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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Police Search Highway for Sniper's Van

Aired October 11, 2002 - 11:15   ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we have us on the phone Jim Russ, the director of Metro Shadow Traffic. And as part of doing that job and helping folks get to and from work and home, have obviously a number of cameras on highways and freeways and roads around the Washington, D.C., area.
Jim -- hello.

JIM RUSS, D.C. METRO TRAFFIC: Hi there.

KAGAN: What can you tell us about the series of cameras that you have and how that might be useful to police?

RUSS: There is a more extensive network, frankly, of Virginia DOT cameras, which are being used as well. This is this is the one camera that we have in Virginia that you're showing right of I-95 in Springfield. And that, along with the highway department camera shows what's happening right now, that there are numerous stops being affected 95 between Fredericksburg and Springfield. That about a 30- mile stretch of highway. But in fact, this is a dragnet, in the classic sense, because police are out all over the area doing this and there are too many, you know, places to tell you where they are, because they're all over D.C., pulling people over right now.

KAGAN: So what you're telling us is this picture that we're seeing right now, which is I-95, actually a very similar situation, is taking place on highways and roads all around the D.C. area.

RUSS: All around the D.C. area. Police have moved out and are covering a lot of different highways right now, obviously, looking for the same thing.

KAGAN: And we're past, obviously, the rush hour time - excuse me - time for the D.C. area. But, in fact, it looks like it's bringing traffic to a standstill, that along with the weather.

RUSS: It is. And it's interesting to note that in DCc., there is no bypass around Washington, so I-95, there is really no way to get around Washington and bypass 95, but to use 95 itself. So Fridays is a very busy day on the 95 corridor, with people not only trying to go to and from work, with commercial vehicles going up and down this highway, but people getting out of town for the weekend, too. So this is a heavily traveled road. And there really aren't many ways around it.

KAGAN: So getting back to this idea of surveillance cameras, actually, when you guys do your job, you're actually doing it with the help of the DOT cameras?

RUSS: Yes, we work together. We all work together.

KAGAN: And what about putting out word. We've talked to other law - to law enforcement agencies about an alert for a white van. Do you put out that type of word, too, or are you mainly just giving traffic to tell people...

RUSS: No, we're basically doing traffic reports for, you know, civilian motorists around the area, which you hear on radio and see on TV. That's our function.

KAGAN: All right. Jim Russ director of Metro Shadow Traffic. Thank you for joining us on that. We will keep this picture up. And as Jim pointing out, that this is - these are cameras not necessarily for metro traffic, but this is actually DOT, Department of Transportation.

We are getting word that the information is trickling in, but we're able to start putting together a picture here. This latest shooting that took place less than two hours ago, a victim at the Exxon gas station in Fredericksburg, along I-95, we're getting word now that that victim was a man. That is the latest information. He was taken to Mary Washington Hospital from the Exxon station, but he has, indeed, died. That is the only information. No name, it does seem early for that, no age and no other information about this latest victim.

KAGAN: Bill, we're piecing it together slowly. But the picture is coming together. And yet, we still do need to point out that whether this particular one was related has yet to be confirmed by police. But, you know, as we kind of stated the obvious, there are many, many similarities.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: So true, Daryn. And the response here tells us a lot, too. They're taking no chances. And boy, there's so many parallels right now and we don't want to jump over the hill on this just yet, Daryn. I mean, we have to be very cautious in what we're saying right now, because we've not been given confirmation in any way.

And oftentimes, it's been the case, if you think about Wednesday night in Manassas, Daryn, that shooting went down at 8:15 local time. We were not given the clearance on the ballistic testing until about 6:00 yesterday, local time, which is about 22 hours after the shooting took place. There's a number of reasons for that. Investigators go in, they do the ballistic testing and they want to make sue - darn sure that they know everything that's happening right now, surrounding the evidence they've gotten.

If you think about Monday, it was Monday morning when that 8- year-old boy was hit, when he was being dropped off at school. It was later that day, several hours later. Listen, a lot of that stuff is high-speed investigative work. Typically, it does not come back that quickly. But if you think about the priority, these cases have been given and the number of local, county, state, and federal officers that are working these cases night and day right now.

Josh Whitehead is with us by telephone right now.

Understand, Josh, you are around the vicinity of where the shooting may have taken place. Give us a better idea of your location right now. Where are you, what are you seeing?

JOSH WHITEHEAD, WITNESSED ARREST: Right now, I'm located at the Food Lion that is sort of behind the hills where the Exxon is located. And this is where two state troopers, Virginia State Troopers, responded to, I guess -- I don't know what they were exactly tipped them off or something like that. They came over here and placed a gentleman into custody at gun point. And right now, they're questioning him and releasing him. He's obviously not a suspect. They're taking down his information.

But their certainly much more heightened around this area. I've seen ATF agents. They're pulling up Spotsylvania County crime unit trailer right now. Every road around here, they're checking vehicles that go past. There's a lot of commotion around here, a lot of people walking around very concerned.

This is the second shooting down in this area. And there is more police activity going up at the Exxon. It looks like they're bringing in more equipment. It doesn't look like it's local units at this time.

HEMMER: Hey, Josh, do, me a favor and paint a picture for the area where you are. What does the road look like outside that Exxon? What's around the area of the station as well?

WHITEHEAD: The Exxon is located right off of 95. If you were to come and leave from that Exxon and take a left at that stop light, your very next right hand turn, a block and a half, would be 95 north. If you go under the bridge at that point, the next turn on your left would be 95 southbound. And if you continue on that road you've turned on from that Exxon, that is actually Route 1, which also goes north and south. Obviously, there's many major roads around this area that people use to go up and down the 95 area.

HEMMER: And Josh, you describe ATF agents. We know they've left Rockville about an hour ago and have responded to the scene down there. What else are you seeing in terms of law enforcement agencies that are responded right now?

WHITEHEAD: I've seen state troopers. They're not letting us get very close to the scene. I've obviously Spotsylvania County Sheriffs as well. They're keeping a much larger area than they did on the shooting on Friday afternoon, trying to keep people as far away as possible, this time in case there's more evidence they can find later.

All I can see at this point is Spotsylvania County Sheriffs, ATF and state police. I haven't heard any reports of FBI or Secret Service or Montgomery County or anything like that at this point either. HEMMER: Josh, go back to Wednesday night at that Sunoco station in Manassas. Quickly, and efficiently, the entire area, I'm told, was essentially blocked off. Exits and on-ramps to that highway as well. How close are you, number one, and what are you seeing in terms of the blockage right now for that investigation?

WHITEHEAD: I cannot see the on-ramp to 95 from where I'm at because there's a hill in the way, but I was driving past this area at approximately 9:30 on my way to work, and by the time I got up to exit 133, about seven miles up north of that, there was Stafford County deputies watching all vehicles going off the road, which kind of tipped me off something had happened, because I've never seen police so concerned, watching car by car.

HEMMER: The Exxon station -- are there other service stations in that area?

WHITEHEAD: There is a Chevron station kind of right across the Ramada hotel that is right across the street from the Exxon. Behind the Exxon is a waffle house. And if you go and take the other way on Route 1 once you get off 95, there's several service stations that way as well.

HEMMER: How busy would you say that road is? I'd assume it's fairly busy. I-95 is the major thoroughfare up and down the East Coast.

WHITEHEAD: This area here is mostly residential, and this is the way that many, many people, including myself, my family, all take to get on to 95, on to our various, you know, places of employment and so forth. It's very busy. In fact, when I was going through here, traffic was slow this morning, obviously, also because of the rain, the torrential downpours at that time.

HEMMER: Josh, thanks, you've been great. Josh Whitehead, by telephone. He's at essentially a grocery store there, a Food Lion, which is right behind the Exxon station where Michael Okwu has been stationed.

Josh, if you get more, come back and tell us, OK? Love to hear from you.

WHITEHEAD: Certainly will, Bill.

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