Some of the victims of last fall's sniper shootings were shot in the head for the "horrific effect" and to make a point to police, but the boy who was shot outside a Bowie middle school was hit in the back because other children were nearby, suspect Lee Boyd Malvo told investigators, according to law enforcement documents.
In a wide-ranging interrogation by police in November, Malvo disclosed graphic details of the sniper shootings, including a revelation that they began with the killing of five people in 24 hours because he knew police "couldn't handle it," according to the documents, which are partial transcripts of Malvo's audio-taped remarks to investigators and a memo that summarizes the parts that were not taped.
According to the documents, Malvo bragged about his shooting prowess, laughed while pointing to parts of the body where the bullets hit and said that, given the chance, he would do it all again.
The ultimate objective of the killing was to "terrorize" the community, Malvo said according to the documents, and to force police to pay them money to stop. He believed he would get the $10 million the snipers asked for and mentioned no political or personal reasons for the shootings, emphasizing that it didn't matter who walked into the rifle's sights when he was ready to shoot.
Malvo frequently played a game of cat and mouse with the interrogators, at times appearing to offer key pieces of information and then backing down. "You may never know," he said at one point according to the summaries. "That's for you to find out," he said at another.
He was disdainful of the media, envious of the police departments' superior equipment and boastful that no one could have stopped them if not for his own lapses.
Time and again, he likened the shootings to precision military operations. He dismissed his questioners' attempts to characterize them as random acts, insisting repeatedly that everything was meticulously designed and carried out for a strategic reason that fit into an overall plan.
He discussed the details of some of the shootings, graphically describing how victims fell, where on their bodies they were hit and what happened immediately afterward.
"It was all planned," Malvo told Fairfax County Detective June Boyle and FBI agent Brad Garrett, according to the documents. "You pick your spots. . . . You have to have concealment."
Law enforcement sources and others close to the case said the documents covered only part of Malvo's interview. Some of the sources said it was the first two or three hours of a six-hour interrogation.
Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr., who is prosecuting Malvo, Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert, who is prosecuting Malvo's co-defendant, John Allen Muhammad, and Garrett declined to comment. Boyle did not return telephone calls.
Michael S. Arif, Malvo's attorney, also declined comment. Muhammad's attorney, Peter D. Greenspun, blasted the leaking of the documents. "These actions . . . show the desperation of [law enforcement] to taint the jury pool," he said, adding that the defense team is "committed to trying this case in court."
Arif has said he would challenge the admissibility of Malvo's statement. At one point, according to the documents, Malvo asked whether he would get to see his lawyers, but at another point -- before he began talking about the sniper shootings -- he signed a paper waiving his right to an attorney.
In the documents, Malvo seemed resigned to dying or going to prison but said he didn't care. "If I'm in jail, I won't be there all my life," Malvo said. "You can't build a jail strong enough to hold me. . . . Kill me. I don't care. Torture me. . . . Nothing bothers me. . . . Get rid of me."
Malvo did not bring up Muhammad's name during the interview, but Boyle and Garrett did several times, and Malvo did not deny that Muhammad took part in the shootings.
"Does John tell you when to shoot?" the investigators asked.
"The shooter makes the decision," Malvo responded.
Earlier, the investigators asked: "When your friend shot, it was up to him?"
Malvo said yes, according to the documents.
A Window for Interrogation
The interview began late in the afternoon of Nov. 7 after Malvo was transferred to the custody of Fairfax County police from the jail in Baltimore, where he had been held on federal charges. He was brought into a police interview room, introduced to Boyle and Garrett and asked whether he wanted anything to eat. Malvo asked for water and a veggie burger with ketchup. Garrett took Malvo's handcuffs off when the food arrived, the documents said.
When Boyle and Garrett started talking to him, Malvo asked in the documents whether he would get to see his attorneys. The investigators told Malvo that he now was being charged in Virginia and that they wanted to get some personal information from him first.
Malvo, now 18, and Muhammad, 42, were arrested Oct. 24 on federal warrants in Maryland. When the Justice Department dismissed the charges, the two were moved to Virginia, allowing police to approach them again before new lawyers were appointed. Both face capital murder charges in the October shootings that killed 10 people and wounded three in the region.
Later in the interview, when Boyle and Garrett began to ask about the sniper cases, they read Malvo his Miranda rights. The investigators then asked him to sign a paper waiving his right to see a lawyer, but he declined. Notes had been left at two shooting scenes, and Malvo said he was afraid his signature on the document could be used to incriminate him. The investigators asked whether he would be comfortable just putting an X on the waiver, and that was what he did. He was then asked four times if he wanted a lawyer and said each time that he did not.
At the beginning of the interview, Garrett and Boyle appeared to be trying to establish a rapport with Malvo by asking him about his family, his life in Jamaica, where he was born, and what he liked to do. The teenager said he didn't have friends, only "allies." Friends, Malvo said according to the documents, were "a waste of time." He said he wanted to be in the Jamaican military and talked about his favorite movies, including "The Matrix," and two violent war films, "We Were Soldiers" and "Platoon." Malvo said he saw his life as a "battle."
The investigators also talked to Malvo about what he liked to do -- "read, run and play basketball," he said. The discussion turned to religion. He said that he believed in reincarnation and that he deserved to come back as a mountain and have people walk on him for 5,000 years.
Boyle and Garrett are experienced investigators. Garrett, assigned to the FBI's Washington Field Office, is best known as the agent who snared Mir Amal Kasi, a Pakistani who killed two CIA employees in 1993 outside the agency's headquarters in McLean. Garrett was also one of two key investigators who solved the 1997 Starbucks murder case in the District.
Boyle is the Fairfax County detective who was assigned the lead role in the Malvo case. Three years ago, Boyle, who has handled some of the county's most prominent murder cases, was named homicide investigator of the year by the Virginia Homicide Investigators Association.
As the interview progressed, Malvo began talking about the sniper shootings, the documents show. He shot FBI employee Linda Franklin on Oct. 14 at the Home Depot store in Seven Corners after he watched her "between the posts moving back and forth" because "she came into my sights," Malvo told investigators, according to the documents. "She came into my range and within two seconds . . . I fired."
Malvo explained that extensive reconnaissance was done at each site as the pair looked for different terrains. "You can't just walk into a battle hoping to win," he said according to the documents.
There was a "time window" for each shooting, Malvo said. If someone walked into the rifle's sights during that window, a shot could be taken, the documents said. Sometimes shots were called off. Malvo said the pair acted as a sniper team: The shooter "makes the decision" and could call off a shot. The spotter could be hundreds of yards away, checking for police and communicating by walkie-talkie.
At the Home Depot, Malvo said, he saw many people entering and leaving the store during his time window, but they were moving too much to target effectively.
The investigators also asked Malvo about the killing of Dean H. Meyers, who was shot in the head Oct. 9 as he pumped gas near Manassas. Muhammad faces trial in that slaying.
"He got hit good," Malvo said, according to the summary of his remarks. "Dead immediately." Malvo said he calmly walked away from the shooting and watched as police responded.
In the documents viewed by The Washington Post, Malvo never addressed the issue of who fired the shot that killed Meyers.
Malvo said that when he critically wounded Iran Brown as the 13-year-old was walking into Benjamin Tasker Middle School, he had purposely aimed at his back. "I didn't want a head shot [because] he was a child. There were other school kids around," he said according to the documents.
The final shooting -- that of Montgomery County bus driver Conrad Johnson -- was a "perfect shot," Malvo said according to the documents. He expected police to pay the $10 million that was demanded two days after Johnson's death, Malvo said.
Sources say Malvo elaborated on these shootings and others later in the interview, which was not covered by these particular documents. For example, Horan said in court last week that Franklin's husband, who was standing next to her, was the original target at Home Depot, but Ted Franklin ducked down to load their car. That issue does not emerge in the portion of the interview covered by the documents. Horan has said the interview was not videotaped but was on audiotape, which sources said began shortly after Malvo started talking about the shootings.
According to the documents, Malvo said in the documents that "head shots" were his preferred method but sometimes they weren't possible.
"You can't always take a head shot," he said. "The person could be bobbing their head."
Malvo said that's what happened at the Ponderosa restaurant in Ashland, Va., where Jeffrey A. Hopper of Melbourne, Fla., survived because his head was bobbing as he walked and talked to his wife. Malvo said they left a shell casing at the scene and tacked a note -- also "part of the plan" -- to a tree before a shot was fired, according to the documents. In the note, the snipers asked for the money.
A Spectator After Shooting
Several times, Malvo said that he waited around after the shootings, watching police and the news media. At some scenes, including the Ponderosa, Malvo said he approached police officers and asked what had happened. He also said that police sometimes asked him whether he had seen anything suspicious and that he remained calm to deflect suspicion.
Malvo was quoted in the documents as saying the team went in and out of roadblocks at some of the scenes to see how police were responding to the shootings. At the Home Depot, Malvo said he returned the next morning and watched police search the area, the documents said.
Malvo said they never missed a shot. He said he and his companion wanted police to know that they were good marksmen. "A perfect shot was to let you know something," Malvo said according to the documents. "You weren't dealing with a random shooter. We wanted you to know it was us."
The pair never shot more than once at a scene. "One shot means I'm in control," he was quoted in the documents as saying.
Malvo described certain shootings as "phases" in an overall plan. When he was asked why he shot a child, Malvo replied that it was a "phase." Whether they fired from inside or outside their car depended upon what phase they were in, he said according to the documents. The shooting in Manassas was a phase intended to draw police "fortifications" out from the inner Washington area and take people by surprise in another jurisdiction, he said.
"When they are fortified, you pull them away," he said.
They were not afraid of police, Malvo said. When an officer pulled up next to him after the Prince William shooting, Malvo said, he calmly brushed it off. A Virginia state trooper was nearby investigating an accident when Kenneth Bridges was shot at a gas station in Spotsylvania County, but Malvo said they didn't shoot the officer because "it wasn't the phase yet."
"I could have shot him, too," Malvo said of the trooper. "You don't mean nothing. We will shoot with you there. We shoot with you not there. We will shoot with soldiers there."
Malvo expressed disdain for reporters, calling them "pigs" in the documents and describing them as grotesque people. "We controlled the media," Malvo said.
The investigators asked Malvo whether the media could have somehow stopped the killing. "What we did was unstoppable. . . . No one could have stopped me," he said according to the documents.
When asked how they got caught, Malvo replied, "Failure to do as planned."
"I didn't cross all my t's and dot my i's," he said. "You fail, you die." He said he had a 99.9 percent "success rate," but their undoing had been his "0.1 percent failure. . . . I was supposed to cover, but I failed."
A law enforcement source close to the sniper investigation said Malvo may have thought his mistake was his inability to stay awake as a lookout the night he was arrested. He was asleep in the front seat of the car and Muhammad was asleep in the back when police surrounded the Chevrolet Caprice and pulled the suspects out.
Malvo said he sometimes hid in the trunk of the car during the attacks, making himself small, like a "tire," according to the documents. Malvo lamented his "poor equipment" and said police had better technology.
"You wouldn't have caught us if we had better equipment," he said according to the documents. But he said their rifle could do "so much damage. . . . It will mess you up." He said the gun could be folded quickly after a shooting, making it easier to carry in a gym bag and allowing them to sometimes hide the gun near some of the scenes and go back later to retrieve it.
The shootings were part of a regimen that included smooth breathing and clear thinking, Malvo said according to the documents. Malvo meditated, ate one meal a day, took several vitamins and worked out at the YMCA.
"I wouldn't change my life a bit," Malvo told investigators. "I'd do the exact same thing."
Staff writers Maria Glod and Tom Jackman contributed to this report.