Two people who police say were behind the sniper shootings that have terrorized the Washington area were arrested yesterday.
John Allen Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17, were arrested at about 3:30 a.m. yesterday. They had been found sleeping in a car at a rest stop west of Frederick.
The two haven't yet been charged with any of the shootings that have killed 10 people and wounded three since Oct. 2. But Michael Bouchard of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said last night that a rifle found in the suspects' car was the one used in the sniper attacks.
Police haven't said which one of the suspects did the shooting, or why anyone would do such an awful thing.
From Washington State to Alabama
Solving the mystery involved police and FBI agents all over the country. On Wednesday, FBI agents searched a house in Tacoma, Washington. They were especially interested in the back yard, and they laid out wide strips of tape to make sure every square inch of the grass and dirt was carefully searched with a metal detector. A tree stump was sawed off at its base and loaded into a truck.
Authorities say that Muhammad once lived in the house. A neighbor reported hearing the sound of a gun being shot in the back yard. It's possible Muhammad used the tree trunk for target practice and a bullet fragment is inside.
Investigators also were interested in a crime that occurred in Montgomery, Alabama. One person was killed and another wounded when a liquor store there was robbed on Sept. 21. A fingerprint found at that scene has been linked to Malvo.
The Shootings Begin
On Oct. 2, a man named James D. Martin was shot and killed in a Wheaton supermarket parking lot. The next day five more people were killed, prompting area schools to go into Code Blue. Doors were locked and afternoon activities were canceled. Anxious parents rushed to school to pick up their children.
For the next three weeks many people in Washington dreaded going outside. They worried that doing such routine things as shopping, jogging or filling their cars with gas would put them in danger. Everyone was on the lookout for white vans, since witnesses remembered seeing such a vehicle near some of the crime scenes.
Kids may have had it the hardest, especially after a 13-year-old Bowie middle school student was shot and seriously injured on Oct. 7. School safety patrols were pulled from their stations, outdoor recess was canceled and outdoor sports practices and games were called off.
The sniper struck throughout the area, attacking as far south as Ashland, Virginia, near Richmond. The most recent shooting was Tuesday in Aspen Hill, when Conrad Johnson was killed on the top step of the Ride-On bus he drove.
Resting at a Rest Stop
Just before midnight Wednesday night, Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose urged the sniper to contact authorities. He also said police wanted to talk with Muhammad, a former member of the U.S. Army, and Malvo, who is originally from Jamaica. Moose told citizens to keep watch for a blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice with New Jersey license plates.
Barely an hour later a motorist at a rest stop in Myersville, Maryland, spied the car and called police. Police officers gathered, then rushed the car, smashing two windows and arresting the pair.
Back to Normal?
As yesterday wore on, and authorities were confident that the murderers had been caught, it felt like a great weight had been lifted off of Washington.
"We've felt like we've been under siege," said Sandi Parker as she unloaded cupcakes for her son's birthday celebration at Arlington Traditional School. "In the car, my kids were already asking if they can go trick-or-treating now."
Today local authorities will meet to discuss what charges to bring against the suspects and where they will go to trial.
-- John Kelly