about the shootings on the phone Thursday night, and he thinks the shooter is "infringing on our rights." He said he still planned to run Sunday, and wasn't jittery.
Clint Van Zandt, a former FBI behavioral science expert, said the shooter appears to be trying to make a point, not cause harm. But he said injuries, even accidental, are a possibility if the spree is not stopped.
Van Zandt said he thinks investigators are trying to give the shooter every opportunity to express his or her views in a different way.
"The message is we hear you," Van Zandt said. "We know you're not lashing out against people, you're lashing out against symbols. You've got our attention, we're willing to hear what you have to say."
Authorities also are pursuing other tactics. They are examining evidence gathered at the scene and surveillance footage near the sites.
Perren urged people to come forward if they think they suspect someone they know may be involved. He asked that people consider if they know anyone who left home or work the nights of the shootings that occurred late Oct. 16 or into the next morning, early the morning of Oct. 19, and overnight Oct. 25 and Oct. 28.
Officials would not discuss the caliber of the bullets, or the specific weapon used. Earlier they had said they believed it was a high-velocity rifle.
Authorities said one possibility is that the shots were fired from a car. Both the museum and the Pentagon are within range of busy interstate highways.
Staff writer Chris L. Jenkins contributed to this report.