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Sniper probe issues warrant, message

Police to sniper: 'We have an answer for you'


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Police Chief Charles Moose announces a warrant has been issued for a man who may have information on the sniper shootings
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Federal authorities searched a yard outside a duplex in Tacoma, Washington, as the sniper investigation moved West
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CNN's Kelli Arena reports a new note believed to be from the sniper was found at the site of the latest shooting
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CNN's Bob Franken walks around the woods park where police theorize a sniper took aim at a bus driver and killed him
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CNN's Art Harris talks with parents in the Washington area about the climate of fear surrounding the recent killings
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SPECIAL REPORT
• Interactive: The death penalty
• Interactive: Police close in
• Interactive: Suspects' trail
• Story: D.C. area victims
RELATED
SUSPECT INFORMATION
Tip line:
888-324-9800
$500,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people involved in the shootings.
Write-in tips:
P.O. Box 7875
Gaithersburg, Maryland
20898-7875
Reward contribution line:
240-777-8970

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
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ROCKVILLE, Maryland (CNN) -- Authorities investigating the Washington-area sniper shootings said Wednesday night a federal arrest warrant had been issued for a man who may have knowledge about the case.

The warrant, for federal firearms violations, names John Allen Muhammad, 42, also known as John Allen Williams.

Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose, whose department is leading the investigation, told a news conference that Muhammad should be considered armed and dangerous and may be traveling with a juvenile, his stepson.

The sniper has killed 10 people and wounded three since October 2.

Moose emphasized the arrest warrant "is not related to the recent shootings being investigated by the Montgomery County task force." But he did say "Mr. Muhammad may have information material to our investigation."

He described Muhammad as a black male, about 6 feet 1 inches tall, weighing about 180 pounds.

Muhammad is the stepfather of 17-year-old Jamaican national, John Lee Malvo, who is believed to be traveling with him, law enforcement sources said.

The two are believed to be driving a blue and burgundy 1990 Chevrolet Caprice with a New Jersey license plate NDA-21Z. Authorities in the D.C. metropolitan region have issued a lookout for the vehicle, law enforcement sources told CNN.

After the October 3 shooting of Pascal Charlot, 72, in Washington, D.C., law enforcement officials searched for a burgundy Chevrolet Caprice. One such car was later found burned out in the D.C. area, but it was never determined if it had anything to do with the fatal shooting.

Military officials told CNN that Muhammad is an Army veteran of the Persian Gulf War. He was not sniper trained and was not in the Special Forces but served in conventional Army units, the officials said.

Moose also issued a new plea to the letter writer authorities believe is the sniper, asking the person to contact the task force directly -- either by phone or at a post office box.

"You have indicated that you want us to do and say certain things. You asked us to say, 'We have caught the sniper like a duck in a noose.'

"We understand that hearing us say this is important to you. However, we want you to know how difficult it has been to understand what you want because you have chosen to use only notes, indirect messages, and calls to other jurisdictions," Moose said.

Moose also told the suspect that "we have an answer for you about your option. We're waiting for you to contact us." (Full message)

Probe stretches to West Coast

Muhammad once served at Fort Lewis, Washington, about 14 miles from the Tacoma duplex searched by federal agents Wednesday afternoon, according to Defense Department sources.

The mayor of Bellingham, Washington, which is north of Tacoma near the Canadian border, said the FBI and local police had searched Bellingham High School in relation to two men -- one older, one younger -- who lived in the city nine months ago.

Mayor Mark Asmundson told KING-TV the pair was "of interest to police" when they lived there and generated interest again Wednesday. He said the men are not related and that one is not a U.S. national. A spokeswoman for the FBI in Seattle had no comment.

Aerial video of the Tacoma house search showed a law enforcement officer grid off the back yard with yellow tape and saw off a large tree trunk at its roots. The stump was wrapped in plastic and taken away. A backhoe could be seen.

Sources said agents wanted the stump because they believe it might have been used for target practice and might contain potential ballistics evidence.

Agents also were apparently using metal detectors in a search of the premises. The sources said authorities were looking for shell casings.

Martha Tebbenkamp, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Seattle, said a joint task force of ATF and FBI agents were "on site" because of a "a link to events in the Washington, D.C., area."

FBI spokeswoman Melissa Mallon of the Seattle office said the search of the property was consensual with the current resident. Authorities had prepared to issue a search warrant but didn't need to because of the resident's consent.

Authorities said they were interested in the person who had lived in the house previously, not the current resident.

A woman who lives across the street from the house, Deborah Waters, told CNN the house is a rented duplex and that gunfire was common when the previous resident lived there last year.

"We do remember that before the guy moved in that lives there now, we did hear a lot of gunfire in the neighborhood, and we actually called 911," Waters said. "The police came out, but nothing ever came of that."

In still another development, federal authorities also searched a training camp in Marion, Alabama, local officials said.

The FBI said agents searched property in Marion on Wednesday but would not say where the search was conducted. The FBI did say the search was related to the sniper case.

Marion Police said the property searched was a training camp -- "Ground Zero USA" -- that specializes in urban warfare, martial arts and SWAT tactics. Police did not elaborate on what, if anything, was taken from the property.

Later, a local police spokeswoman declined to comment on any search, referring calls to the FBI in Mobile.

Mark Yates, the head of the training camp, said he knew nothing of a search and that police were only present because of "over sensationalized" media reports. However, local TV stations said FBI agents were seen at the camp Wednesday, and Yates acknowledged that he was not on the premises himself but at a different location an hour's drive to the north.

Communication glitch

Other sources told CNN on Wednesday that a communication glitch between the sniper task force and local law enforcement caused them to miss an opportunity to catch the sniper.

NDA-21Z
That is the number of a New Jersey license plate affixed to a blue-and-burgundy 1990 Chevrolet Caprice that police are seeking in connection with the sniper investigation. 
 

When law officers swooped down on a pay telephone at a gas station in the Richmond, Virginia, area Monday, they apparently missed the man believed to be the sniper by about 10 minutes, the sources told CNN.

By the time authorities arrived at the phone booth, believed to have been used by the sniper over the weekend and again Monday, they found only an undocumented worker in a white van and another man nearby. Both men were turned over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Perhaps because those arrests might have caused fear in the immigrant community, Moose issued an appeal Wednesday to immigrants, legal or otherwise, to come forward and contact the tip line if they had witnessed any of the shootings.

"When we have federal law enforcement officials involved in the investigation, perhaps some of our immigrant community members feel like there would be some problem for them because of their status, or some questions with regard to their status, if they come forward," Moose said. (Full story)

INS Commissioner James Ziglar pointed out that "undocumented aliens" could benefit by contacting police with information regarding the sniper attacks.

"I want to point out that a special visa status is available to people who assist law enforcement in combating and solving crime," Ziglar said. "We will look favorably on granting such special visa status to anyone who can be proven to have materially aided this investigation."

Latest shooting linked

Police announced Wednesday that ballistics linked the fatal shooting of Conrad Johnson, 35, a bus driver in Silver Spring, Maryland, to the Washington-area sniper. (More on victim)

Tuesday's fatal shooting was the 10th blamed on the sniper. Three people also have been wounded since the shootings began October 2. (Trail of sniper)

Moose to sniper suspect:
Moose to sniper suspect: "We're waiting for you to contact us."

Law enforcement sources said a note was found near where Johnson was shot in the Aspen Hill neighborhood of Silver Spring. Sources said the note is similar to the letter found after a weekend shooting in Virginia that has been linked to the sniper.

Sources told CNN the Virginia letter revealed a frustrated individual -- believed to be the sniper -- critical of law enforcement's efforts in the investigation. The writer complained that he tried numerous times to call authorities, only to have officials hang up on him. (Full story)

The sources said the writer also said that because of what he claims was the incompetence of the investigation "five people had to die."

Officials said they believe the Virginia letter is authentic. Crime experts also say that based on what has been reported so far, the letter appears to be authentic. (Full story)

The letter, wrapped in plastic, was found in the woods behind a Ponderosa restaurant in Ashland, Virginia, where a 37-year-old man was shot and critically wounded Saturday night.

The letter is undergoing analysis at an FBI lab for DNA, handwriting and other details that might help determine who wrote it. (What is known about the sniper)

Despite the revelation that the letter writer had made a threat against children, schools in the Richmond, Virginia-area districts reopened Wednesday after some of them had been closed for two days. (Fear at schools)

Other developments

•Authorities Wednesday briefly shut down the northbound lanes of Interstate 270 in Germantown, Maryland, after a school bus driver reported seeing what she thought was a gunman in a white, box truck. There were no children on the bus and no shot was fired, but the bus driver immediately flagged down a Gaithersburg police officer and relayed her account. (Full story)

•Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening said Wednesday he was seriously considering calling out the National Guard on Election Day, November 5, if the sniper isn't caught by then. "The randomness of this danger ... that's where the psychological fear is, and that's where the biggest harm is," he told reporters. (Full story)

•President Bush has no plans to ask the FBI to take over the sniper investigation since authorities consider the current operation the "best approach," the White House press secretary said Wednesday. (Full story)

•Police in Michigan arrested a man on charges that he made repeated calls to authorities claiming he had seen the sniper's van and threatened to blow it up. (Full story)

-- CNN correspondents Kelli Arena, Jason Carroll, Patty Davis and Jeanne Meserve, and producer Mike Ahlers contributed to this report.



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