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Home  >  Topics  >  Investigations

October 07, 2002
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Teenager Shot, Wounded Outside Md. School

Latest Shooting Tied to Sniper?

from NBC, MSNBC and News Services

BOWIE, Md., -- A 13-year-old boy was in critical but stable condition Monday after being shot in the chest outside a school in this Washington, D.C., suburb. It was not known if the attack was related to the sniper shootings last week that left six people dead, but authorities were conducting ballistic tests to see if there was a link to the earlier shootings.

"We do not know for certain that this case is related," Gerald Wilson, police chief for Prince George's County, told reporters. He acknowledged that police were looking into a report that the boy might have been in an altercation earlier that morning.

Fred Thomas, the county's public safety director, said police were interviewing the few witnesses at the scene and that officials hoped the ballistics tests would yield more information.

The boy, whose name has not been released, was shot once in the chest outside Benjamin Tasker Middle School just after 8 a.m. The shooting appeared to have been at a distance because no one reported seeing the shooter.

Wilson said there were few witnesses because the shooting happened about a half-hour before classes started. He appealed to the public to call any tips into a police hot line at 800-673-2777.

The boy's aunt, who had just dropped the boy off, rushed him to a nearby clinic. From there, he was airlifted to Children's National Medical Center in Washington.

A hospital spokeswoman said the boy was in critical but stable condition as doctors worked to save his life. He was still in surgery four hours after being taken to the hospital.

The shooting occurred just after 8 a.m. ET, according to a guidance counselor at the school, which has more than 1,300 students and is about 20 miles from the first shootings last week in neighboring Montgomery County, Md.

'You think you're safe, but you're only as safe as your next step.' - SHARON HEALY,
Mother of a student at Benjamin Tasker

As police converged on the scene, school officials locked down the premises until parents arrived to take their children home. Children in other Prince George's schools were not allowed outside Monday for recess or lunch.

Police searched nearby woods, which border two-thirds of the school property.

Sharon Healy had just sent her 12-year-old son, Brandon, to school on his bicycle when she heard of the shooting. She said she ran there and pulled him out of class.

"You think you're safe, but you're only as safe as your next step," Healy said. Said her son: "I was scared."

Othar Haskins, 13, of Bowie, standing outside the school with his mother, India Haskins, said he was a friend of the boy who was shot.

"He's funny, he's always around friends," Othar said. "He helps you out when you need it. He's a good friend." The boy cried and put his head on his mother's shoulder as he spoke.

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said federal authorities - the attorney general, Treasury Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms - have been "very involved on the ground and have lent support and equipment."

Asked if there was any evidence that this is a terrorist at work, Fleischer replied: "I've not heard anything like that, but the fact of the matter is that people are trying to determine who the shooter is, or shooters are, and we continue to help local officials in that endeavor."

Montgomery County's schools had expected to resume a regular schedule Monday, but after the shooting, outdoor and afterschool activities were canceled.

An hour after the shooting Monday, police raced to a nearby shopping center after receiving a report of a gunshot there. The report turned out to be unfounded.

Profiles Being Prepared

In the investigation into the earlier shootings, police were awaiting an FBI psychological profile of the shooter, Moose said Sunday.

They're also using a "geographic" profile, which maps the crime locations to possibly determine where the killer lives.

"This is another tool that we have not used before and we want to assure people in our community that we want to try each and every thing that is available to assist us," Moose said at a news conference.

Unlike psychological profiles, which try to describe the killer, geographic profiles use crime locations to determine where the killer feels comfortable traveling and home in on where he or she lives.

The typical geographic profile focuses the investigation on 5 percent or less of the area originally under consideration, according to police.

Moose said investigators were making progress, but added, "some of the more desirable smoking gun leads just aren't there." A prayer vigil for the shooting victims was held at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Rockville, Md., on Saturday. Click "Play" to hear Archbishop Theodore McCarrick describe the fear in the community.

One Victim Buried

While the search continued, family and friends gathered to bury Prem Kumar Walekar, a taxi driver slain Thursday at a Rockville, Md., gas station.

Nieces and nephews sang songs and remembered a man they called "Prem Uncle" while standing under a video screen that flashed snapshots from his life. Walekar, 54, was remembered as quiet, funny, generous and caring, a man who showed his affection with a gentle pinch of a child's cheek.

Walekar was one of five people shot to death at random in Montgomery County in a 16-hour span Wednesday and Thursday. A sixth victim was killed Thursday in Washington, D.C.

Bullet tests confirmed that the same weapon was used to kill Walekar and three other victims.

Investigators said Sunday that ballistics evidence also linked the shooting of a 43-year-old woman in Spotsylvania County, Va., on Friday with the Maryland murders. Now in stable condition, she was shot in the back outside a Michaels craft store in Fredericksburg, Va.

A window of a Michaels store in Montgomery County was shot out 45 minutes before the first killing, but a bullet obtained from that scene was too badly damaged to be of any use in the investigation.

No arrests have been made in the spree.

The police hot line to report information about any of the shootings in Montgomery County is 240-777-2600.






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