Police deluged with calls about sniper

Stephen Manning The Associated Press
Tuesday October 15, 2002

ROCKVILLE, Md. — The longest lull yet in the Washington sniper’s killing spree brought little relief Monday as jittery residents flooded police with calls upon hearing car backfire, firecrackers or breaking glass. 

“Everyone is edgy,” said Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose, who is heading the investigation. “People are hearing things that may normally be overlooked.” 

President Bush said the “cold-blooded” attacks have made him sick to his stomach. “I weep for those who have lost their loved ones,” he said. “The idea of moms taking their kids to school and sheltering them from a potential sniper attack is not the America that I know.” 

Four police squad cars rushed to a Silver Spring car dealership Monday after the window of a customer’s BMW shattered when he closed the door. The man dialed 911, thinking a bullet broke the glass. 

“He had no idea what happened — he was just freaked out,” said David Earhardt, the dealership’s service manager. 

“People hear a noise, they’re going to call — they want to put an end to this just like we do,” said Prince William County, Va., Detective Dennis Mangan, whose department brought in a helicopter to search the woods before determining a reported gunshot was just a car backfiring. 

Authorities in Baltimore, meanwhile, seized a white van and found an assault rifle, sniper manual and ammunition similar to the .223 bullets used in attacks that have killed eight people and wounded two others, WBAL-TV reported. 

The van’s owner was being questioned by police Monday night. 

“At this time, the task force believes this is not related to our sniper incidents,” said Louise Marthens, a Montgomery County police spokeswoman. 

Also, FOX News Channel showed video of police in Washington, D.C., towing an abandoned white box truck from near the Sousa Bridge. The truck had a rear fender dent similar to one in a composite image that a task force investigating the shootings released Saturday. It also appeared to have a fresh coat of paint, FOX said. 

“There is nothing at this time to indicate it had anything to do with anything,” said a Washington police spokesman, Sgt. Joe Gentile. 

Monday marked the sniper’s longest break — two days and counting — since the killing spree began on Oct. 2. The sniper has shot 10 people in all.