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Sniper suspect's Tacoma home searched

Authorities removed a tree trunk from a duplex in Tacoma, Washington. It may have been used for target practice.
Authorities removed a tree trunk from a duplex in Tacoma, Washington. It may have been used for target practice.

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TACOMA, Washington (CNN) -- Federal agents searched a home in Tacoma, Washington, where a suspect in the Washington, D.C. -area sniper investigation once lived, about nine months ago.

FBI and Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agents began a massive search Wednesday of the house of the suspect, John Allen Muhammad, and its yard, removing a tree trunk police surmised may have been used in target practice.

"We're working it hard," a source close to the investigation told CNN.

Martha Tebbenkamp, a spokeswoman for the ATF in Seattle, said the agents were "on site," and that the search is the result of a "a link to events in the Washington, D.C. area."

Video from the scene showed law enforcement grid off the back yard with yellow tape and saw off a large tree trunk at its roots. It was then wrapped in plastic and taken away. Sources said the trunk may have been used for target practice and might contain bullets or bullet fragments.

Agents also used metal detectors. A backhoe, along with dozens of authorities, was on the property, which has been sealed off.

By 6 p.m. (9 p.m. EDT), the grid was removed and investigators began leaving the property.

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

"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 told CNN. "The police came out, but nothing ever came of that."

Jim Mattheis, a spokesman for the Tacoma Police Department, said, he was notified about 10 a.m. Wednesday that his department was "needed for sight security at the residence," and that the FBI was going to conduct an evidence search, he said.

Tebbenkamp confirmed that agents "removed something large" from the search area, and that they are "sweeping the area, looking for something underground."

Andrea Niemeyer, a neighbor who lives four houses down from the residence, said that police and fire officials were on the site all day Wednesday searching the property.

"I never see anybody going in and out of that house," she said. "We see a burned Cavalier in that driveway."

She said law enforcement loaded evidence into a U-Haul trailer, and two helicopters hovered overhead, she said.

Neighbor Steven Angell said the U-Haul was "more than half full."

"There were several things in the back of the U-Haul," Angell said. He described the neighborhood as a "family friendly" area near a military base.

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