Latest shooting linked to sniper
MANASSAS, Virginia (CNN) -- Wednesday night's fatal shooting of a man at a gas station just south of the nation's capital was linked to the eight other sniper attacks in the area that have killed six people and wounded two, police said Thursday.
"As a result of the autopsy, ballistics evidence has linked these cases," said Prince William County Police Chief Charles Deane.
The shooting victim was identified as Dean Harold Meyers, 53, of Gaithersburg, Maryland. Authorities said he was shot once in the head.
Meyers was slain about 8:15 p.m. ET after he finished pumping gas. Surveillance video showed him slumped between a gas pump and his car.
Forensics evidence, including ballistics tests on the bullets, have shown that each of the nine victims in the shootings in the greater Washington area was hit once with a .223-caliber bullet fired from a rifle from a relatively long distance. (Trail of the sniper)
"The second thing that we have to announce is that the white van that we described to you earlier -- the white minivan -- may not be involved," Deane said.
A witness described a van as a panel vehicle with only front passenger windows like a Dodge Caravan that was seen leaving the immediate area, police said.
"We are in process of interviewing someone who may have been operating that van, and we're getting what seems to be a reasonable explanation to why they were there, and why they acted the way they did," said the chief.
Authorities earlier backed away from an initial state police report that two white males were seen in a white van near the scene.
At one of the shootings last week, a witness reported seeing a white, boxy van speed away from the scene. Police were continuing to look for that vehicle. No one has been able to report a license plate number.
The Montgomery County, Maryland, Police Department, which is leading the sniper investigation, sent a team of investigators to the scene.
Manassas is a suburb of about 35,000 people, southwest of the nation's capital.
Source: Tarot card contained other message
Meanwhile, a source said Thursday that a tarot card found near the scene of Monday's shooting of a 13-year-old boy in Bowie, Maryland, contained a message telling authorities not to reveal the existence of the card or what was written on it.
The card, found along with a shell casing, was inscribed with the message, "Mister policeman: I am God."
A source said authorities had planned to comply with the message and keep the tarot card secret to build rapport and possibly begin a dialogue with the person who dropped the card. (More on tarot cards)
That could explain why Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose was angry Wednesday that the information about the card was leaked to the media.
The evidence was taken to an FBI lab for fingerprint and DNA tests as well as analyses of the handwriting, spelling and the card's origins. Authorities said the shell casing was from the same type of rifle, a .223 caliber weapon, linked with the other shootings. (Tracing the bullets)
The card was the one depicting death in the deck used by fortune tellers. The death card, which often shows a skeletal figure on a horse, represents endings, transitions, eliminations and the experiencing of inexorable forces.
Authorities said the card could have been left by a prankster.
Moose also criticized statements from retired law enforcement personnel who are news analysts for TV networks and stations. Moose said it was insulting to hear commentary from "talking heads" who have not been briefed, seen evidence or talked to investigators. (Moose profile)
A week of killings
Wednesday night's killing in Virginia came exactly one week after the first shooting was reported in Montgomery County.
Five people were killed in Montgomery County during a 16-hour period from October 2 into the next morning. A sixth victim was shot dead the night of October 3 on a Washington street.
Two of the Maryland victims were killed at gas stations. (Victims' profiles)
A woman was wounded last Friday in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She was released from a hospital Tuesday.
Wayne Curtis, the cousin of the boy shot Monday at Benjamin Tasker Middle School, made a short statement Thursday regarding his relative, who is still at Children's National Medical Center in critical but stable condition.
Curtis thanked law enforcement and the public for their support and asked the media to respect the family's privacy.
He said the family hopes to be more forthcoming as the boy's recovery continues and said the family doesn't want to place the boy at risk or hinder the investigation.
"He's a fighter," Curtis said of his cousin, who has not been identified. "We remain optimistic."
Investigators were sifting through more than 1,700 tips and leads deemed credible.
Authorities said they hope a growing reward fund may help persuade anyone who knows anything about the killings to come forward.
The reward is now nearly $305,000 for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the person responsible for the killings. The fund includes $100,000 from the state of Maryland, $50,000 from Montgomery County and $10,000 from a victims' rights foundation. Donations to the fund have come in from 20 states.