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Fact Sheet

Fact sheet: The sniper case widens

Virginia state police officers stepped up patrols during the spate of killings.

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  • Summary

  • Update

  • Key questions

  • Who's who


    The investigation into the sniper shootings has grown beyond the Washington D.C. area as other states link previous unsolved shootings to the suspects. The two face charges in Maryland, the District of Columbia, Alabama, Louisiana and Virginia.

    John Allen Muhammad, 41, a Gulf War veteran, and John Lee Malvo, 17, a Jamaican whose birth certificate lists him as Lee Boyd Malvo, were arrested as suspects in the sniper case sleeping in their car at a Maryland rest stop on October 24. The D.C. area rested easier after almost a month of living in fear.

    The Washington sniper shootings took the lives of 10 people and wounded four. Muhammad and Malvo each have been charged in Alabama and Louisiana with two fatal shootings, one in each state, that happened in late September -- before the spree began in Montgomery County, Maryland, on October 2. Now, the shooting of a liquor store employee in Silver Spring, Maryland, on September 14 has become the earliest known shooting tied to the suspects. The man survived the attack.

    Police say forensic testing links a rifle found in the suspects' car, a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice, to the majority of the sniper spree victims as well as the slayings in Alabama and Louisiana. The weapon is a Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle, significant because victims were each shot once with a .223 caliber bullet. Authorities also found a scope, a tripod, and a sniper platform.

    One senior law enforcement source called the Caprice a "killing machine" with two holes in the trunk, one for the rifle, the other for the scope. The back seat folded down, enabling a potential shooter to stretch out in the back without stepping foot outside.


    •Sniper task force investigators said Friday that the shooting on September 14 of Benny Oberoi, 22, an employee of a liquor store in Silver Spring, Maryland, is linked to the sniper suspects. Oberoi, who is recuperating, was shot and wounded by a single bullet soon after he and his boss closed up the store.

    •The FBI is reviewing actions taken during the sniper investigation to see what, if anything, could have been done to capture the killers sooner, the agency's director, Robert Mueller, said. Among the things investigators will be looking at are problems with the operation of the telephone tip line, which was overwhelmed on occasion, while at other times possible calls from the sniper were not recognized.

    •Police in Alabama on Friday said they had found a handgun near the scene of the Montgomery killing, which has raised questions of whether a second weapon and possibly a third person may have been involved. Police have charged Muhammad and Malvo with capital murder in the September 21 killing of Claudine Parker at a liquor store. They intend to seek the death penalty and charge Malvo as an adult.

    •Authorities in three states and the District of Columbia, where the sniper shootings occurred, are discussing who should prosecute the suspects. One issue in deciding who prosecutes the two may be the death penalty. For example, Maryland, where six victims were killed, enacted a moratorium on executions in May.

    •Police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on October 31 announced first-degree murder warrants for both suspects for the September 23 slaying of Hong Ballenger, a Korean native and mother of three. She was shot in the head with a single bullet and robbed as she closed up her beauty-supply shop. The bullet, said police, came from the same gun linked to the sniper killings.


    Is more than one sniper involved?

    What is the motive behind the killings?

    How did suspects slip through the net?

    What lessons were learned about conducting such a massive manhunt?

    What jurisdiction will prosecute the case, and how will that work?


    Charles A. Moose: The Montgomery County, Maryland, police chief. Moose spent six years as the first black police chief in Portland, Oregon, before coming to Montgomery County. He holds a doctorate in urban studies from Portland State University. Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan hired Moose in 1999 for what he termed the chief's steady leadership skills.

    John Allen Muhammad: Arrested in connection with the sniper shootings. Muhammad also is known as John Allen Williams. He is a twice-divorced, 41-year-old Gulf War veteran who converted to Islam 17 years ago. Muhammad enlisted in the Army in November 1985 and was honorably discharged as a sergeant in April 1994. He qualified as an expert with the M-16, the Army's standard infantry rifle. He was trained as a mechanic, truck driver and as a specialist metal worker.

    John Lee Malvo (also known as Lee Boyd Malvo): Arrested in connection to the sniper shootings. Malvo, 17, was born in Jamaica and came to the United States when he was 4. Authorities say he was in the U.S. illegally. Lived in a homeless shelter while he attended high school in Bellingham, Washington. Was detained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service last year and had a deportation hearing scheduled for November 20.

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