10/07/2002

Site 'Profile' Used in D.C. Sniper Search

Technique Narrows Area

Eunice Moscoso, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

Washington --- Authorities are using a "geographic profile" to help find a sniper who has killed six people and injured another in the Washington area, police said Sunday.

The technique, which analyzes patterns in crime scene locations, has been successful in finding rapists, killers and other criminals, said Kim Rossmo, an expert brought in to assist in the investigation.

"On average, we can determine where the offender lives in the top 5 percent of the area of the crime," Rossmo said. For example, if several rapes have occurred within an area of 10 square miles, the profile could pinpoint the rapist's home within one-half of a square mile, he said.

Rossmo said that most crimes occur fairly close to an offender's home but not too close. Criminals search for a balance between "their desire for anonymity" and "their desire to operate in their comfort zone," he said. "Where that exact point is will vary on the offender, their mode of transportation and also, maybe, their degree of confidence."

Details of the geographic profile were not released for fear of tipping off the shooter, police said.

But Montgomery County (Md.) Police Chief Charles Moose said investigators are operating under the assumption that the assailant is still in the area just north of Washington where five of the shootings occurred.

"We remain convinced that someone in our community knows who is engaged in this," he said.

Moose said the geographic profile was one of many tools used in the investigation.

"It's not 100 percent," he said. "There's nothing here that's going to replace traditional investigative techniques."

Police believe the shooter picked his victims at random and used a high-powered assault or hunting rifle, possibly with a scope attached. They describe the assailant as a "skilled shooter" who probably targeted his victims from as far as 100 yards away. Each person was shot with one bullet.

Police said that the shootings did not appear to be an act of terrorism, gang violence or a hate crime. The victims, all adults, were shot in different locations and appeared to have nothing in common, police said.

Three of the victims were shot while running daily errands --- one buying groceries, another pumping gas and a third vacuuming her minivan at a service station. A fourth person was killed while mowing a lawn near a sidewalk, a fifth while sitting on a bench and a sixth while standing on a street corner.

The seventh victim, a 43-year-old woman, was shot in the back Friday while loading packages into her minivan in the parking lot of a Michael's crafts store in Fredericksburg, Va.

The only surviving victim, she was in stable condition Sunday at a Virginia hospital and has been interviewed by police.

A bullet found in her car matched those found at four of the other shootings. All five were shot with one .233-caliber bullet fired from a distance.

Law enforcement officials continued to search Sunday for two men in a white delivery truck that a witness saw leaving one of the crime scenes. The van might be an Isuzu or Mitsubishi with black or dark purple letters on it, police officials said.

Authorities are offering a $ 50,000 reward for information leading to the killer's arrest and indictment.

Police also said Sunday that another shooting in neighboring Howard County appeared to be unrelated to the sniper incidents. A 26-year-old man, Leon Antwan Swain, was found dead in a wooded area Saturday night with at least one gunshot wound.

"There were no similarities or patterns to this victim that would link his death to the others," said Howard County Police Officer Denise Walk.
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