Three weeks of terror: How the 2002 D.C. sniper attacks unfolded

Fairfax County, Va., police search for evidence in a sniper shooting outside a Home Depot in Falls Church on Oct. 15, 2002.
Fairfax County, Va., police search for evidence in a sniper shooting outside a Home Depot in Falls Church on Oct. 15, 2002. (Doug Mills/AP)

Twenty years ago, on Oct. 2, 2002, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo began shooting people, one by one, across the D.C. area. Their attacks over the next three weeks left 10 dead, three seriously wounded and a region terrorized, with schools locked down and residents afraid to pump gas into their cars.

Here is how the deadly shooting rampage unfolded, and how Muhammad and Malvo were apprehended and eventually convicted:

Feb. 16, 2002

Malvo shot and killed 21-year-old Keenya Nicole Cook in Tacoma, Wash., beginning a series of deadly attacks before Malvo and Muhammad came to the D.C. region.

Sept. 5

Nearly one month before the first string of attacks in Montgomery County, Malvo and Muhammad trailed Paul LaRuffa in Clinton for three days. On the third night, Malvo shot LaRuffa six times with a .22-caliber pistol and robbed him of his cash and laptop computer. LaRuffa survived.

Sniper attacks

Wounded

Killed

97

370

MONTGOMERY

CO.

MD.

4

Rockville

Aspen Hill

3

13

1

2

Wheaton

5

Silver

Spring

PRINCE

GEORGE’S

CO.

6

D.C.

VA.

66

Seven

Corners

11

FAIRFAX

CO.

395

Alexandria

5 MILES

MD.

Frederick

Baltimore

70

Rest stop where suspects

were caught

Detail

Bowie

8

Annapolis

D.C.

66

9

Manassas

VA.

MD.

7

Fredericksburg

10

Ashland

12

20 MILES

THE WASHINGTON POST

Sniper attacks

Wounded

Killed

97

370

MONTGOMERY

CO.

MD.

4

Rockville

Aspen Hill

3

13

1

2

Wheaton

5

Silver

Spring

PRINCE

GEORGE’S

CO.

6

D.C.

VA.

66

Seven

Corners

11

FAIRFAX

CO.

395

Alexandria

5 MILES

MD.

Frederick

Baltimore

70

Rest stop where suspects

were caught

Detail

Bowie

8

Annapolis

D.C.

66

9

Manassas

VA.

MD.

7

Fredericksburg

10

Ashland

12

20 MILES

THE WASHINGTON POST

Sniper attacks

Wounded

Killed

97

MD.

370

MONTGOMERY

CO.

Frederick

MD.

4

Baltimore

Rockville

Aspen Hill

70

3

Rest stop where suspects

were caught

13

Detail

1

2

Wheaton

Bowie

5

8

Annapolis

Silver

Spring

D.C.

66

PRINCE

GEORGE’S

CO.

6

9

Manassas

D.C.

VA.

MD.

66

7

Fredericksburg

Seven

Corners

11

10

FAIRFAX

CO.

395

Alexandria

VA.

Ashland

12

5 MILES

20 MILES

THE WASHINGTON POST

Oct. 2

The first shot of the October D.C.-area rampage was believed to have been fired at 5:20 p.m. into a Michaels craft store in Aspen Hill. Less than an hour later came the first fatality, when 55-year-old James D. Martin was walking outside a Shoppers Food Warehouse in Wheaton and was struck by a bullet.

Oct. 3

On the deadliest day of the rampage, the snipers claimed four lives in Montgomery County in the morning: James L. “Sonny” Buchanan Jr., 39, as he mowed a lawn; Premkumar A. Walekar, 54, as he pumped gas into his cab; Sarah Ramos, 34, as she sat on a bench near a retirement community; and Lori Lewis Rivera, 25, as she vacuumed her car. That evening, they took a fifth, shooting Pascal Charlot, 72, just across the District line as he stood at the intersection of Georgia Avenue NW and Kalmia Road NW.

Oct. 4-14

Dean Harold Meyers, 53, was shot and killed at a service station in Prince William County; Kenneth H. Bridges, 53, was shot to death at a Spotsylvania County gas station; and Linda Franklin, 47, was fatally shot outside a Home Depot in Fairfax County. In addition, a 13-year-old boy was shot and wounded outside a Bowie middle school, as was a woman outside a Fredericksburg mall.

Oct. 19

After Jeffrey Hopper, 37, was shot and wounded in Ashland, police found a shell casing and a message tacked to a tree in the nearby woods. The multi-page letter accused the police of ineptitude, demanded $10 million and threatened more killings.

Oct. 22-24

Conrad E. Johnson, 35, was shot and killed in Aspen Hill on Oct. 22, and police discovered another threatening letter. In the early morning of Oct. 24, shortly after Montgomery County police announced they were looking for John Allen Muhammad, Lee Boyd Malvo and a blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice, police arrested Muhammad and Malvo at a Maryland rest stop.

Dec. 18, 2003

A jury convicted Malvo on two charges. He would later be convicted of additional murders. He received multiple life sentences without parole, some of which were overturned in 2017, following a Supreme Court ruling against life sentences for juveniles.

March 9, 2004

A judge sentenced Muhammad to death, following the jury’s sentencing recommendation. He was executed by lethal injection on Nov. 10, 2009.

Aug. 30, 2022

Malvo, now 37, was denied parole, after federal courts had ordered him resentenced and Virginia had passed a 2020 law creating the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders serving life sentences. “Considering your offense and your institutional records,” the parole board wrote, “the Board concludes that you should serve more of your sentence before being paroled.”

Loading...
Loading...