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CNN BREAKING NEWS

News Coming Out in Sniper Investigation Talk Around Richmond

Aired October 24, 2002 - 05:44   ET

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

CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: The news coming out in the sniper investigation this morning is certainly the talk around Richmond, Virginia. Schools in the Richmond area closed two days this week because of sniper fears.
We're going to check in now with Jimmy Barrett. He is with WRVA NewsRadio 1140 in Richmond.

Jimmy, a lot to talk about this morning.

JIMMY BARRETT, WRVA NEWSRADIO 1140: CNN in Atlanta.

Hi, Catherine, how are you this morning?

CALLAWAY: A little tired.

BARRETT: Well I bet you are a little tired.

CALLAWAY: It's been a long but eventful night for us here at CNN as it has been for you there.

BARRETT: Well it has. And we're waking up this morning dare I say with cautious enthusiasm hoping that these two individuals that have been apprehended just outside of Frederick, Maryland are the guys we're looking for.

CALLAWAY: What has been the reaction from those that are calling into the radio station this morning about these two individuals being taken into custody because of a tip from a motorist?

BARRETT: Well you know here's my reaction to it, I haven't had a chance to gauge the listeners yet this morning, although I am sure I will be doing it throughout the -- our morning program today. My reaction is is, and I think most of us in the media realize that we've taken a certain level of bashing over giving out information and trying to get information. And you know what, you listen to these press conferences, I understand why people get upset because seemingly the same questions are asked over and over and over and over again in an attempt to try to get some answers.

But I think this shows one thing and that is very simply this, the more information that you give the public, as long as it does not compromise the investigation, can only help. And in this case, here you have a motorist driving by, paying attention to the story, knows what's going on, is keeping up to date on the story and spots the vehicle. And these two people are now under arrest because of it. CALLAWAY: Interesting. On a more practical matter, let me ask you about this, we know that Interstate 70 was shut down for a good deal overnight, wondering how that's affecting things there in Washington, D.C.?

BARRETT: Well far enough -- you know we're far enough away certainly from the Washington, D.C. beltway,...

CALLAWAY: Yes.

BARRETT: ... Richmond being, you know, well over, you know, about 90 to 100 miles south of Washington, D.C. It's not going to have any real impact, I wouldn't think, on any traffic patterns around here this morning.

CALLAWAY: Let's hope not. All right, well we'll see what the officials have to say about the official -- the individuals that are being questioned now.

BARRETT: Well, and you all (ph) one of the missions I'll have today, Catherine, will be, you know, talking to some of the dignitaries and officials here in the greater Richmond area and the school people. You know that parents yesterday, very nervous day here in Richmond for parents. Most -- the attendance rate was pretty good. I think on average maybe attendance was down about 10 percent over what you would expect it to be on a normal day. So I imagine there are a lot of parents waking up and hearing this news this morning, maybe that other 10 percent will make it to school today.

CALLAWAY: All right, Jimmy, have a good day.

BARRETT: You too.

CALLAWAY: I know it's going to be a busy one for you.

CNN's Bob Franken now joining us from across the street from the rest stop where these individuals were taken into custody, where that vehicle, that Caprice that everyone's been looking for since last night is still located.

Bob, what's the latest from there?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Catherine, as you can see over my shoulder there is a state police car. It is blocking the -- what is the exit ramp of the rest area where the two were arrested. At the entrance ramp there is a large number of police cars blocking any sort of access and that is because the car is still there. That is still a live investigative -- an area now that is still being gone over with a fine tooth comb. There are officials from various agencies.

The two who were arrested, we learned at the news conference held by the Maryland State Police a few moments ago, were taken away, taken to Montgomery County, which is the center of this entire investigation. Of course we still do not know just how important they are to the sniper investigation. There is some hope that this is the break in the case that everybody's been looking for. It's certainly being treated that way by officials. Still at the rest stop is the vehicle in which they were taken custody.

Now the chain of events was is that about 1:00 this morning, this was not long after the announcements went out describing the two who were being sought and describing the vehicle that was being sought. Not too long after that, according to state police, somebody spotted the car here at the rest stop suggesting that the two had pulled over and were sleeping for a while at this rest stop. At any rate, he called the state police shortly after 1:00 a.m.

A state trooper arrived, and then a short time later, a specially trained tactical unit came to the scene. It took them a little good while to get into place, to get ready to make the arrest. It happened very quickly. Took the two by surprise, apparently. There was no resistance, according to officials, and they whisked them away.

And now the car is going to be gone over with a fine tooth comb looking for any weapons, any evidence, anything that can see just what contribution these two might make to this case which has terrorized Washington and the Washington area, far south as near Richmond, Virginia, terrorized the area for the last plus -- three weeks plus -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: All right, that's CNN's Bob Franken. He's off Interstate 70 there about 15 miles northwest of Washington across the street from the rest stop where two individuals were taken into custody there after a tip from a motorist. This arrest involved a warrant for John Allen Muhammad, also known as John Allen Williams, and his 17-year-old stepson, John Lee Malvo. Certainly the search nationwide was under way for them yesterday evening when police said they were looking for them in connection with some firearms violations, also looking for the Chevrolet Caprice, blue and burgundy in color, apparently a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice with a license plate NDA21Z.

That car, that automobile apparently now sitting in that rest stop there off of Interstate 70.

Another development that took place yesterday involved the search of a yard, the search of a backyard there behind a home in Tacoma, Washington, where officials hauled away a U-Haul truck full of so- called evidence that involved even a tree stump that could have been used for target practice. A lot of concern there in Tacoma when that search took place.

So we're going to speak now with -- who's on the line with us? Lou? Lou, are you there? Lou Pate, are you there?

LOU PATE, KIRO CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Catherine.

CALLAWAY: I'm sorry.

PATE: We are here. Sorry about that.

CALLAWAY: I thought I'd lost you there for a minute. A lot of concern there about what exactly was taking place in this small area in Tacoma, this quiet neighborhood.

PATE: Well, what happened was the current resident in the house, who was not involved in the case whatsoever, a young woman lives there with her husband and infant. Her name is Becky Consonuls (ph). She was there and men started coming into the yard and she asked them what they were doing here. They didn't identify themselves as FBI, although they were very nice and polite, she said. They just said no, we're supposed to be here. We're supposed to be here, don't worry about it. And they started digging and going through the dirt.

And she called the police because it just didn't look right to her. And she did the right thing. She called the police and then the police came by and then they informed her as to what was going on. And that's when she, she said she asked a few questions but they said again very politely that they just couldn't tell her what was going on and, you know, please take a step back.

So that's when she packed up the baby and then word spread like wildfire and that's when the U-Haul truck came and they started digging and they started pulling out the tree stump and it brings us to where we are now, with that tree stump being checked for ballistics on its way to Washington, D.C.

CALLAWAY: We know that John Allen Muhammad is a Gulf War veteran. Word that he may have been stationed there at Fort Lewis, which is in Tacoma. Any word from where you are on a connection between that home and John Allen Muhammad?

PATE: No direct connection as of yet. We've actually been trying to get in touch with the owner of the house. We have his name. We have his phone number. We have not been able to make contact there yet. But so far there is no connection as far as a lease or a rental agreement as to whether he lived there or not, has not been able to be determined. The only speculation that is now is that he has been seen there, but never on a regular basis. They think that he might have just been visiting friends there. But we don't know for sure at this time. We're trying to find out about that.

CALLAWAY: Go north to Bellingham, Washington, where there is an apparent connection between John Lee Malvo and the search of a high school there in Bellingham.

PATE: Yes, they've been following up. This John Lee Malvo is, you know, as I said, 17 years old, not an American citizen. He's Jamaican, as we discussed earlier. And there seems to be a lot of mystery surrounding him. Was he involved with John Allen Muhammad, John Allen Williams? And they're trying to dig up information on him. As we mentioned earlier, the town of Bellingham, basically a college town where, it's occupied by Western Washington University, a very quiet, sleepy town up there. And hopefully that they'll be able to find out more about the mysterious 17-year-old, John Lee Malvo.

CALLAWAY: Did he attend that high school?

PATE: He did attend Bellingham High School, yes. That has been confirmed. That's been confirmed by the school. It's also been confirmed by the mayor of Bellingham, Mark Asmundson.

CALLAWAY: I know he's Jamaican descent.

PATE: Yes, he is definitely, he's definitely not an American citizen and he's of Jamaican descent.

CALLAWAY: All right...

PATE: Another, another perplexing piece to the puzzle.

CALLAWAY: All right, Lou.

Lou Pate, thanks for getting back on the line with us.

Lou Pate with KIRO. He's been with us through most of the morning.

Gary Tuchman also standing by in Montgomery County -- Gary, any word from there?

TUCHMAN: Catherine, that puzzle analogy keeps coming up this early in the morning, doesn't it? We're talking about a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. In the last few hours we've been talking, lots of those pieces have been put into place. We still have more to put into the place.

I want to tell you when Chief Charles Moose came out last night and gave his sixth statement in four days to the sniper or snipers, he uttered 197 words. He started with, "We understand you communicated with us by calling several different locations." He ended by saying, "Let's talk directly. We have an answer for you about your option. We are waiting for you to contact us."

We now have people in this region, in this country and all throughout the world wondering if the person or persons he was talking to were these two people, who have now been placed into custody.

That's a question we'll have when they have the news conference here at Montgomery County Police headquarters, the sniper task force headquarters later today. We are being told by police officials here that it will still be a couple of hours away. We will probably see the sun come up before they come out to inform us about the latest about what's going on -- Catherine.

CALLAWAY: Gary, we had word that they were going to be questioned in Montgomery County, that they are, indeed, in Montgomery County. Can you give us more information on that?

TUCHMAN: All we're being told right now is they have been brought to Montgomery County. Their car remains at the rest stop in Frederick County, 50 miles to the northwest of here. But we have been told both men, the 42-year-old and the 17-year-old -- you heard during that news conference a short time ago they were described as 40 and 20 or about 40 and 20. We're being told specifically 42 and 17. We've been told they've been brought to an undisclosed location. Now, that's very unusual. When you cover crimes, we're usually told were suspects are brought. But they're being very security conscious, as you might imagine. They've been brought to an undisclosed location here in Montgomery County and are being questioned as we speak.

CALLAWAY: Some disappointing news for some, I guess, that word from the Major that there was no weapon found.

TUCHMAN: Well, I think they still have a more extensive search to do because they are asking for a search warrant to go through that car. So they have more searching to do. But we'll have to wait and see what they say after they complete the search of the vehicle.

CALLAWAY: You know, I was just thinking about all the things that are heading your way now, all of the information, the U-Haul full of so-called evidence, taken from behind this home in Tacoma, Washington. It's going to be a very busy time there at the headquarters.

TUCHMAN: It's a complex and fascinating case, but it's also one of the most tragic cases any of us who are here have ever covered in our lifetimes.

CALLAWAY: Gary Tuchman, stay with us.

We're going to have much more on this coming up in just a minute. We'll take a quick break and our coverage will continue.

Stay with us everyone.

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