2 • A NEW TERROR
On October 3rd, five people are shot in one day. And a witness sees a vehicle.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Welcome to Monster DC Sniper, a production of iHeartRadio and Tenderfoot TV. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are solely those of the podcast author or individuals participating in the podcast and do not represent those of iHeartMedia, Tenderfoot TV or their employees. Listener discretion is advised.
Speaker 2: 00:20 A deadly rampage victims slain randomly all within a one mile radius, all within 15 hours. The first shooting at 6:04 last night, a 55 year old Caucasian male killed in the parking lot of a grocery store. Then early this morning at 7:41, a Hispanic man mowing his lawn, shot dead. Half an hour later, a 40 year old cabdriver gunned down while pumping gas. Then another 30 minutes later, a Hispanic woman shot fatally in the head.
Suzy Cooper: 00:52 It was around eight in the morning. I parked my car and I was late for work, so I was running. My name is Suzy Cooper. I was really lucky because at eight o’clock in the morning, I was the only car in that area so they could easily have gotten me. I got inside the beauty shop and I went to have a cup of coffee and all of a sudden I heard shots.
Suzy Cooper: 01:26 I was really shaky. I opened the back door thinking it was coming from there. No, but then I went back up front of the shop and I saw this woman sitting on a bench. She was dead. It was so hard to believe what I was seeing. You would think you’re at the movie scene. It was a mess. The bench was in front of her residence, so the bullet went through the window of the residence, but the woman didn’t see it coming.
Speaker 4: 02:04 There is a ruthless person on the loose.
Speaker 2: 02:07 What unnerves this community the most is the randomness of the murders. Ordinary people doing ordinary things.
Speaker 4: 02:13 All that the victims appear to have had in common, each was shot to death by a single bullet.
Speaker 6: 02:18 Be careful. These guys are using weapons that are going to go right straight through our bulletproof vest.
Speaker 5: 02:23 The massive manhunt continues, but police admit they don’t know who or what they’re dealing with or what their motive might be.
Speaker 7: 02:29 There’s a white van just went by with two guys in it.
Speaker 1: 02:33 From iHeartRadio and Tenderfoot TV. This is Monster DC Sniper.
Speaker 1: 02:43 34 year old. Sarah Ramos was sitting on a bench in front of a Peruvian restaurant when the sniper shot and killed her. This was now the second day of attacks. Earlier that morning, Sunny Buchanan and Prim Kumar Walaker had both been shot and killed making Ramos the third victim of the day. All of these shootings were horrifying and tragic, but for some reason this shooting in particular always stuck with me. When I visited the site of the murder, it unsettled me.
Speaker 1: 03:18 Oh boy, this feels a little off putting. We’re sitting in the parking lot and this is where Sarah Ramos was killed and Sarah was 34 years old. She had just gotten off a bus and she was sitting on a bench next to a post office. As she was reading a book and she was shot. She was just, I mean, the randomness of it, and that’s what really gets you about all of these killings. You’re essentially a sitting duck. You have no way to defend yourself. No one did. No one did. A woman sitting on a bench reading a book. How frigging cowardly is that? It’s just the idea that she’s just plucked off. Man, and just like, that’s no regard for human life at all. That’s just … that’s literally target practice and they just drive away. That just sort of brings home for me the depravity of all of it.
John De Solace: 04:27 The victim was laying on a bench with a sheet over her. That was horrible really. That’s the first one that I went to. My name’s John De Solace. I was a crime analyst for Montgomery County police. They called me to interview a witness who only spoke Spanish. Juan Carlos, I think his name is.
Speaker 1: 04:48 When police first arrived at the crime scene, they found Juan Carlos Vieda nearby.
John De Solace: 04:54 They don’t know if he’s a suspect. If he’s a witness. He was probably around 22 I think. Typical landscaper looking guy wearing a landscaper uniform. So I took him aside and started asking him questions. He was pretty clear that he didn’t see where the shots came from. There’s an access road that runs parallel to the parking lot. He was walking down that road and had actually past the front of the store and where she was sitting on the bench and more or less as soon as he got past the corner where he could see her, he heard the shot. Within a few seconds he saw a white box truck leave. Passed right by her and then drove West up to Georgia Avenue. It would have had to been a drive by shooting almost. It was like five seconds or something after he heard the shots, the van left the scene. He was the only one that was really close and he was the only one that saw any kind of vehicle and he described the box truck very well, to the point where it had damage to the rear bumper.
Speaker 1: 06:01 Vieda described a white box truck, a delivery truck with a cabin separate cargo area. Police immediately started pulling over white box trucks and similar vehicles. But finding that one truck in the middle of DCs rush hour traffic was almost impossible.
John De Solace: 06:17 Well, you know how many white box trucks there are out there?
David Rikenball: 06:20 You’re going to see at least two or three white vans or box trucks sitting in just about every parking lot in the country. My name is David C Rikenball, retired Lieutenant in Maryland state police.
Speaker 1: 06:32 Rikenball played a major role in the DC sniper investigation and he later wrote a book that detailed what was going on behind the scenes.
David Rikenball: 06:41 About 9:30 or so I guess it was, I get a phone call from the Rockville barrack. “Dave, I don’t know what’s going on here in Montgomery County, but there’s been a rash of shootings. Montgomery police are running around like crazy. It looks like this might’ve started the night before, but we’ve got three bodies down and a shooter out there and Montgomery County is asking for help. This could be the next terrorist attack. Can you get the state police rolling?” If there’s one thing that the Maryland state police can do and it was actually by design, we can get 200 to 300 troopers at any place in the state within a couple of hours. Our goal was to just simply flood the entire area with road troopers to supplement Montgomery County. The troopers were coming in from all over the state and I’d brief them on what we knew, which at that time was very, very little.
David Rikenball: 07:40 We were looking for a couple of guys in a white box truck shooting people. That’s about what we knew. We didn’t know if we had a single shooter. We didn’t know if we had maybe multiple teams. Our troopers were stopping every white van, every white box truck and their instructions were be careful because these guys are using weapons that are going to go right straight through our bulletproof vests. A sniper case is about the worst kind of case you can have. Most homicides, the shooter has some connection with the victim. Boyfriend, girlfriend, ticked off neighbor, relative. There’s some sort of a connection that can be made. This case we have nothing. A white van, white box truck and a high speed bullet. That’s all we had and spreading panic. We had plenty of that.
Speaker 2: 08:36 There have been a number of white vans all across this county that had been stopped by police officers. A number of people calling in. In fact, so many people that, as Andrea mentioned, they’re inundating the system. Don’t call 911 unless you feel that you have solid information about a white box truck.
Speaker 1: 08:53 Police continued hunting for the box truck, but the terror of October 3rd wasn’t over. Just an hour and 20 minutes after the Ramos shooting and just eight miles South on Connecticut Avenue. The sniper struck again. The fourth shooting on October 3rd took place at 9:58 AM. Maria Welsh stopped by Safeway after dropping off her kids at school.
Maria Safeway: 09:28 I had come out of the grocery store. Literally, I remember just so vividly that the parking lot was completely empty. It was just very quiet. It was probably about 10 o’clock in the morning and I just was loading the back of my car up and got in the car and as I started the car and went to back out of my parking spot, I heard this loud kind of sound. Then at that moment there was a gentleman walking behind my car. I remember slamming on the brakes and saying, “Oh my goodness, did I just hit something?” He says to me, “No, it came from in front of your car.” So as I was pulling up towards the main road, which is Connecticut Avenue, I hear someone calling for help and I kind of look over and I see this woman next to the vacuum cleaner laying on the ground.
Speaker 1: 10:17 That woman, Laurie and Louis Rivera had been cleaning her minivan using the gas stations vacuum. Now she was lying on the pavement, tangled in the vacuum cleaners hose. Maria Welsh, a nurse jumped out of her car and raced over to help.
Maria Safeway: 10:32 As I was running towards her, then I realized that I probably should have my cell phone in case I needed an ambulance. I turned to grab my cell phone and when I turned back around towards her, it looked like she was having a seizure. I, at the time knew nothing about any snipers shooting and I thought that something had happened with the vacuum, like an electrical current of some sort. So as I was approaching her, I couldn’t really do anything because the vacuum cleaner was still running. We always kind of learned that with electrical equipment, you don’t want to touch the victim. So I called 911.
Speaker 11: 11:03 [inaudible 00:11:04].
Maria Safeway: 11:03 Hi. Yeah. We need an ambulance at the corner of [inaudible 00:11:08] and Connecticut. A woman was vacuuming her car. Something blew out. She’s unconscious. She’s got blood coming out of her nose and her mouth.
Speaker 11: 11:14 Blood’s coming out of her nose and her mouth.
Maria Safeway: 11:17 Yes.
Speaker 11: 11:17 It’s a shell station?
Maria Safeway: 11:18 Yeah.
Maria Safeway: 11:19 The person that answered the phone said, “Okay, well do you know what happened?” I said, “No, I don’t know what happened. I just heard this loud noise, like a loud bang.” She said, “What kind of noise do you think it is?” I said, “I don’t know. Like a bomb of some sort.”
Speaker 11: 11:37 It’s like a bomb?
Maria Safeway: 11:37 Yeah, but it wasn’t a bomb. It was like that kind of noise.
Speaker 11: 11:37 Like a gunshot maybe?
Maria Safeway: 11:39 Kind of.
Maria Safeway: 11:39 I said, “I’ve never heard a gunshot.” She said, “Okay, just sit tight. We’ll send an ambulance to you.”, and then the vacuum stopped. I do remember standing there being like, Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. What am I going to do for her? What can I do for her? At this point a small had sort of gathered around me yelling like, “We have to do something. What’s the matter with her? Do something.” Of course, I make this big announcement like, “Okay, I’m a nurse. I’m going to do CPR.” When I went to go pull the vacuum cleaner hose out from around her, she started bleeding from her mouth, which then prevented me from doing any kind of mouth to mouth. So I just started doing chest compressions. No ambulance arrives. There is a fire station that’s less than a quarter of a mile from the gas station that I can see and I’m thinking, why are they not sending me anything?
Maria Safeway: 12:27 I’m like, I need help. There’s a crowd now and we’re all screaming, where’s the ambulance? Where’s ambulance? I later did find out that they had told first responders not to respond yet until the area was secure. As a nurse, I can understand that. When you’re trying to minimize the amount of casualties you have, you don’t send everybody in, but when you’re in it, I felt like I was being hung out to dry there for a second. Within a few minutes, this man shows up in this little pickup truck with a tackle box of equipment and he says, “I’m an EMT and I can help you.” I said, “Great. I don’t know what’s happened.” So at that point I start to notice that there’s SWAT team on top of the buildings across the street from us. There’s agents everywhere. They have wrapped the entire area with yellow tape and they’re now gathering people and telling them to go inside the gas station. This agent comes up to me and tells me I need to get inside the gas station quickly. I was like, “I don’t understand. I’m doing CPR. I’m a nurse.”
Maria Safeway: 13:27 He says, “The EMT is here. He can do it. You go inside.” I’m like, “We really should be doing two person CPR.” He’s like, “I’ll do it.”, and tells me to get inside the gas station. I said, “I don’t know why everyone’s making such a big deal. This woman was vacuuming her car. What is going on?” So now we’re all standing in the gas station and I called my husband at the time and I said, “Gosh, I’m so sorry. I decided to stop at the Safeway before coming home and something happened with some woman vacuuming her car and I ended up doing CPR So now the police are telling me I have to stay inside the gas station.”
Maria Safeway: 13:58 Then within five minutes he calls me back and he’s like, “Okay, you need to get out of there. That woman was shot.” I was like, “No, she wasn’t. I think I would know if she’d been shot. I did CPR on this woman. There’s no blood. There’s no gunshot. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Mind you, the bullet went through her back and then she fell backwards and landed on her back. There was no exit wound. So when we’re doing CPR and chest compressions, there was nothing. You couldn’t see anything. At this point, I think it was an FBI agent comes in to take our statements and I remember asking, I said, “Can you just tell me what happened with the woman? Was she shot?” He said, “She was.”
Nelson Rivera: 14:39 I got a phone call and that was one of the detectives. He asked me, “Are you Nelson Rivera?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Lori’s your wife?” I said, “Yes.” “She just got shot.” From that point to now, my life changed completely. My name is Nelson Rivera and I was married to Lori Ann Luis Rivera. I am from the country of Honduras, central America. When I came to the United States, I started going to the Church of Jesus Christ, Latter Day Saints and that’s when I met Lori. She was a member of the church. She was a sweet, very sweet girl and I fall in love with her. The funny part was I didn’t speak no English at all, so it was hard for me to ask her out for a date. But I figured it out.
Nelson Rivera: 15:48 I asked my older brother, can you call her and tell her I want to take her out for dinner. So he called her and she said, “Yeah.” I take her to a Hispanic restaurant. I don’t know what to say because I didn’t know how to say it. It was just weird and funny at the same time. I was just looking at her and she was just looking at me. So after the dinner, it was about eight o’clock at night. In front of us was the temple of the Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints. I know that word, marry. I asked her, “Do you want to marry me?” She told me, “Are you crazy?” I guess I was crazy at that time. I was lucky. She took my back. We kept dating for a while and then we got married in November 21st in 1997 and Josalina, she was born in January, 1999. Lori, she was a good mom.
Nelson Rivera: 17:05 Josalina always wanted to go to the pool and she always wanted mommy to take her. She was so little, but she’s still, remember that mommy was taking her to the pool and that’s the only memory Josalina remembers of her mom. The morning before I left to work, it was something completely different than any other day. She was sleeping and I just standing over there by the side of the bed for about five minutes and then I left. So when I was driving around eight o’clock in the morning, I was listening to the news and the radio and I heard about people being shot in Maryland and I think it was about close to nine o’clock. I got a phone call and that was one of the detectives. He asked me, “Are you Nelson Rivera?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Are you driving?” I said, “Yes.” “Is somebody with you?”
Nelson Rivera: 18:19 I said, “Yes.” He told me, “Can you pull over? I got something to tell you, but I want you to pull over.” So I pulled over and he said, “Lori’s your wife?” I said, “Yes.” “She just got shot.” I just got off of that truck and I run across the street because I don’t know what to do. I was lucky a car don’t hit me or something. It’s even hard after so many years. She was so young. She was just 24 years old.
Nelson Rivera: 19:09 We drove back to Kensington, Maryland to that Shell gas station where she got shot. Her blood was there and there was a lot of people and I was just wondering, if my daughter was in the car and 15 minutes before that happened, she dropped Josalina off at the daycare. So I pick her up. She was three years and eight months. But I say, “You know what Josalina, I got to talk to you.” That was the most hard part for me to do. What am I going to say? There’s just millions of things that come to my head. I said, “Josalina, mommy, she’s not going to be with us anymore. She’s with heavenly father now. She’s going to watch us from there. She’s going to watch you the whole time.” That was not an easy thing to say and really, really impact Josalines’ life. Any holidays, any Mother’s Day is just … has been hard.
Nelson Rivera: 20:21 When she was young, she will say, “Daddy, I just want to die to go with my mom because she’s in heaven so I want to be in heaven with her.” That was devastating for me every time when she was saying something like that. I said, “It’s not our time yet. Everybody is going to have their own time and she’ll be waiting for us.” That’s the kind of thing I was dealing with and still. Now she’s 20 there sound moments Josaline still miss her mom. It’s not the same.
Speaker 1: 21:17 While victim’s family is grieved the senseless loss of their loved ones, the police and the media were stepping into high gear. Here’s former police, Lieutenant David Rikenball again.
David Rikenball: 21:27 As word was getting out through the media and everywhere, the panic was starting to set in.
Speaker 2: 21:33 Many of the merchants out of fear have locked their doors and they’re letting customers in and out as necessary. There’s a great deal of fear going on.
David Rikenball: 21:41 If you remember, this is back in the early days of cable news, so this was new for law enforcement to have to deal with a media that was 24/7. Caused us some problems down the road because there was a learning curve. Not only I think for the media, but also for us.
Speaker 2: 21:56 There’s a lot of concerns since these shootings are so random and so public that parents have wanted to go to the schools and pull their kids out. A little while ago we heard from the local police captain Charles Moose, here’s what he had to say.
Charles Moose: 22:09 We have no information that this has anything to do with the schools. None of the victims have been anything close to school age. None of the locations are close to the schools. I think the school kids are safe. They will be released under normal schedule. We won’t create a situation of panic, of traffic that at this point the police department is not capable of handling. Now, certainly I can’t arrest a parent that insists on going to the school to get their kid, but please don’t do it. It doesn’t help the situation at this point. So please, the media if you can help me get that message out.
Speaker 1: 22:45 Derek Beliles was a public information officer for Montgomery County, Maryland. It was his job to manage relations between the media and the police.
Derek Beliles: 22:53 Dealing with the media on a case that’s attracted the attention of the country was a little bit overwhelming. They immediately showed up in our parking lot and just set up tents and in fact we called it Camp Moose. Those of us who are public information officers refer to how big an event is based upon how many chemical toilets are delivered.I’m, and I believe this was a five seater, so it was big. I’d go out and talk to the media to find out what they wanted to know and then come back to Chief Moose and the others who were making the decisions about what was going to be said. We tried to tell the public everything we could about how to keep safe. Of course, there’s things that we can’t tell you because we’re in the process of investigating it at this time that if we were to release the information early, it might ruin everything. We didn’t have a whole lot of information to tell the public, so we’ve tried to provide the best information we could to people and one of those things was about the white panel van.
Speaker 5: 23:51 Police have had little to go on. Only one witness’s description of a white truck speeding away from one murder scene. School children were kept indoors through the day and police were on hand when schools let out. Police admit they don’t know who or what they’re dealing with or what their motive might be.
Patrick McNerne: 24:08 The first big day, it’s like, why Montgomery County? Who has a grudge? What are they trying to prove?
Speaker 1: 24:15 That’s Patrick McNerney, the homicide detective who’d been assigned to the first murder outside the Shoppers Food Warehouse. Now, after four more shootings in Montgomery County, the case and potential motives looked very different.
Patrick McNerne: 24:29 There were people who worked for the police department might be a little unhinged, either current or retired. Let’s find out where these people are and actually put your hand on them and know where they were during this timeframe. That was our first thing we did kind of like in a Wizard of Oz. Start at the very beginning of the yellow brick road and work your way out.
Speaker 1: 24:51 But that theory would be quickly thrown out. That night at 9:20 PM, investigators got their first indication that the snipers weren’t just focused on Montgomery County. The snipers had now moved into the nation’s capitol. It was now 9:20 PM, the night of October 3rd. After lying low for almost 12 hours. The snipers had just shot their fifth victim of the day and they’d crossed over the border into Washington, DC.
Speaker 16: 25:31 911 emergency.
Speaker 17: 25:32 Yeah, we got a guy get shot out here. I’m on the corner of Georgia and Kalmia Street.
Speaker 16: 25:38 What’s going on there?
Speaker 17: 25:39 There’s a dude just got shot at the intersection.
Speaker 16: 25:40 He just got shot?
Speaker 17: 25:42 Yeah.
Speaker 16: 25:42 Spell Kalmia for me.
Speaker 17: 25:43 It’s K-A-L-M-I-A Road Northwest right beside a taco bell and a KFC. He is bleeding like a mother fucker. He’s bleeding bad. [crosstalk 00:25:54].
Speaker 16: 25:54 [inaudible 00:25:55].
Speaker 1: 25:57 The victim, Pascal Charlo was a 72 year old Haitian immigrant and a retired carpenter. He was standing on a street corner when he was shot.
Speaker 16: 26:06 But I need to transfer you over to [inaudible 00:26:07].
Speaker 17: 26:13 [inaudible 00:26:09].
Speaker 18: 26:14 Sir, what’s wrong?
Speaker 17: 26:15 There’s a dude here. he Just got shot. He’s, [inaudible 00:26:17]. He’s breathing. He’s still breathing, but he’s not doing too good.
Speaker 1: 26:28 Pascal Charlo died less than an hour later. There were a few witnesses nearby when the shot rang out. One reported seeing a sedan driving with its headlights off. Another saw a bright flash of light, but that was about it. No one had spotted the white box truck, let alone its license plate. The next morning, Friday, October 4th, Maryland’s chief medical examiner autopsied the victims and extracted bullet fragments from their bodies. He sent them to Walter Dandridge Jr, a forensic firearm examiner at the ATF lab in Maryland.
Walter Dandridg: 27:06 It’s not unusual for state and local to ask ATF to assist them with firearms related crimes. ATF in fact, is the firearms police essentially. My name is Walter Dandridge Jr. I work for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Firearms have rifling cut into the barrel and they’re in a helical twist within the barrel. So when the bullet is fired, that rifling inparts a spin on the bullet. You see a quarterback throw a football in slow motion. It has this tight spiral and is flying straight and true.
Walter Dandridg: 27:45 You want this tight spiraled spin in order to maintain the stability of the projectile.
Speaker 1: 27:52 A guns rifling does more than add a spin to the bullet. It carves grooves into the sides of the bullet as well. Creating marks that are forensic firearm examiner like Dandridge can analyze. Dandridge compared the bullets from different shootings against one another to see if they had been fired from the same gun.
Walter Dandridg: 28:11 So I stick one projectile on the left stage of the comparison microscope and I’ll stick the second projectile on the right stage of the microscope and I’m looking through the eyepiece and I can manipulate the bullets on each of those stages, rotating them and looking at the microscopic marks. I can raise the magnification to 20, 25, 30 X and see those marks clearly. If all of that is corresponding, then we will call that an identification, which would indicate that they were fired from the same firearm.
Speaker 1: 28:49 Dandridge confirmed what everyone feared. All of the recovered bullets had been fired from the same high powered rifle. There was a sniper on the loose who’d killed one person on Wednesday, October 2nd and then five more on Thursday, October 3rd. Now it was Friday, October 4th and everyone was on edge about what would happen next. Here’s retired homicide detective McNerney again.
Patrick McNerne: 29:17 It was Friday. I had just gotten in into the office and my supervisor, Nick de Carlo came to me and says, “Listen, you need to get your papers together. You’re going to Fredericksburg, Virginia for a shooting outside of a Michael’s down there.”
Speaker 11: 29:32 911. What is your emergency?
Speaker 21: 29:34 Yes, I am in front of Michael’s and somebody out here who needs some help.
Speaker 11: 29:38 Okay. What’s going on?
Speaker 21: 29:40 I’m not sure. There was a loud cracking. She said she needs help. She’s lying down. [crosstalk 00:29:48].
Speaker 11: 29:45 Do you think she’s injured?
Speaker 21: 29:50 Yeah. Definitely injured.
Speaker 11: 29:51 She hurt herself some way?
Speaker 21: 29:53 I’m not sure. There was a loud noise. It looks like she’s been shot or something. She’s been shot, yeah.
Speaker 11: 30:01 She’s been shot. Okay.
Speaker 21: 30:01 I have to come back and get my son out of the car.
Speaker 22: 30:04 [inaudible 00:30:08].
Speaker 21: 30:04 Yeah, I know. Let’s get you out of here.
Speaker 11: 30:11 Okay. We’re getting somebody on the way.
Speaker 21: 30:13 I pulled up and there was a loud gunshot.
Speaker 11: 30:18 Did you see anything or anyone? You just heard a loud pop?
Speaker 21: 30:22 I heard the call for help and I saw the car.
Speaker 11: 30:25 You saw the car?
Speaker 21: 30:27 I didn’t see the car.
Speaker 11: 30:27 You didn’t see the car?
Speaker 21: 30:28 I noticed that a car was screwing away, but I did not see it.
Speaker 11: 30:33 Okay. Did anyone else?
Speaker 21: 30:34 No, same thing. We were aware that a car sped away, but we did not actually [inaudible 00:30:38] what it was.
Speaker 11: 30:39 Okay.
Speaker 21: 30:40 Someone said there was a man in it.
Speaker 11: 30:42 What about the lady that’s injured?
Speaker 21: 30:44 Did she see it? Lot of people are out here right now. Did you actually see the car. No, she didn’t see it.
Speaker 11: 30:51 Okay. Is she in the parking lot?
Speaker 21: 30:54 Yeah, yeah.
Speaker 11: 30:54 She’s in the parking lot? Yeah.
Speaker 1: 31:02 43 year old Caroline Seawell was the seventh victim in just three days. She just finished a simple errand at Michaels and she was loading bags into her minivan when a bullet pierced her back. It tore through her liver and punctured her lung. But when detective McNerney heard that this shooting like the first took place at a Michael’s craft store, he perked up.
Patrick McNerne: 31:25 Now we at least have some connection. What are the connections between these two places? So this thing happens in Spotsylvania County in Virginia where my supervisor, Nick said, “Listen, you got two helicopters waiting for you over at the police academy and they’ll take you down there.” That was my big adventure to fly in a helicopter with the FBI.
Speaker 1: 31:45 As detective McNerney flew South to Fredericksburg, Virginia. Caroline Seawell was medevac North to a hospital in Fairfax.
Patrick McNerne: 31:53 As a matter of fact, our helicopters crossed one another’s path on the way down there.
Speaker 1: 31:58 Seawell was rushed into emergency surgery and miraculously, she survived. Meanwhile, McNerney’s helicopter arrived in Fredericksburg.
Patrick McNerne: 32:07 We landed right in the parking lot where the Michael’s was down there. When I went in and I was talking to the manager of the place, what is your connection with Montgomery County? Oddly enough, the same guy who set up the store in Montgomery County set up the store in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Okay, well now we have a connection and why would somebody want to shoot you or something at the store and we’re coming up with blanks on that.
Speaker 1: 32:34 McNerney was convinced that the crimes were connected but he’d need a bullet to prove it.
Patrick McNerne: 32:39 The round was recovered or what was left of it. Ms Seawell was putting stuff in the back of her van. Her arm was up pulling down the tailgate when she was shot. The round went through her and stayed inside the rear of the van. I met with the sheriff explaining this is what we have in Montgomery County. What you’re telling me here fits the things that we’re looking for. Then there was discussion about what are you going to do with the round and they’re like, “Well, we’ll submit it to Virginia state police and we’ll get something back in a couple months.” Let me make this offer to you. Sign the evidence over to me and I’ll take it directly down to the ATF lab and they’ll examine it hopefully within 24 hours.
Patrick McNerne: 33:25 They ultimately said that’s the better route and fortunately for me, the FBI stayed there with their helicopter. It was interesting though. This was a sniper helicopter, old Huey, so on the way down here I could sit on the outboard seat looking out the window. The door is wide open, but on the way back, the guys had their night vision goggles on and they were sitting on the outboard seat like, wow, I didn’t know it would be a target. But got back there. I took the round to ATF.
Walter Dandridg: 33:53 He had his lights and sirens on and the brakes were smoking when he reached the lab.
Speaker 1: 33:58 That’s forensic firearm examiner, Walter Dandridge again.
Walter Dandridg: 34:02 There was a lot of urgency during this time, but the urgency wasn’t at the sacrifice of quality. We didn’t do anything different with the sniper investigation other than once we received the evidence we worked at right through. If that meant working all night, we did that as opposed to quitting after eight hours.
Patrick McNerne: 34:22 The next morning, decision was yes, this included in our case. Let’s get the sheriff up here and do the press announcement.
Speaker 1: 34:33 The weekend brought a break from the shootings and some wondered if the spree had ended as quickly as it began, but police were working overtime. They interviewed employees from Michaels, questioned white box truck owners and checked up on people who’d recently bought or sold rifles in the area, but they didn’t come up with many promising leads. On Saturday, October 5th police said they had detained a man. Robert Baker the third, who had been reported missing around the time of the shootings. He’d left his home in Montgomery County, Maryland and taken with him a rifle that fired the same kind of bullets used in the attacks and reportedly he was affiliated with militia and white supremacist groups.
Speaker 1: 35:17 But after initial hopes he was connected to the attacks, police ruled him out. Speaking to the Washington Post, Montgomery County police chief Charles Moose said quote, “I would just like to express the fact that Mr Baker’s vehicle is a dark blue GMC pickup truck. It never has been white. Never has been associated with the white box truck we’ve been talking about.” The next day, Sunday, October 6th marked the first funeral for one of the victims, Prim Kumar Walaker, the taxi driver who’d been shot at the gas station. Caroline Namro attended. She was the doctor who witnessed the shooting and gave Walaker CPR.
Caroline Namro: 36:04 It was very emotional. Obviously very devastating to his family. They asked me what his final words were and I told them unfortunately he didn’t have time to say any messages to his family. I did relay what had happened and then they asked me to speak, which I was quite shocked that they wanted me to speak. It was a very big funeral, was in a church. During the time that people were speaking, I had a few minutes to sit down and collect my thoughts and I did get up and speak.
Caroline Namro: 36:41 I remember saying that it was such a terrible waste of a life. This is devastating. I remember thinking I should try and say something religious just because it was in a church. So the only thing I could think of was a blessing to the family that God would turn his face to them, shine his light on them and give them peace, which is the priestly blessing. I said to the police liaison lady, I said, “I don’t want my face to be on television.” They still hadn’t found the snipers. I didn’t want anybody to find me or come to the house or anything. In the evening if I was putting the kids to bed and it was very quiet in the house, just fell a little nervous.
Speaker 1: 37:27 Everyone shared that anxiety. Even police officers working the case. Here’s retired Maryland state police, Lieutenant David Rikenball again.
David Rikenball: 37:37 I was a parent of a teenage girl at that point. Hey, your kids are everything. There’s concern, there’s panic. Of course there’s that, I want to call it the unrealistic thought process because I went through a two. I was concerned about my kid. Is my kid going to be a target in all of this? Now, the police side of me says that’s just unrealistic and the odds are astronomical, but dad part of me says, hey, my kid could be the next target. I guarantee you every parent, certainly in Montgomery County and now the District of Columbia, we’re beginning to think the same thing. How could you not? Then Monday, October 7th 8:08 AM, Benjamin Tasker, middle school, our worst fear.
Speaker 1: 38:33 Next time on Monster DC Sniper.
Speaker 16: 38:37 This was a copy of Prince George’s County 911 call.
Speaker 11: 38:40 Hello?
Speaker 25: 38:41 Hello. This is [inaudible 00:38:42] Middle School. We have a child out front that says he’s been shot.
Speaker 26: 38:47 Hi, I’m the principal of this school.
Speaker 25: 38:49 Did somebody just drive off with him?
Speaker 26: 38:50 Yeah. He left. I don’t know where. I have no idea.
David Rikenball: 38:56 That’s the [inaudible 00:38:57] tarot card. The message here is quite obvious. Call me God. They decide who lives. They decide who dies.
Speaker 26: 39:06 There was a very quick realization that this could be the next stage of a terror campaign.
David Rikenball: 39:14 There it is all over network news, which meant we had an internal leak.
Speaker 1: 39:28 Monster DC Sniper is a 15 episode podcast hosted by Tony Harris and produced by iHeartRadio and Tenderfoot TV. Matt Frederick and Alex Williams are executive producers on behalf of iHeartRadio alongside producers, Trevor Young, Ben Keebrik and Josh Thane. [inaudible 00:39:46] Lindsey and Donald Albright are executive producers on behalf of Tenderfoot TV alongside producers, Meredith Stedman and Christina Dana. Original music is by Makeup and Vanity Set. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the first two seasons, Atlanta Monster and Monster, The Zodiac Killer. If you have questions or comments, email us at monster@iHeartMedia.com or you can call us at 1 (833) 285-6667. Thanks for listening.