Three weeks in October 2002.
Ten victims gunned down, three more seriously injured, and millions across the Washington, DC, region—from central Virginia to Montgomery and Prince George’s counties—gripped with fear while a disgruntled veteran and his teenage accomplice prowled for unwitting targets in a blue Chevrolet Caprice, its trunk jerry-rigged so they could covertly fire their high-powered rifle.
Oct. 2 marked the 10th anniversary of the first DC sniper shooting, which was followed by five more on Oct. 3 and seven more through Oct. 22—a 23-day span that left a community haunted and helpless as it watched the harrowing saga unfold.
"This was a ghost with a gun," Montgomery County Police spokesman Capt. John M. Fitzgerald told The Gazette on the first anniversary of the shootings. "No one felt safe. There was unusual fear, extraordinarily frightening, random and invisible."
Those memories and emotions will come to bear Thursday night in Gaithersburg at a prayer vigil to honor the sniper victims. The vigil is being hosted by Montgomery County police, the Victim Rights Foundation and the Montgomery Village Chiefs Football and Cheer Program. It is set for 6:30 p.m. at Goshen United Methodist Church, at 19615 Goshen Rd. The public is welcome.
The first shot rang out at 5:20 p.m. on Oct. 2. The bullet went through a window of a Michaels craft store in Aspen Hill. No one was injured.
At 6:30 p.m., James Martin, a 55-year-old program analyst at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association, was shot dead in the parking lot of a Shoppers Food Warehouse on Randolph Road in Wheaton.
Oct. 3 brought the spree’s most gruesome tally: five gunned down in a 14-hour span, four of them in Montgomery County.
- James L. "Sonny" Buchanan, a 39-year-old landscaper from Abingdon, VA, was killed while mowing the grass at Fitzgerald Auto Mall on Rockville Pike.
- Premkumar Walekar, a 54-year-old cab driver from Olney, was fatally shot at a gas station on Aspen Hill Road and Connecticut Avenue in Aspen Hill.
- Sarah Ramos, a 34-year-old housekeeper from Silver Spring was killed while reading on a bench in the Leisure World Shopping Center in Norbeck.
- Lori Ann Lewis Rivera, a 25-year-old nanny was shot in the back while vacuuming her boss’s minivan at a gas station at Connecticut and Knowles avenues in Kensington.
- Pascal Charlot, a 72-year-old retired carpenter, was killed while walking on Georgia Avenue at Kalmia Road, in Washington, DC, just across the Maryland line.
Oct. 4, 2:30 p.m.
- Caroline Seawell, 43, survived being shot in the parking lot of Spotsylvania Mall, near Fredericksburg, VA.
Oct. 7, at 8:09 a.m.
- Iran Brown, a 13-year-old student at the Benjamin Tasker Middle School was shot as he arrived at the Bowie school. He survived the shooting, and later testified against his shooters.
Oct. 9, 8:18 p.m.
- Gaithersburg resident Dean Harold Meyers, 53, was killed at a gas station on Sudley Road outside Manassas, VA.
Oct. 11, 9:30 a.m.
- Kenneth Bridges, 53, a father of six from Philadelphia, was killed at a gas station off Interstate 95 near Fredericksburg, VA.
Oct. 14, 9:15 p.m.
- Linda G. Franklin, 47, an FBI analyst from Arlington, was shot after shopping with her husband at a Home Depot in Falls Church, VA.
Oct. 19, 8:00 p.m.
- Jeffrey Hopper, 37, of Florida was shot in a parking lot near the Ponderosa steakhouse off Interstate 95 in Ashland, VA, about 90 miles south of DC. He survived.
Oct. 22, 5:56 a.m.
- Conrad Johnson, a bus driver from Oxon Hill, was shot while standing on the steps of his bus on Grand Pre Road in Aspen Hill.
Finally, on Oct. 24, police found John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo asleep in their car at an Interstate 70 rest stop near Myersville, MD. Muhammad, the mastermind, was put to death in November 2009, while Malvo will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
The 10-year milestone has prompted an outpouring of reflection on those panicked, angst-ridden three weeks.
The Washington Post published an extensive multi-media package, with the video “23 Days of Terror” as its centerpiece.
The Post’s coverage also includes a timeline of the shootings, brief bios of the victims, photo galleries from 2002 and Malvo’s first-ever media interview, in which he remorsefully tells The Post that the memory of the victims’ faces makes him feel like “the worst piece of scum on the planet.”
WTOP has this interview with Paul LaRuffa, the Prince George’s County man whom Muhammad and Malvo shot and robbed in September 2002 as a springboard for their spree.
And CBS DC radio has this piece centering on Charles Moose, Montgomery County’s police chief during the ordeal.
The topic has struck a chord with Patch readers. Follow this link to share your thoughts.
“Living in the Northern Virginia suburbs at the time, I remember counseling my teens what gas station they should go to and to sit inside the car while pumping gas. I remember parking at walmart and other stores and running full speed to get inside the doors. I remember waking up each morning and turning on the news and hearing yet another person was shot. I was a young brown hair woman living in Queens hitting the clubs during the 70s son of sam era. I remember it felt the same. Very frightening. I'm glad they caught them all.”
And Jim Rose—author of a recent article in The Atlantic magazine detailing the time Muhammad and Malvo spent at the Silver Spring YMCA—commented on Patch:
“As I said in The Atlantic article, I insisted on not altering my behavior or my outlook. Despite my wife's warnings, I kept going to the Y, where I felt safe, even though it turned out the snipers were there for four weeks too. But I did change my behavior in one respect. Pre-sniper, my daily walks had included a stretch on Randolph Road. I changed my route to avoid the exposure of being on Randolph. That was the only thing I changed. Now, my solo walks often are only on Randolph. As I said in The Atlantic article, I still think about this, and was talking today at the Y with one of the attendants who had regular interactions with John Muhammad.”