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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Montgomery County, Maryland Police Chief Briefs Press

Aired October 5, 2002 - 13:20   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon, I'm Fredricka Whitfield from CNN headquarters. We want to take you to Montgomery County, Maryland now, where investigators are commenting on the ongoing investigation of a spate of shootings there. Let's listen in.
DOUG DUNCAN, MONTGOMERY COUNTY EXECUTIVE: ... tasting the food from the great restaurants that are there, so I just want to thank the people of Montgomery County for getting out, getting about their normal business, even in this great state of anxiety and uncertainty that we're all facing.

I did get many, many compliments about our chief and the great work the police department is doing and everyone involved in this case. Chief, I want to pass it on to you. But it's wonderful to see the people of this county enjoying this beautiful day outdoors and doing the normal things that they would do on a beautiful weekend.

So now let me turn it over to Chief Moose for the update on the investigation. Thank you.

CHARLES MOOSE, CHIEF OF POLICE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD: There have been a couple of questions. Let me try to answer the one. I've been in contact with ATF. We talked about the question with regards to the projectiles from the other two shootings in Montgomery County. At this point, I just want to be pretty blunt and say that those are in pretty poor shape. And so we may not be able to confirm if they are linked or not.

We're going to remain optimistic, but they are in very poor shape, and at this point we're going to continue to prioritize the work on the car from Virginia. So, again, we will get back to you, but we do want to let you know that those projectiles are in very poor shape and we just may not be able to link them.

At the close of the last session, I just left a little abruptly from some questions because I had a call from FBI Director Mueller. He and I talked on the phone for quite a little while. He offered every resource that he has available. I informed him that his people have been following that message. We've had access to every FBI resource. His people have been outstanding. But, again, he just wanted to confirm that he's following the case. His people are briefing him, and he continues to tell them to do what is necessary to help in this investigation. Nothing but total support from him.

I'd also like to clarify that in terms of their involvement, these are local homicides. We remain the jurisdiction, the lead jurisdiction. We'll remain the jurisdiction that will be responsible for prosecution of the heinous crimes in our community.

Clearly, the situation in Virginia is also a local crime, and please understand that he has resources on the ground assisting there. It was certainly his people that assisted in the scene processing there last night, looking at trajectory issues, other things that they have expertise in.

So again, the FBI's engaged, they are available, but they're not demanding or insisting or even attempting to be in charge. They're simply helping. They understand these are local cases. And we appreciate that. And certainly I understand that Director Mueller and the Bureau have their hands full, addressing and keeping the nation safe from terrorism. But they are indeed multitasking. They're doing all the things that are necessary. We aren't being slighted because of the other work that they're doing.

In terms of a question about the linking -- again, to repeat from last night, the Shell station shooting and the Leisure World shooting, the two women killed there and the man killed at the Mobile station, the forensics tests link those three situations. I mention the two projectiles that are in very poor shape and it may be doubtful that we'll be able to link them. That work will be done, but the car at this point is the highest priority.

Now, I know that earlier there was a question -- and I appreciate you standing down -- there was a question for the county executive. So we'll let you ask that.

The next briefing is at 5:00 p.m. And, as is standard protocol if there is any breaking news prior to that, we will be engaged and we will release that. But for planning purposes, we will gather, again, at 5:00 p.m.

QUESTION: I wondered if there's any indication of any increase in the number of people (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I talked to some people out at Rockville Pike said they chose -- decided not to go to the Taste of Bethesda because of the shootings.

DUNCAN: Clearly, there's fear and concern and anxiety in our community and people are making decisions on what to do and what not to do based on how they're dealing with this -- this anxiety.

The Taste of Bethesda is having a great turnout today. I mean, I was there, spent a lot of time walking around. Tremendous number of restaurants participating in the Taste of Bethesda and a tremendous number of people. I -- the time I was there, I think the crowd was a normal crowd for that time of day, and the crowd was building. People were continuing to come the whole time I was there, and the peak is probably about an hour from now. But I expect it will be a very good crowd for them.

It was a very good crowd when I left, and I expect the people will continue to come and to do that, and a lot of people said that when they heard me talk about going to it, when they heard the chief say that I was going to it, they said, you know what, we're going to it as well. So you know, it's a good crowd. The vendors there are very pleased with what they're seeing in terms of being able to sell their food.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) people are going about their regular business, is this on the forefront of their minds?

DUNCAN: Oh, absolutely. There were people a little more emotional today I saw there, a lot more hugs from friends than you would normally see. People are thinking about this quite a bit. They're being cautious, they're being observant, they're being vigilant. But they are getting about and doing things, just as we saw yesterday where people sent their children to school. They went to work. We're seeing the same kinds of things today. People are out on the streets, they're going shopping, they're going to restaurants, they're doing things they normally would do on a beautiful weekend day.

QUESTION: Chief Moose, we were told earlier that because of the weapons that were showed off yesterday, that you have gotten a number of calls through the tip line and indeed may have as many as 12 people who have been identified to you by residents in the area as owning some of these guns, and perhaps acting strangely, someone you want to talk to. Can you tell us about any of these cases, and including this person who is missing? We understand they also own one of these guns.

MOOSE: I don't have any information about all of the various people that may have these weapons that have called the tip line. Our investigators are working on that. It would be inappropriate for me to discuss any of that. And I don't know where the number -- you said 12...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me, you asked me could there be as many as 12. And I said, "sure." I didn't confirm that number. And certainly, with 600 leads, 12 perhaps where someone says, yeah, I know someone who owns that type of weapon, and I'm concerned about their anger management or something along those lines. What I said to you was that, sure, there could be approximately 12. I don't know that there are 12, or that there are more or less.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MOOSE: You know, we have spent time at the last briefing and some time in between discussing that matter, and we really are -- have no further comment on that matter. We think we've provided information, and it would be irrelevant to answer any more questions on that situation.

QUESTION: Chief, you say that the car from Fredericksburg right now is your highest priority for finding evidence. What -- does that mean that the other -- the car at the Shell station and the car at the Mobile station, didn't give you the kind of evidence that you were hoping for, or that the scenes didn't give you the kind of evidence that you were hoping for?

MOOSE: I was making reference to the forensics work, the ballistic forensics work. The ballistic people have already connected the Shell station shooting, the Leisure World shooting and the Mobile station. They've connected them by doing their work. So those are connected.

The projectiles that we have from the other two scenes are in very bad shape. So as the forensics people do their work, they have the projectiles that are in very bad shape, and they have the car from Virginia. OK, do we do the work on the projectiles in the very bad shape, or do you do the work on the car? And so I was trying to say that we told them that the priority was to do the work on the car.

When they've finished that work, then they'd do the work on the projectiles that are in very poor shape. But, clearly, we have to prioritize, and it makes sense in our minds to make the car a priority at this time.

QUESTION: What's the make and model of that car?

MOOSE: I do not know that information. I've had no need to ask that question or find that out.

QUESTION: But your indication was that one of those bullets was shot there (OFF-MIKE)?

MOOSE: Again, ma'am, I don't know anything about the details of that investigation. The ATF people, the FBI people, our forensics people are going to go over that car and retrieve available evidence, use it to first determine if there is any connection between the Virginia shooting, the Montgomery County shooting and the D.C. shooting. That is the highest priority. And certainly after that, what they discover to assist them further in Virginia, we will ascertain that. But that is what this work is about, the work that is going to start at 2:00 p.m.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MOOSE: As I stated in the earlier briefing, it's my understanding that is the victim's car.

QUESTION: Chief, if the Virginia shooting turns out to be related, is that going to make it a lot harder for the geographic profiler to do his work, because we're then talking about a much bigger area?

MOOSE: In regards to if the Virginia shooting is connected, will that make the geography profiler's work harder -- we could all conjecture, but I've tried to be clear that I'm certainly no geography profiler, so I don't know. I can't speak for that person. They're working. They're working very hard. At some point, I would anticipate that we will get a response, perhaps that individual will be available and they will be the best person to answer that. I just do not know.

QUESTION: But that's under way already?

MOOSE: Yes, that has been under way since late yesterday afternoon.

QUESTION: If the shootings are connected, will that change the nature of your investigation?

MOOSE: At this point, I don't have any clear picture on how our investigation will change if it's connected or if it's not connected.

QUESTION: What is the reason that that car was brought here to Maryland? You do say that Virginia authorities are handling and investigating, prosecuting their case, but here up in Maryland, we have the evidence.

MOOSE: I think it was a very good decision by the Maryland -- the Virginia authorities, by the ATF, by the FBI that we have capacity, talent in this area. It's not that far. The same people that have been doing the work for the D.C. case, for the Montgomery County case can do the work in this case.

With all of those kind of resources available, it seemed to make sense -- there was some time lag, but not that much for them to take it to the proper place in Virginia, to take people there. When you balance all of that, it just made good investigative sense, logistical sense to do it here.

QUESTION: Chief, you mentioned that two other projectiles are in poor shape. Is it just a matter of time and more painstaking analysis to eventually try and link them, or are they beyond any recognition at this point?

MOOSE: At this point, I don't have the professional expertise to tell you whether or not it's a matter of time. We just want to be real clear that they are in poor shape. So it could be with enough time, or it may be a matter that they're just in such poor shape that not today, not five years from now will they ever be able to do it.

But again, I didn't go into that kind of specificity or detail with the scientists. They just wanted to report back that somehow if I was maybe anticipating or anxious that they wanted to maybe -- for me to reduce my anxiety and tell me that they're in real poor shape, they may not be able to connect them, and at this point they're going to focus on the car. They will go back to them and eventually will have, hopefully, a better answer, but it's really kind of -- let's let this be known in case people are sitting by, waiting for this piece of message.

Without any further questions, we will brief again at 5:00 p.m. And just as an aside, I want to remind people that there certainly is one less person at the Taste of Bethesda, and that's me, because I would be there today. I love to eat. Bethesda is in Montgomery County, and I love to go down there. But I'm going to stay here, I'm going to do my job, as are all the other men and women of the Montgomery County Police Department, men and women that we've brought in today on their day off. We brought in our janitor today to make sure we could keep this investigation going, because we're also in there producing a lot of trash.

So there are going to be fewer people there. We all make priorities in life, but I'm very excited that the Taste of Bethesda is going well. And I hope that some of you take a few minutes and go down there and enjoy, especially if you're not from this area, it is something you should take advantage of.

WHITFIELD: You've been listening to Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose encouraging people to continue to go out and enjoy themselves in the Maryland/D.C. area, this after investigators continue to look into the spate of shootings that have taken place there. In all now, six people who have died from these inexplicable events of a sniper, or sharpshooter, believed to be -- who has fired off in Montgomery County, Maryland and also in D.C.

And now investigators say they're continuing to look at the minivan belonging to a 43-year-old woman in Northern Virginia, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, who was shot yesterday. She continues to be in stable condition. It is the latest. And they're now looking at the minivan before and looking at the shell casings there before making a determination that all of these shootings are related.

Investigators say they will have another briefing at 5:00 Eastern time, unless there is another breaking development. They might have another briefing a bit earlier. But for now, it's at 5:00 Eastern time. And they continue to follow up on leads coming from people who are calling in, saying that they do know of someone who may own a .223 caliber rifle, because they believe, at least investigators say, they have a link now involving three of the shootings or the shooting deaths that are involving casings from .223 caliber rifles.

We're going to continue to keep tabs on this story out of Montgomery County, Maryland, D.C. and Northern Virginia. I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN headquarters.

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