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School shooting linked to sniper

ATF: 'Projectile is identical'

Virginia Lovett comforts her daughter Kamled after a student at the girl's school was shot Monday.
Virginia Lovett comforts her daughter Kamled after a student at the girl's school was shot Monday.

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Police have linked the shooting of a 13-year-old boy outside a middle school in Prince George's County to sniper attacks in the Washington area. CNN's Bob Franken reports (October 8)
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Officials from Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland announce a joint probe of recent sniper attacks (October 7)
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Tip line:
$160,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people involved in the shootings.

Suspect vehicle:
White van, possibly an Isuzu or a Mitsubishi, with black lettering on the side.

BOWIE, Maryland (CNN) -- Monday's shooting of a 13-year-old boy outside a middle school in Prince George's County is linked to Washington-area sniper attacks last week that left six people dead and another wounded, authorities say.

"The projectile is identical to those that have been recovered from other scenes," said Joe Riehl, a special agent for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Prince George's Police Chief Gerald Wilson refused to discuss the sniper's possible motive.

"What I want is him," Wilson said.

ATF special agent Mike Bouchard said it is "more troubling" that the sniper was now "attacking innocent children."

"The stakes are raised. All of us are taking it more personal. ... It makes us more determined. The gloves are off," he said.

Authorities said the reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer or killers has risen to $160,000 -- $100,000 from the state, $50,000 from Montgomery County and another $10,000 from a victims' rights foundation.

The boy gunned down Monday was taken to a nearby hospital by his aunt, a nurse, who had just dropped him off at school. From there he was airlifted to Children's National Medical Center in Washington, where he underwent surgery for a single gunshot that entered his abdomen.

He was described in critical but stable condition, on a ventilator. Doctors removed his spleen and parts of his stomach and pancreas.

"We're happy with how he is doing at this point, but we can't anticipate how that might evolve over the next several hours," said Dr. Martin Eichelberger, the boy's surgeon.

Last week, five people were shot and killed in Montgomery County during a 16-hour period from Wednesday night into Thursday morning. A sixth victim was shot dead Thursday night on a Washington street. A seventh person was wounded Friday in Virginia. (Trail of the sniper)

Each of the victims was shot once, and police said the victims appeared to have been picked at random.

Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose told CNN there were witnesses to Monday's shooting.

"We have what I would consider to be witnesses," he said. "Many people that provided a different piece of whatever they may have seen. And we're trying to put it all together and come up with a composite that we can ... give to the community."

Asked if witnesses also observed a vehicle, Moose said, "There may be a vehicle."

Although federal authorities have been assisting local investigators with the case, Moose wrote a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft to officially request assistance.

Montgomery County officials said schools would open as scheduled on Tuesday.

"We are asking people to walk their children to school, and to get children together and to assist them as best they can," County Executive Douglas Duncan told reporters. "We're asking for parent volunteers to look as they're walking if there are other kids walking separately, to bring them into the group and assist them that way."

Police cadets search the scene of Monday's shooting.
Police cadets search the scene of Monday's shooting.

He said about 120 police and fire recruits would be assigned to the county's schools Tuesday.

In the District of Columbia, police officers are being held over after the end of their shifts to help patrol schools, said Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey. Officers on patrol duty will also make extra stops at all district schools -- public, private, and charter -- and check in with the principals.

It was not clear what measures Virginia counties might take for their schools; representatives of the state's Department of Education could not be reached for comment Monday night.

An official with the Maryland Department of Education said not all school districts will have made decisions on Tuesday's procedures until as late as 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Citizens urged to be vigilant

Authorities urged citizens to call police with tips.

"We're still not convinced we've heard from people we want to talk to," said Moose. "We still want to hear from people."

Police continued searching for a white van seen speeding from the parking lot of a post office Thursday immediately after a shooting there.

Moose said local, state and federal investigators are following up on 952 credible leads. There are 15 investigators "at the ready" who will answer phones, he said. He urged callers who don't get an answer when they call to try again.

While looking for leads to connect the sniper attacks, authorities ruled out the possibility that one shooting -- a man sitting in his car in Washington -- was related, because the man was shot at close range with a handgun. That case appeared to be a robbery, police said. The victim survived the attack.

Geographical profiler called in

Moose said there were witnesses to Monday's shooting.
Moose said there were witnesses to Monday's shooting.

Moose said investigators are pursuing geographical and psychological profiles and a "bountiful amount" of information has been gleaned.

"It is a tool to help our investigators," Moose said. He said the profiles are adjusted as more information is amassed through the investigation. He cautioned that while profiles have helpful information, police have to keep an open mind and not exclude anyone, cautioning against "tunnel vision."

D. Kim Rossmo, a former Canadian detective working with investigators, said Sunday that geographic profiling compares the location of the crimes with other information collected by police to give investigators "some idea of the likely base or residence of the offender responsible."

"In effect, it provides an optimal search strategy," Rossmo said.

Rossmo, director of research for the Washington-based Police Foundation, said crimes typically take place "fairly close to an offender's home but not too close."

"At some point, for a given offender, their desire for anonymity balances their desire to operate in their comfort zone," Rossmo said. "Where that exact point is will vary on the offender, their mode of transportation and also maybe their degree of confidence."

Mourners attended a funeral Sunday for one of Thursday's victims, Prem Kumar Walekar, 54, an Olney, Maryland, cab driver who was killed while filling his minivan with gas at a service station in nearby Aspen Hill.

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