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Sources: Police reach out to sniper

Moose: "Call us at the number you provided."

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Suspect vehicles:
White Chevrolet Astro-type minivan with a ladder rack on its roof; Ford Econoline van with a ladder rack on its roof; white box-type truck

ROCKVILLE, Maryland (CNN) -- Sources close to the investigation of the D.C.-area sniper shootings say a statement made Sunday evening by the head of the sniper task force was an attempt to communicate with the killer.

"To the person who left us a message at the Ponderosa last night, you gave us a telephone number. We do want to talk to you. Call us at the number you provided," said Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose at a brief news conference Sunday night.

The Montgomery County Police Department is the lead agency in the sniper investigation, because the first five shootings occurred there.

According to sources, the person Moose referred to is believed to be the shooter, not a witness or someone otherwise involved in the case.

Moose asked the media to carry his message "clearly" and "often." He did not take any questions, or elaborate.

One of Moose's assistants told CNN after the briefing that the chief's words would "make sense" to the person who left the message.

Authorities were waiting for word from forensics experts to determine whether Saturday night's shooter is the same person who has killed nine people and wounded two others since October 2.

"We are acting as if it is," Col. Stuart Cook, the Hanover County Sheriff, told reporters Sunday. "We'll continue along that mode until it's proved that it is not."

The shootings have prompted a wave of concern and stepped up security throughout the Washington region. With Saturday night's shooting, the anxiety drifted farther south, to the Richmond, Virginia, area.

Superintendents in five area school districts announced their schools would be closed Monday because of "the volume of parent and community concern in the Richmond region."

The heads of the public schools in Richmond and the counties of Chesterfield, Goochland, Henrico and Hanover also encouraged other school districts to follow suit. And they urged parents to monitor their children's activities and routines.

In Saturday's incident, a 37-year-old man was shot Saturday night as he left the Ponderosa restaurant with his wife in Ashland, Virginia, a suburb of Richmond about 90 miles south of Washington on Interstate 95.

Police described the man and his wife as out-of-towners who had pulled off the highway "to get gas and something to eat."

As they walked through the dimly lit parking lot, the woman heard a noise she thought was a car backfiring, officials said.

"About that time her husband declared he had been shot and went to his knees," said Cook.

The victim remained in critical condition Sunday at the Medical College of Virginia Hospital in Richmond after doctors operated a second time to repair some of the extensive damage caused by the bullet, a hospital spokeswoman told CNN.

She said they were able to recover the slug, which investigators will study to see if it was fired by the same gun used in the previous attacks. The bullet is now in the hands of law enforcement.

She added that doctors were "cautiously optimistic" about the man's prognosis and that he will likely undergo more surgery.

Doctors removed his spleen and parts of his stomach and pancreas in late Saturday during three hours of surgery. (Full story)

If the shooting is confirmed as the work of the sniper, it would be the first attack since Monday and the first on a weekend.

In other developments:

  • U.S. officials have questioned al Qaeda prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "to turn over every rock possible" in the sniper shootings, but there is no evidence that an organized terrorist group is responsible, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on Sunday.
  • Funerals for two victims -- Dean Meyers, 53, who was killed October 9 at a gas station in Manassas, Virginia, and Pascal Charlot, 72, shot October 3 in Washington -- were held Saturday.
  • Authorities Saturday downplayed the possibility that a white box truck that police seized Friday was linked to the case. Investigators searched the truck, and examined a shell casing found in the back, but a source told CNN "We don't have high hopes; it's not a high priority." Results of forensic tests are not expected until Monday at the earliest.

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