Chief Charles Moose gets accolades in the form of a fan Web site
By Steve Irsay
(Court TV) -- Amid the tragedy of the Washington-area sniper attacks an unlikely star was born.
Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose became the frustrated, yet determined public face of a massive investigation that finally netted two suspects Thursday after 10 people where killed and three seriously wounded in a terrifying three-week stretch.
With talk of books and movies about the case already beginning to swirl, the humble chief is getting a little of the star treatment in the form of -- what else -- a Web fan page.
"We think he is Superman basically," said 22-year-old writer Bronwen Liggitt, one of the creators of www.chiefmoose.com. "We have the biggest respect for Chief Moose. He is so charismatic and he seems so strong. We are just sort of in awe of him."
The tastefully cute tribute site lingered in Internet obscurity until a mention on Howard Stern's radio show on October 25 attracted 3,000 hits within a few hours. Now, Liggitt finds herself fielding hundreds of e-mails as the point person for the self-professed "Antler Network."
Liggitt, a Baltimore resident, felt overwhelmed and a bit scared by the constant sniper coverage on her local TV station. Chief Moose, she said, became something of a reassuring and captivating figure for her.
Looking for a little levity in a scary situation, she and her friends joked that they should be his fan club. Pal Oliver Young, an Australian computer programmer, registered the domain name and with that the first Moose-keteer club of sorts was born.
Obviously, the site walks a line between tragedy and comedy but tries to make its good-hearted intentions clear.
"This site is in homage to Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose," reads the disclaimer on the site. "It is not intended in any way to undermine or show disrespect to the victims of the current tragedy and their families."
The site does not deal directly with the sniper investigation or the case that is currently being built against suspects John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo. The crew at chiefmoose.com intentionally did not post stories when a new shooting was reported.
Instead, the site offers a mix of fact and fiction relating to the chief. Brief tributes in the Moose Tracks section refer to him as everything from "an angel" to "top-moose." One item calls on users to send in their favorite "moose-isms," the phrases that became familiar as Chief Moose sternly and sometimes grudgingly briefed reporters daily.
Under Moose Sighting there is an official-looking photo of the chief wearing his familiar green and tan uniform and an unfamiliar smile. There is also a cartoon of Chief Moose as a superhero – complete with antlers and a cape – drawn by Liggitt's younger sister.
For the bio of Chief Moose entitled "Moose on the Loose" Liggitt started with one paragraph of fact about the 49-year-old former Portland top cop. From there, she goes on to have a little fun with her hero's past.
She details Moose's fictitious film career, which included a breakthrough role in Wild Moose Chase opposite Dolph Lungren and Jean-Claude Van Damme and landed him on the cover of Playgirl and earned him the distinction of being People Magazine's Sexiest Man of the Year.
Back to reality, in the Famous Moosen section there are references to all things moose: Rocky and Bullwinkle (aka "Moose and Squirrel" to their Soviet nemeses Boris and Natasha), Teddy Roosevelt's ill-fated attempt at a Bull moose political party and a microbrew beer called Moose Drool.
Light-hearted or in poor taste?
There is also a poll asking which leading man should portray the chief if and when a TV movie is produced. Visitor suggestions range from Denzel Washington to The Rock to Jesse Jackson. Liggitt's pick is Dennis Haysbert, one of the stars of the hit show 24.
At least one person was not amused.
"We just got over a disgraceful terrorist attack and all you can think about is who will play Chief Moose in a movie?" wrote one visitor.
Despite all the humor, Liggitt actually takes the chief and his work seriously.
"The only thing there is to make fun of about Chief Moose it that his last name is moose," she said. "He seems really down to earth and nice and he is incredibly charismatic."
While many super fans endlessly lust to meet their heroes, the chiefmoose.com clan are fine admiring their man from afar.
"He is busy and we like him doing his job," Liggitt said.
There will soon be a link to an online store that will hock Chief Moose merchandise like T-shirts, mugs and even lunch boxes. Any profits will be donated to funds for victims of the sniper shootings.
Now that the sniper investigation appears to be closed, Liggitt hopes that others will be able to step away from the horrific events and appreciate Chief Moose's role in the grueling case.
"I think he is a great strong role model," said Liggitt. "He isn't an entertainer or an athlete. He is someone you can admire because he is a good person who does a good job."