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CNN BREAKING NEWS

At Rest Stop Where Two Arrested in Sniper Investigation

Aired October 24, 2002 - 11:41   ET

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

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: First we want to go to WTOP's Steve Dolge. WTOP is an all-news radio station in Washington, D.C.
Steve, are you there?

STEVE DOLGE, WTOP REPORTER: Good morning, Carol, yes.

COSTELLO: Good morning.

You guys reported the finding of a gun in that blue Caprice early. Can you tell us more about it?

DOLGE: We're also hearing now they found the gun. And also we are hearing that they found a scope as well as a tripod in that gun, and that obviously being collected now as what could prove to be very crucial evidence in this case.

COSTELLO: Where did they find that stuff in the car? Do you know?

DOLGE: I believe in -- and I cannot confirm this, but I believe they did find the rifle in the trunk of the car.

COSTELLO: Tell us more about what you know about this case.

DOLGE: Well, we are reporting now on WTOP and on our Web site, wtop.com, that a legal source, a local legal source, is saying that, "Yes, we got the guys." That is a direct quote. And how do they know? He says that, quote, "We have tons of evidence." So you know, there's cautious optimism here in the newsroom as well as the community. Obviously, we live in the community. You used to live here. You know what it's like to be just gripped with this terror. So there is cautious optimism that finally this has come to an end.

COSTELLO: I can only imagine.

We're look at live pictures. I don't know if you have the TV on, Steve, but we see that trailer in which the blue Caprice is residing right now pulling into a parking lot somewhere.

DOLGE: Yes. And I can't tell you where that is. I did hear Kelli Arena mention that the folks are being held in a jail in Rockville. I don't know specifically. I am looking at the pictures. I don't know where that is being held. I can tell you Myersville is near Frederick, Maryland, which is about 40 miles north of Washington, D.C., where all this happened. COSTELLO: Of course, they're going to take that car, that trailer, and I'm sure they'll go over it with a fine-tooth comb, take the evidence out and further question these two men.

Steve, I wanted to ask you more about the community and how it is feeling now. I just, you know, from living there, I'm sure everyone is just holding their breath.

DOLGE: Let me tell you, I had a conversation with my wife yesterday morning, in the kitchen before I came to work, wondering -- she was terrified to take my 2-year-old son to a preschool class that he goes to every Wednesday because it was right in the Aspen Hill neighborhood, where the bus driver was shot and where some of the earlier shootings were taking place. And it was almost surreal to be having this conversation with my wife, that we can't even get in the car and drive to a preschool class for fear of walking from the car to the building. And she finally, she got up enough courage to do it. She talked to me on the phone as she was driving. She got up enough courage to go there, and got there. In a class that has more than a dozen kids, it was my son and one other child. So clearly everyone -- everyone -- is terrified by this.

COSTELLO: Most definitely.

When you first heard that police were closing in on this blue Caprice and two men were sleeping inside and they were the suspected snipers, what was your reaction?

DOLGE: You know, like most of you, we've been up all night following this story, and it's -- I imagined my reaction was going to be one of elation, but were so exhausted by it. Not only physically exhausted from having been up, but emotionally exhausted from living through this for the last three weeks, that, you know, I think this weekend it'll probably hit me that it's finally over and we can all finally relax. Right now we're still -- as I mentioned, we're cautiously optimistic. But again, you know, just exhausted, emotionally drained, by this.

COSTELLO: Steve, stand by, because I want to bring in Bob Franken.

He is out at the rest stop where this blue Caprice was picked up.

Bob, I guess there was a lot of surprise at the profile of these two suspects.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Quite a bit of surprise. Anybody you talked to is really kind of astounded by the whole thing. But we really don't have a complete picture yet, but the more we hear, the more bizarre it sounds.

May I point out that we are now in the rest stop, at the area where the arrest was made. As a matter of fact, where that white Volkswagen is sitting, surrounded by news camera people, that's the space that was being occupied by the burgundy car in which two people were arrested were sitting. Now, as you notice, the rest stop has been opened up. All the police -- there were like 70 police officers here, about 50 police cars and bloodhounds -- they've left, and they've been replaced by a like number of news camera people, photographers, reporters and the like, proving once and for all that nature abhors a vacuum.

But getting back to the story, it appears that as we look at this thing, the car was spotted there. The person who spotted it parked his van -- we're not quite sure of that. But he went in, he made his call to the state police, and then he and the person who worked inside, Larry Blank, who has been interviewed on CNN, were told to stay in the white van of the person who had made the call.

Meanwhile, a few state police officers made their way here while the tactical squad about just a mile or so from here assembled in a small tongue called Myersville, Maryland, and very, very methodically set up before they swooped in on this car about two hours later. Their planning, their preparation paid off. There were no incidents. The two were taken into custody, and of course, now they're considered the prime people to possibly solving and ending the...

(CROSSTALK)

COSTELLO: Bob, let me interrupt you for just a second and bring back in Steve Dolge, because you're pointing out where the car was sitting.

If these guys are the snipers, again, Steve, they were hiding right out in the open.

DOLGE: And doesn't that catch everyone by surprise? I mean, didn't these two sort of fit the profile? I mean we've had these discussions every day in the newsroom, of how is this thing finally going to end? And I think to a man, everybody thought that this thing would not end peacefully. And if in fact these are the men that are being sought, then thank God that this ended without any more bloodshed, without any more violence.

COSTELLO: I guess it's just amazing to me that, Bob, they were parked there at that rest stop right out in the open and they were comfortable enough to fall asleep, or maybe they were just suffering from exhaustion.

FRANKEN: Well, that seems to be the only explanation, because one of the things that has struck me as I've covered these various shootings, these tragedies -- and of course, you spent quite a bit of time up here covering it also, Carol -- is how methodically and meticulously they planned their escape routes. When we were covering the shooting, the most recent shooting, we saw there was a very, very precise way to get out very, very quickly. And that has been the case each time. They have operated very successfully, very stealthily. In this particular case, of all things, they're caught right out in the open, being very, very careless, caught when asleep.

COSTELLO: It's just amazing.

Steve, one other thing I wanted to point out, it is thanks to the public that these two men are in custody right now.

DOLGE: And there will be speculation later. Did the police wait too long to release this information? Three weeks of very little information, and then as soon as we get a name and a face, they have them in custody within three hours. We're not in a position yet to speculate that the police, you know, waited too long or anything, but I think that's a question that we will have to ask later: is did they have this information earlier, could possibly have we prevented the death of Conrad Johnson, the bus driver who was shot on Tuesday -- if they knew this information ahead of time. But, yes..

COSTELLO: Yes, Steve, we all heard about a partial license plate number that police had in their possession, but I don't think we ever heard of this New Jersey plate.

DOLGE: No, at least not publicly. It certainly wasn't revealed then. And then as soon as it is, bang, within a couple of hours, they have them in custody.

COSTELLO: Bob, can you expound on that? Do you know anything more about that: how long police had this information?

FRANKEN: Well, they had the information about where they were for a couple of hours. But you're talking about how long they had the information about the people they were looking for. We had heard -- Jeanne Meserve has reported -- that they thought that they were going to catch the people on Monday, but that they missed them by just 10 minutes, in Richmond, because of a lack of coordination.

It just sounds like that there were a couple of things going on. Number one, they were trying to build their case, to make sure they were going after the right people. And number two, to be very blunt about it that there were a series of what could politely be called glitches. And very tragic ones, because the shooting killing spree continued.

Bob Franken and Steve Dolge, thank you both for bringing us up to date.

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