D.C. sniper attacks
|D.C. sniper attacks|
|Part of mass shootings in the United States|
|Location||Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Arizona, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and Washington|
|Date||February 16, 2002 – September 26, 2002 (preliminary shootings)|
October 2, 2002 – October 24, 2002 (sniper attacks)
|Target||Civilians in the Baltimore–Washington Metropolitan Area|
|Spree killing, mass murder|
|Weapons||Bushmaster XM-15 rifle, .223 Remington/5.56×45mm NATO (preliminary shootings)|
|Perpetrators||John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo|
The D.C. sniper attacks (also known as the Beltway sniper attacks) were a series of coordinated shootings that occurred during three weeks in October 2002 in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. Ten people were killed and three others were critically wounded in the Baltimore–Washington Metropolitan Area and along Interstate 95 in Virginia.
The snipers were John Allen Muhammad (age 41 at the time) and Lee Boyd Malvo (age 17 at the time), who traveled in a blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice sedan. Their crime spree, which began in February 2002, included murders and robberies in the states of Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Texas, Washington State, and in Washington, D.C., which resulted in 7 deaths and 7 wounded; in ten months, the snipers killed 17 people and wounded 10 others. None of the killed were children, but one of the wounded was.
In September 2003, Muhammad was sentenced to death, and in October, Malvo, a juvenile, was sentenced to six consecutive life sentences without parole. In November 2009, Muhammad was put to death by lethal injection.
In 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated Malvo's three life sentences without parole in Virginia on appeal, with re-sentencing ordered pursuant to the Supreme Court's ruling in the case of Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012), which held that mandatory life sentences for juvenile criminals without possibility of parole violated the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari, with oral arguments held on October 16, 2019. Should he be resentenced, Malvo's minimum prison sentence will be determined by a judge; the available maximum sentence would be life imprisonment. The ruling does not apply to the six life sentences Malvo received in Maryland. On February 25, 2020, after the passage of a Virginia law allowing those who are serving life sentences for offenses committed before the age of 18 to seek release after serving 20 years, the U.S. Supreme Court case was dismissed at the request of lawyers on both sides.
On February 16, 2002, 21-year-old cashier Keenya Nicole Cook was shot and killed by Lee Malvo at the front door of her aunt's home in Tacoma, Washington. Cook's aunt, Isa Nichols, had been good friends with John Allen Muhammad's ex-wife Mildred and had encouraged her to seek a divorce.
On March 19, 2002, Jerry Taylor, 60, was killed by a single shot to the chest fired from long range as he practiced chip shots at a Tucson, Arizona golf course. Muhammad's sister lived near the golf course and he was visiting her at the time of the shooting.
Two deaths and four injuries followed in other states from March through July 2002.
On August 1, 2002, John Gaeta, 51, was changing a tire slashed by Malvo at a parking lot in Hammond, Louisiana. Malvo then shot him in the neck. The bullet exited through Gaeta's back, and he pretended to be dead while Malvo stole his wallet. Gaeta ran to a service station after the shooter left and discovered that he was bleeding; he went to a hospital and was released within an hour. On March 1, 2010, he received a letter of apology from Malvo.
On September 5, 2002, at 10:30 p.m., Paul LaRuffa, a 55-year-old pizzeria owner, was shot six times at close range while locking up his Italian restaurant in Clinton, Maryland. LaRuffa survived the shooting, and his laptop computer was found in John Allen Muhammad's car when he and Malvo were arrested.
On September 14, 2002, 22-year-old Rupinder "Benny" Oberoi, an employee of the Hillandale Beer & Wine liquor store in Silver Spring, Maryland, was shot in the back outside the store. Oberoi survived the shooting. The shooting was officially linked to Muhammad and Malvo by the Montgomery County Police Department.
On September 21, 2002, at 12:15 a.m., 41-year-old Million A. Waldemariam was fatally shot in the head and back with a .22-caliber pistol in Atlanta, Georgia. Waldemariam was helping the owner of a Sammy's Package Store close up for the night when the shooting occurred.
Nineteen hours later on the same day, Claudine Parker, a 52-year-old liquor store clerk in Montgomery, Alabama, was shot in the chest and killed during a robbery. Her co-worker, 24-year-old Kellie Adams, was critically wounded with a shot through the neck but survived. Evidence found at the crime scene eventually tied this killing to the Beltway attacks and allowed authorities to identify Muhammad and Malvo as suspects, although this connection was not made until October 17, almost four weeks later.
On September 23, 2002, at 6:30 p.m., 45-year-old Hong Im Ballenger was shot in the head and killed with a Bushmaster rifle in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Muhammad and Malvo were later linked to the killing.
Attacks in the Baltimore–Washington Area
DC and Montgomery County, Maryland
At 5:20 p.m. on Wednesday, October 2, 2002, a shot was fired through a window of a Michaels craft store in Aspen Hill. The bullet narrowly missed Ann Chapman, a cashier at the store. Since no one was injured, the shot was assumed to be random and no serious alarms were raised. However, approximately one hour later, at 6:30 p.m., James Martin, a 55-year-old program analyst at NOAA, was shot and killed at 2201 Randolph Road in the parking lot of a Shoppers Food Warehouse grocery store, located in Wheaton.
On the morning of October 3, four people were shot dead within a span of approximately two hours in Aspen Hill and other nearby areas in Montgomery County. Another was killed that evening in the Takoma neighborhood of the District of Columbia.
- At 7:41 a.m., James L. Buchanan, a 39-year-old landscaper known as "Sonny", was shot dead at 11411 Rockville Pike near Rockville, Maryland. Buchanan was shot while mowing the grass at the Fitzgerald Auto Malls.
- At 8:12 a.m., a 54-year-old part-time taxi cab driver, Prem Kumar Walekar, was killed in Aspen Hill in Montgomery County, while pumping gasoline into his taxi at a Mobil station at Aspen Hill Road and Connecticut Avenue.
- At 8:37 a.m., Sarah Ramos, a 34-year-old babysitter and housekeeper, was killed at 3701 Rossmoor Boulevard at the Leisure World Shopping Center in Norbeck. She had got off a bus and was seated on a bench reading a book.
- At 9:58 a.m., 25-year-old Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera was killed while vacuuming her Plymouth Grand Voyager at the Shell station at the intersection of Connecticut and Knowles Avenues in Kensington, Maryland.
- The snipers waited until 9:20 p.m. before shooting Pascal Charlot, a 72-year-old retired carpenter, while he was walking on Georgia Avenue at Kalmia Road, in Washington, D.C. Charlot died less than an hour later.
In each shooting, the victims were killed by a single bullet fired from some distance and, in each case, the killers struck and vanished. This pattern was not detected until after the October 3 shootings occurred.
Fear quickly spread throughout the region as news of the shootings spread. At a press conference meeting, Chief of Police for Montgomery County, MD, Charles Moose, informed parents that schools were on a code blue alert; keeping children indoors. He said that the schools were safe. Many parents picked up their children early at school, not allowing them to take a school bus or walk home. Montgomery County Public Schools, District of Columbia Public Schools, and private schools went into a lockdown, with no recess or outdoor physical education classes. Other school districts in the area also took precautionary measures, keeping students indoors. During the course of the shootings, law enforcement agencies from neighboring states became embedded in the investigation through telephone tips.
Police had only a few pieces of evidence to work with. One initial report said that during the Silver Spring attack[clarification needed] someone had reportedly seen a white box truck. After the murder in Washington, D.C., witnesses began telling police that they had seen a blue Chevrolet Caprice rather than a white box truck. The police initially believed that all the murders were carried out with a .223 caliber rifle.
Virginia and other areas
At this point Malvo and Muhammad started covering a wider area and taking two or three days between shootings.
On October 4, 43-year-old homemaker Caroline Seawell was wounded in the chest at 2:30 p.m. in the parking lot of another Michaels store at Spotsylvania Mall in Spotsylvania, while she was loading purchases into her minivan. By this point, hundreds of journalists had converged to cover the unfolding events. School officials reassured the public that they were taking every measure possible to protect children: by tightening security and canceling all outdoor activities.
- On October 7, at 8:09 a.m., Iran Brown, a 13-year-old student, was shot in the chest and critically wounded as he arrived at the Benjamin Tasker Middle School at 4901 Collington Road in Bowie, Maryland, in Prince George's County (Brown's name was initially withheld from the public but was later revealed). His aunt, Tanya Brown, was a nurse who had just brought him to school. She rushed him to a hospital emergency room. Despite serious injuries, including damage to several major organs, Brown survived the attack and ultimately testified at Muhammad's trial. At this crime scene the authorities discovered a shell casing as well as a Tarot card (the Death card) inscribed with the phrase, "Call me God" on the front and, on three separate lines on the back, "For you mr. Police." "Code: 'Call me God'." "Do not release to the press." Despite police efforts to honor the request not to release information about the card to the press, details were made public by WUSA-TV and then by The Washington Post, just one day later.
- On October 9 at 8:18 p.m., 53-year-old civil engineer Dean Harold Meyers was shot dead while pumping gasoline at a Sunoco gas station at 7203 Sudley Road in Prince William County, Virginia, near the city of Manassas.
- On the morning of October 11 at 9:30 a.m., 53-year-old businessman Kenneth Bridges was shot dead while pumping fuel at an Exxon station off Interstate 95 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, near Fredericksburg.
- On October 14, at 9:15 p.m., 47-year-old Linda Franklin (née Moore), an FBI intelligence analyst who was a resident of Arlington County, Virginia, was shot dead in a covered parking lot at Home Depot in Fairfax County, Virginia, just outside Falls Church at Seven Corners Shopping Center. The police received what seemed to be a very good lead after the October 14 shooting, but it was later determined that the witness was inside the Home Depot at the time and was lying. The witness, Matthew Dowdy, was subsequently convicted of interfering with the investigation.
By this point, gas stations had begun to put tarps up to conceal their customers (see Public reaction, below). Malvo and Muhammad did not commit any more shootings for five days.
On October 19 at 8:00 p.m., 37-year-old Jeffrey Hopper was shot in a parking lot near the Ponderosa Steakhouse at State Route 54 in Ashland, Virginia, about 90 miles (145 km) south of Washington, near Interstate 95. His wife Stephanie called out to passers-by, who phoned for an ambulance, enabling Hopper to survive his injuries. Authorities discovered a four-page letter from the shooter in the woods that demanded $10 million and made a threat to children.
On October 21, Richmond-area police arrested two men, one with a white van, outside a gas station. The men turned out to be undocumented immigrants with no connection to the shooter. The pair were administered cavity searches and were remanded into federal custody (what was then the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which subsequently deported them).
The next day, October 22, Ride On bus driver Conrad Johnson, 35, was shot at 5:56 a.m. while standing on the steps at the 14100 block of Grand Pre Road in Aspen Hill, Maryland. Chief Moose released part of the content of one of the shooter's letters, in which he declares, "Your children are not safe, anywhere, at any time." Johnson died of his injuries.
While no shootings occurred on October 23, the day is significant for two events. First, ballistics experts confirmed Johnson as the 10th fatality in the Beltway shootings. Second, in a yard in Tacoma, Washington, police searched with metal detectors for bullets, shell casings, or other evidence that might provide a link to the shooters. A tree stump believed to have been used for target practice was seized.
With seven separate shooting victims, including six deaths, in the first 15 hours of the D.C. area spree, the North American media soon devoted extensive coverage to the shootings. By the middle of October 2002, all news television networks provided live coverage of the aftermath of each attack, with the coverage often lasting for hours at a time. The Fox show America's Most Wanted devoted an entire episode to the shooters in hopes of aiding in their capture. Much of the coverage of the case in The New York Times was written by Jayson Blair and subsequently found to be fabricated. The ensuing scandal resulted in the resignations of the newspaper's two top editors, Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd.
During the weeks when the attacks occurred, public fear mounted of the apparently random shootings, especially in relation to such sites as service stations and parking lots of large stores, where many had taken place. People pumping gasoline at gas stations kept moving, hoping to present a smaller target. Lisa Notgrass of Lake Jackson, Texas, recommended to media that gas stations put up tarps around the awnings over the fuel pumps, so people would feel safer. Also, many people with access tried to fuel their vehicles at the naval base of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, as they felt it was safer inside the guarded fence. Government buildings such as the White House, U.S. Capitol, and the Supreme Court building, and memorial tourist attractions at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. also received heightened security. For the duration of the attacks, United States Senate pages received a driven police escort to and from the United States Capitol every day and were not allowed to leave their residence hall for any reason except work. Drivers of white vans and box trucks were viewed with suspicion from other motorists as initial media reports indicated the suspect may be driving such a vehicle.
After the specific threat against children was delivered, many school groups curtailed field trips and outdoors athletic activities based upon safety concerns. At the height of the public fear, some school districts, such as Henrico County Public Schools and Hanover County Public Schools, after the Ponderosa shooting, closed school for the day. Other schools such as the MJBHA, canceled all outdoor activities after the shooting at the Connecticut and Aspen Hill intersection. Others changed after-school procedures for parents to pick up their kids to minimize the amount of time children spent in the open. Extra police officers were placed in schools because of this fear. Joel Schumacher's film Phone Booth was deemed potentially upsetting enough that its release was delayed until April 2003.
The investigation was publicly headed by the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) and its chief, Charles Moose. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, the Virginia Department of Transportation, and police departments in other jurisdictions where shootings took place provided assistance in the investigation.
Police responded within minutes to reports of attacks during the three weeks of the sniper attacks, cordoning off nearby roads and highways and inspecting all drivers, thereby grinding traffic to a halt for hours at a time. Police canvassed the area, talking to people, and collected surveillance tapes.
By Friday night, October 4, the five shootings on October 3 and two on October 2 were forensically linked to the same gun.
Eyewitness accounts of the attacks were mostly confused and spotty. Hotlines set up for the investigation were flooded with tips. Early tips from eyewitnesses included reports of a white box truck with dark lettering, speeding away from the Leisure World shopping center, with two men inside. Police across the area and the state of Maryland were pulling over white vans and trucks. A gray car was spotted speeding away after the October 4 shooting in Spotsylvania.
The shooter attempted to engage the police in a dialogue, compelling Moose to tell the media cryptic messages intended for the sniper. At several scenes of shootings, Tarot cards were left as calling cards, including one Death card upon which was written "Call me God" on the front and on the back, on three separate lines, the words, "For you mr. Police." "Code: 'Call me God'." "Do not release to the press." This information was leaked to the press and misquoted often as "I am God" or some similar misquote of the actual words on the tarot card. At later scenes of crimes the shooter left long, handwritten notes sealed inside plastic bags, including a rambling one that demanded $10,000,000 and threatened the lives of children in the area.
A telephone call from the shooter(s) was traced to a pay telephone at a gasoline station in Henrico County, Virginia. Police missed the suspects by a matter of a few minutes, and initially detained occupants of a van at another pay telephone at the same intersection.
On the phone call, the sniper, boasting of his cleverness, mentioned a previous unsolved murder in "Montgomery". This was identified as the September 21 shooting at a liquor store in Montgomery, Alabama. On October 17 authorities said they matched Malvo's fingerprint found at the Benjamin Tasker Middle School site with one lifted from the Montgomery liquor store scene. After confirming the link between these two crime scenes, the FBI was able to link these fingerprints to Malvo due to his fingerprinting during a previous arrest in Washington state. After further research into Malvo's background, the police found he had close ties to John Allen Muhammad.
Despite an apparent lack of progress publicly, federal authorities were making significant headway in their investigation and developed leads in Washington state, Alabama, and New Jersey. They learned that Muhammad's ex-wife, who had obtained a protective order against him, lived near the Capital Beltway in Clinton, a community in suburban Prince George's County, Maryland adjacent to Montgomery County. Information was also developed about an automobile purchased in New Jersey by Muhammad.
Police discovered that the New Jersey license plate number issued for Muhammad's 1990 Chevrolet Caprice had been checked by radio patrol cars several times near shooting locations in various jurisdictions in several states, but the car had not been stopped because law enforcement computer networks did not indicate that it was connected to any criminal activity and they were focused exclusively on the "white van".
On October 3, 2002, police in Washington, D.C. stopped the Caprice for a "minor traffic infraction", two hours prior to the shooting of Pascal Charlot.[This quote needs a citation] Witnesses later reported seeing a Caprice near the scene of his shooting.
On October 8, 2002, Baltimore Police Department investigated a dark blue Chevrolet Caprice with a person sleeping inside that was parked near the Jones Falls Expressway at 28th Street in Baltimore. The officers were concerned that the driver's license was from Washington state while the vehicle was registered in New Jersey. Although the vehicle was suspicious enough for them to investigate, and it fit the description of a vehicle associated with the shooting in Washington, D.C. five days earlier, the officers did not question the occupants extensively, nor did they search the vehicle.
Authorities were quick to issue a media alert to the public to be on the lookout for a dark blue Chevrolet Caprice sedan. For the public, as well as for law enforcement agencies throughout the region, this was a major change from the mysterious "white box truck" earlier sought based upon reported sightings.
The crime spree came to a close at 3:15 a.m. on October 24, 2002, when Muhammad and Malvo were found sleeping in their car at a rest stop off Interstate 70 near Myersville, Maryland, and were arrested on federal weapons charges. Police were tipped off by Whitney Donahue, who noticed the parked car. Four hours earlier, Montgomery County police chief Charles Moose had relayed this cryptic message to the sniper: "You have indicated that you want us to do and say certain things. You have asked us to say, 'We have caught the sniper like a duck in a noose.' We understand that hearing us say this is important to you". Moose asked the media "to carry the message accurately and often." This statement may refer to a Cherokee fable.
Trooper First Class D. Wayne Smith of the Maryland State Police was the first to arrive at the scene and immediately used his light blue unmarked police vehicle to block off the exit by positioning the car sideways between two parked tractor-trailers. As more troopers arrived, they effectively sealed off the rest area at both the entrance and exit ramps without the suspects being aware of the rapidly growing police presence. Later, as truck driver Ron Lantz was attempting to exit the rest area, his tractor-trailer was commandeered by troopers who used the truck, in place of the police car, to complete the roadblock at the exit. With the suspects' escape route sealed off, the SWAT officers moved in to arrest them.
A stolen Bushmaster .223-caliber weapon and bipod were found in a bag in Muhammad's car. Ballistics tests later conclusively linked the seized rifle to 11 of the 14 shootings, including one in which no one was hurt.
Conclusions of investigations
Logistics and tactics
The attacks were carried out with a stolen Bushmaster XM-15 semi-automatic .223 caliber rifle equipped with a Bushnell holographic weapon sight effective at ranges of up to 300 meters (984 feet), which was found in the vehicle. The trunk of the Chevrolet Caprice was modified to serve as a "rolling sniper's nest". The back seat was modified to allow a person access to the trunk. Once inside, the sniper could lie prone and take shots through a small hole created for that purpose near the license plate.
Investigators and the prosecution suggested during pre-trial motions that Muhammad intended to kill his second ex-wife Mildred, who he felt had estranged him from his children. According to this hypothesis, the other shootings were intended to cover up the motive for the crime. Muhammad believed that the police would not focus on an estranged ex-husband as a suspect if Mildred appeared to be a random victim of a serial killer. During the attacks, Muhammad frequented the neighborhood where she lived, and some of the incidents occurred nearby. Additionally, he had earlier made threats against her. Mildred herself said that she was his intended target, claiming that when the police first approached her, one officer said, "Ms. Muhammad, didn't you know you were the target?" However, Judge LeRoy Millette Jr. prevented prosecutors from presenting that theory during the trial, saying that a link had not been firmly established.
While imprisoned, Malvo wrote a number of erratic diatribes about what he termed "jihad" against the United States. "I have been accused on my mission. Allah knows I'm gonna suffer now," he wrote. Because his rants and drawings featured not only such figures as Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, but also characters from the film series The Matrix, these musings were dismissed as immaterial. Some investigators reportedly said they had all but eliminated terrorist ties or political ideologies as a motive. Nonetheless, in at least one of the ensuing murder trials, a Virginia court found Muhammad guilty of killing "pursuant to the direction or order" of terrorism.
At the 2006 trial of Muhammad, Malvo testified that the aim of the killing spree was to kidnap children for the purpose of extorting money from the government and to "set up a camp to train children how to terrorize cities," with the ultimate goal being to "shut things down" across the United States.
Before the trial, Chief Moose engaged in a publicity tour for his book on the sniper investigation, including appearances on Dateline NBC, The Today Show, and The Tonight Show. Assistant Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney James Willett told The Washington Post, "Personally, I don't understand why someone who's been in law enforcement his whole life would potentially damage our case or compromise a jury pool by doing this."
Change of venue requests by defense attorneys were granted, and the first trials were held in the independent cities of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach in southeastern Virginia, more than 100 miles (160 km) from the closest alleged attack (in Ashland, Virginia).
During their trials in the fall of 2003, involving two of the victims in Virginia, Muhammad and Malvo were each found guilty of murder and weapons charges. The jury in Muhammad's case recommended that he be sentenced to death, while Malvo's jury recommended a sentence of life in prison without parole instead of the death penalty. The judges concurred in both cases. Alabama law enforcement authorities allege that the snipers engaged in a series of previously unconnected attacks prior to October 2 in Montgomery, Alabama. Other charges are also pending in Maryland and other communities in Virginia.
After the initial convictions and sentencing, Will Jarvis, the Assistant Prince William County prosecutor, stated he would wait to decide whether to try Malvo on capital charges in his jurisdiction until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on whether juveniles may be subject to the penalty of execution. While that decision in an unrelated case was still pending before the high court, in October 2004, under a plea agreement, Malvo pleaded guilty in another case in Spotsylvania County, for another murder to avoid a possible death penalty sentence, and agreed to additional sentencing of life imprisonment without parole. Malvo had yet to face trial in Prince William County.
In March 2005, the Supreme Court ruled in Roper v. Simmons that the Eighth Amendment prohibits execution for crimes committed when under the age of 18. In light of this Supreme Court decision, the prosecutors in Prince William County decided not to pursue the charges against Malvo. Prosecutors in Maryland, Louisiana, and Alabama were still interested in putting both Malvo and Muhammad on trial. As Malvo was 17 when he committed the crimes, he could no longer face the death penalty but still could be extradited to Alabama, Louisiana, and other states for prosecution. At the time of the Roper v. Simmons ruling, Malvo was 20 years old and was held at Virginia's maximum security Red Onion State Prison in Pound, Wise County.
"Muhammad, with his sniper team partner, Malvo, randomly selected innocent victims," Virginia Supreme Court Justice Donald Lemons wrote in the decision. "With calculation, extensive planning, premeditation and ruthless disregard for life, Muhammad carried out his cruel scheme of terror."[This quote needs a citation]
Muhammad's death penalty was affirmed by the Virginia Supreme Court on April 22, 2005, when it ruled that he could be sentenced to death because the murder was part of an act of terrorism. This line of reasoning was based on the handwritten note demanding $10 million. The court rejected an argument by defense lawyers that Muhammad could not be sentenced to death because he was not the triggerman in the killings linked to him and Malvo.
Execution of Muhammad
On September 16, 2009, the circuit court judge Mary Grace O'Brien set an execution date by lethal injection of November 10, 2009. His attorneys petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to stay his execution, but it was denied. They also requested clemency from Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, but this was denied as well.
Muhammad was executed by lethal injection at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Virginia on November 10, 2009. The execution procedure began at 9:06 p.m. EST; Muhammad was pronounced dead five minutes later. It was reported that when asked if he had any last words, Muhammad made no reply. Twenty-seven people, including victims' family members, witnessed his execution.
In May 2005, Virginia and Maryland announced that they had reached agreements to allow Maryland to proceed with prosecuting charges there, where the most shootings occurred. There were media reports that Malvo and his legal team were willing to negotiate his cooperation, and he waived extradition to Maryland.
Muhammad and his legal team responded by fighting extradition to Maryland. Muhammad's legal team was ultimately unsuccessful, and extradition was ordered by a Virginia judge in August 2005.
Maryland agreed to transfer Muhammad and Malvo back to the Commonwealth of Virginia after their trials. A date for Muhammad's pending execution in Virginia had been set for November 10, 2009.
Malvo pleaded guilty to six murders and confessed to others in other states while being interviewed in Maryland and testifying against Muhammad. Malvo was sentenced to six consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole, but in 2017, his sentence in Virginia was overturned after an appeal.
On May 30, 2006, a Maryland jury found John Allen Muhammad guilty of six counts of murder in Maryland. In return, he was sentenced to six consecutive life terms without possibility of parole on June 1, 2006.
On May 6, 2008, it was revealed that Muhammad had asked prosecutors in a letter to help him end legal appeals of his conviction and death sentence "so that you can murder this innocent black man."[This quote needs a citation] An appeal filed by Muhammad's defense lawyers in April 2008 cited evidence of brain damage that might render Muhammad incompetent to make legal decisions, and that he should not have been allowed to represent himself at his Virginia trial.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (October 2012)
In John Allen Muhammad's May 2006 trial in Montgomery County, Maryland, Lee Boyd Malvo took the stand and confessed to the 17 murders. He also gave a more detailed version of the pair's plans. Malvo, after extensive psychological counseling, admitted that he was lying at the earlier Virginia trial where he had admitted to being the trigger man for every shooting. Malvo claimed that he had said this in order to protect Muhammad from a potential death sentence, and because it was more difficult to obtain the death penalty for a minor. Malvo said that he wanted to do what little he could for the families of the victims by letting the full story be told. In his two days of testimony, Malvo outlined detailed aspects of all the shootings.
Part of his testimony concerned Muhammad's complete multiphase plan. His plan consisted of three phases in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore metro areas. Phase one consisted of meticulously planning, mapping, and practicing their locations around the D.C. area. This way after each shooting, they would be able to quickly leave the area on a predetermined path, and move on to the next location. Muhammad's goal in Phase One was to kill six white people a day for 30 days. Malvo went on to describe how Phase One did not go as planned due to heavy traffic and the lack of a clear shot or getaway at locations.
Phase Two was meant to take place in Baltimore, Maryland. Malvo described how this phase was close to being implemented, but was not carried out. Phase Two was intended to begin by killing a pregnant woman by shooting her in the stomach. The next step would have been to shoot and kill a Baltimore police officer. Then, at the officer's funeral, they planned to detonate several improvised explosive devices complete with shrapnel. These explosives were intended to kill a large number of police, since many police would attend another officer's funeral.
The last phase was to take place during or shortly after Phase Two, which was to extort several million dollars from the United States government. This money would be used to finance a larger plan, to travel north to Canada. Along the way, they would stop in YMCAs and orphanages recruiting other impressionable young black boys with no parents or guidance. Muhammad thought he could act as their father figure as he did with Malvo.
Once he recruited a large number of young black boys and made his way up to Canada, he would begin their training. Malvo described how John Muhammad intended to train boys in weapons and stealth as he had been taught. Finally, after their training was complete, John Allen Muhammad would send them out across the United States to carry out mass shootings in many other cities, just as he had done in Washington and Baltimore. These attacks would be coordinated and be intended to send the country into chaos that had already been built up after 9/11.
Civil and regulatory actions
According to The Seattle Times in a story of April 20, 2003, Muhammad had honed his marksmanship at Bull's Eye's firing range. The newspaper also reported that Malvo told investigators that he shoplifted the 35-inch-long (89 cm) carbine from the "supposedly secure store."
According to U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) officials, the store and its owners had a long history of firearms sales and records violations and a file 283 pages thick. In July 2003, the ATF revoked the federal firearms license of Brian Borgelt, a former staff sergeant with the U.S. Army Rangers and owner of Bull's Eye Shooter Supply. Later that month he transferred ownership of the store to a friend and continued to own the building and operate the adjacent shooting gallery.
On January 16, 2003, the Legal Action Project of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, on behalf of the families of many of the victims of the sniper attacks both in and out of the D.C. area who were killed (including Hong Im Ballenger, "Sonny" Buchanan Jr., Linda Franklin, Conrad Johnson, Sarah Ramos, and James L. Premkumar Walekar) as well as two victims who survived the shooting (Rupinder "Benny" Oberoi and 13-year old Iran Brown) filed a civil lawsuit against Bull's Eye Shooter Supply and Bushmaster Firearms, Inc. of Windham, Maine, the gun distributor and manufacturer that made the rifle used in the crime spree, as well as Borgelt, Muhammad, and Malvo. Muhammad, who had a criminal record of domestic battery, and Malvo, a minor, were each legally prohibited from purchasing firearms.
The suit claimed that Bull's Eye Shooter Supply ran its gun store in Tacoma, Washington, "in such a grossly negligent manner that scores of its guns routinely "disappeared" from its store and it kept such shoddy records that it could not account for the Bushmaster rifle used in the sniper shootings when asked by federal agents for records of sale for the weapon."[This quote needs a citation] It was alleged that the dealer could not account for hundreds of guns received from manufacturers in the years immediately prior to the Beltway sniper attacks. It was also claimed that Bull's Eye continued to sell guns in the same irresponsible manner even after Muhammad and Malvo were caught and found to have acquired the weapon there. Bushmaster was included in the suit because it allegedly continued to sell guns to Bull's Eye as a dealer despite an awareness of its record-keeping violations.
The case had been set for trial in April 2005; however, the parties settled before then. Bushmaster said it settled because of escalating legal fees and the dwindling amount of insurance money it had left for the case. Bull's Eye contributed $2 million and Bushmaster contributed $500,000 to an out-of-court settlement. Bushmaster also agreed to educate its dealers on safer business practices.
After the settlement was announced, WTOP radio in Washington, D.C., reported that Sonia Wills, mother of victim Conrad Johnson, said her family took part in the lawsuit more to send a message than to collect money. "I think a message was delivered that you should be responsible and accountable for the actions of irresponsible people when you make these guns and put them in their hands," she said.
A memorial to the victims of the D.C. area sniper attacks is located at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland. An additional memorial was constructed in 2014 in the government plaza of Rockville, Maryland.
In popular culture
This section needs additional citations for verification. (October 2021)
Film and television
- Broadcast of the CSI: Miami episode "Kill Zone" had to be postponed into November 2002 because the story of a sniper killing three random victims at rush hour seemed to bear too close a resemblance to the Beltway attacks.
- On May 14, 2003, Law & Order aired an episode titled "Sheltered", which contains many similar elements to the D.C. sniper attacks.
- On July 12, 2003, Forensic Files aired an episode titled "The Sniper's Trail", which documents the D.C. sniper attacks and subsequent police investigation.
- On October 12, 2003, Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye aired an episode titled "The Sniper", which contains many similar elements to the D.C. sniper attacks.
- On October 17, 2003, the USA Network's U.S. cable station aired D.C. Sniper: 23 Days of Fear, a television movie based on the D.C. sniper attacks.
- On November 10, 2005, an episode about the killings entitled “The Washington Snipers” of the British documentary series Born to Kill? aired.
- During the fall of 2007, BET showcased a documentary on the Beltway Snipers in its American Gangster series.
- The June 2008, the documentary The D.C. Sniper's Wife told the D.C sniper attacks story through the eyes of Mildred Muhammad, ex-wife of John Allen Muhammad.
- On November 9, 2009, Mildred Muhammad appeared on CNN's Larry King Live the day before her ex-husband's execution.
- The 2010 film D.C. Sniper, directed by Ulli Lommel, is based on the attacks.
- On August 9, 2010, The Biography Channel aired an episode of Aftermath with William Shatner, titled "DC Sniper Victims" in which the actor William Shatner spoke at length with three survivors of the sniper attacks—Paul LaRuffa, Kellie Adams, and Caroline Seawell.
- The 2013 film Blue Caprice, also known as The Washington Snipers in some regions, is based on the attacks and the relationship between Muhammad and Malvo.
- On July 22, 2015, Lifetime Movie Network aired an episode of Monster in My Family featuring Mildred Muhammad meeting with surviving victims along with family members of the deceased, with Lee Malvo also appearing in the episode while in prison.
- In 2003, former Montgomery County police chief Charles Moose, the primary official in charge of the Beltway sniper attacks, published a book titled Three Weeks in October: The Manhunt for the Serial Sniper.
- In 2020 (January 6 - March 23), the podcast You're Wrong About produced a four-part series on the attacks, chronicling the connection between John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo as well as their lives as individuals.
- In 2020, iHeartRadio and Tenderfoot TV covered the attacks in the third season of their true crime podcast Monster. 
- West Virginia sniper attacks (2003)
- Ohio highway sniper attacks (2003)
- Metcalf sniper attack (2015)
- Phoenix freeway shootings (2015)
- Eulalio Tordil shootings (2016)
- "Sniper reportedly details 4 new shootings". kxmb.com. AP. June 16, 2006. Archived from the original on October 13, 2007.
- "U.S. Supreme Court Monthly Calendar, October 2019" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on October 1, 2019. Retrieved October 10, 2019.
- Jackman, Tom (28 May 2017). "Federal judge tosses life sentences for convicted beltway sniper Lee Boyd Malvo". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 15 November 2017. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
- Crummy, Brianna (February 24, 2020). "New Law Gives Va. Prisoners With Life Sentences the Chance at Parole". NBC4 Washington. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
- Hurley, Lawrence (February 26, 2020). "U.S. Supreme Court dismisses 'D.C. Sniper' Malvo case after change in law". Reuters. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
- "D.C. Sniper's first 'intended victim' speaks out". Archived from the original on February 16, 2018. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
- Manning, Stephen (26 October 2006). "Tucson police question DC sniper about golf course murder". Tucson Citizen. Archived from the original on 11 October 2014. Retrieved 19 June 2015.
- Richards, Chris (28 October 2006). "Police say Malvo confessed to killing Arizona golfer". USA Today. Tucson, AZ. Archived from the original on 12 October 2016. Retrieved 5 November 2017.
- "DC sniper Malvo admitted to killing Tucson man". Archived from the original on February 15, 2018. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
- Finch, Chris (February 24, 2010). "Hammond shooting connected to D.C. sniper". WVUE. Archived from the original on August 31, 2010. Retrieved December 5, 2010.
- McLaughlin, Elliott C. (March 4, 2010). "Sniper's apology brings closure, no justice". CNN.com. Archived from the original on September 18, 2013. Retrieved July 11, 2013.
- Dao, James (October 22, 2003). "Polite but Dogged, Sniper Suspect Offers Defense - The New York Times". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 24, 2009. Retrieved August 16, 2009.
- "CNN.com - Police link September shooting to sniper suspects - Nov. 1, 2002". www.cnn.com. Retrieved May 1, 2022.
- "DC Area Sniper Fast Facts". CNN. November 4, 2013. Retrieved May 1, 2022.
- "A collective timeline of the DC Sniper case, from 2002 to 2019". Northern Virginia Magazine. November 7, 2019. Retrieved June 26, 2022.
- Kovaleski, Serge F.; Ruane, Michael E. (15 December 2002). "Before Area Sniper Attacks, Another Deadly Bullet Trail". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 6 November 2012. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
- Klass, Kym (November 10, 2009). "'Justice' served: Parker's family to watch D.C. sniper's execution". Montgomery Advertiser. Gannett. Archived from the original on November 13, 2009. Retrieved July 11, 2013.
- Hickey, Eric W. Encyclopedia of Murder & Violent Crime. 2003, p. 54.
- Library, C.N.N. (26 September 2016). "DC Area Sniper Fast Facts". CNN. Archived from the original on 18 January 2017. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
- "Husband of La. Victim Knew It Was Sniper". Fox News. Associated Press. 31 October 2002. Archived from the original on 11 February 2017. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
- Roberts, J (November 2, 2002). "Antigua Sniper Connection?". CBS News. Archived from the original on February 4, 2011. Retrieved August 18, 2010.
- Meserve, Jeanne (October 20, 2003). "Sniper Trial in Virginia Beach, Virginia Opens". CNN. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. Archived from the original on February 3, 2014. Retrieved April 18, 2013.
The strongest piece of evidence in this case, the Bushmaster rifle, found with Muhammad and Malvo at the time of their arrest and linked through ballistics testing like this with Meyers' murder and other D.C. sniper slayings. The Chevy Caprice in which they were found had a sniper perch and firing port in the trunk.
- MacGillis, Alec; Del Quentin Wilber & Jeff Barker (October 4, 2002). "Random shootings target victims in Montgomery during a 16-hour period". The Baltimore Sun.
- "Arbitrary Victims, Identical Fate; County's Growing Diversity Reflected in Those Gunned Down". The Washington Post. October 4, 2002.
- Getter, Lisa; Vicki Kemper & Jonathan Peterson (October 4, 2002). "5 Shot Dead in Suburban D.C. as Fear Spreads". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 11, 2008.
- "For Parents and Students, Safety First; Schools Lock Their Doors, and Some Keep Information Scarce in Fighting Fear". The Washington Post. October 4, 2002.
- Douglas, John; Burgess, Ann W.; Burgess, Allen G.; Ressler, Robert K. (2006). Crime Classification Manual: A Standard System for Investigating and Classifying Violent Crimes. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 455–457. ISBN 978-0-7879-8642-1. Archived from the original on 20 March 2017. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
- "Teen Sniper Victim Testifies". Cbsnews.com. October 30, 2003. Archived from the original on November 16, 2015. Retrieved June 8, 2019.
- "Youngest sniper victim testifies, BBC News". bbc.co.uk. October 22, 2003. Archived from the original on November 14, 2009. Retrieved November 10, 2009.
- Horwitz, Sari & Michael E. Ruane, Sniper: Inside the Hunt for the Killers Who Terrorized the Nation. Random House, 2003, p. 119
- Dishneau, David. "Woman Questioned in Md. Sniper Hunt". AP News. Archived from the original on January 12, 2019. Retrieved January 12, 2019.
- Corky Siemaszko (October 29, 2002). "2 Sniper Suspects Charged in Virginia". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on March 7, 2016. Retrieved September 10, 2015.
- Jackman, Tom (January 18, 2007). "2002 Sniper 'Witness' Convicted of Rape, Murder". Washingtonpost.com. Archived from the original on September 14, 2019. Retrieved June 4, 2019.
- Kovaleski, Serge F.; Horwitz, Sari (October 26, 2002). "Letter offers hint at motive". Raleigh News & Observer. p. 14.
- "Shootings recall images of D.C snipers in 2002". BaltimoreSun.com. 4 March 2015. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
- Moose, Charles; Charles Fleming (September 15, 2003). Three Weeks in October: The Manhunt for the Serial Sniper. Penguin Group (USA). p. 370. ISBN 978-0-451-21279-5.
- Kantor, Shira (October 4, 2002). "Sniper killings grip Maryland; Police suspect link after 5 slain". Chicago Tribune.
- Clines, Francis X. (October 5, 2002). "Widening Fears, Few Clues As 6th Death Is Tied to Sniper". The New York Times.
- Horwitz, Sari; Ruane, Michael E. (2004). Sniper: Inside the Hunt for the Killers Who Terrorized the Nation. Ballantine Books. p. 120. ISBN 978-0345476623.
- "Washington Area (Tarot Card) Sniper – serial killer in Washington, Maryland, Virginia area taunts the police". Altereddimensions.net. Archived from the original on November 1, 2009. Retrieved August 16, 2009.
- "Print from Alabama killing matches suspect". CNN. October 24, 2002. Archived from the original on May 4, 2005.
- "Beltway Snipers".
- Hanley, Robert (October 25, 2002). "The Hunt for a Sniper: The Vehicle; F.B.I. Asks Co-owner of Car to Come Forward". New York Times. Archived from the original on November 13, 2009. Retrieved August 16, 2009.
- "Text of Chief Moose's Statement". Washington Post. 24 October 2002. Archived from the original on 22 October 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
- "The 'Duck in a Noose' Fable Explained". Los Angeles Times. October 25, 2002. Retrieved February 9, 2022.
- Porteus, Liza (October 29, 2002). "Timeline: Tracking the Sniper's Trail – U.S. & World". FoxNews.com. Archived from the original on October 19, 2009. Retrieved August 16, 2009.
- "Holographic Weapon Sights FAQ". EOTech. Archived from the original on November 27, 2016. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
- Jackman, Tom (10 September 2004). "Gunmaker, Store Agree To Payout in Sniper Case". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 16 September 2017. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
- "A Byte Out of History: The Beltway Snipers, Part 1". FBI. October 22, 2007. Archived from the original on December 18, 2016.
- "Exclusive: Ex-wife, daughters of 'D.C. Sniper' speak out".
- Siegel, Andrea F. (December 4, 2003). "Malvo sketches depicted 'jihad'". Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on July 11, 2007. Retrieved August 16, 2009.
- Horwitz, Ruane Sniper: Inside the Hunt for the Killers Who Terrorized the Nation Random House ISBN 0-345-47662-X
- "Muhammad told ex-wife, "I will kill you," she says". CNN. November 19, 2003. Archived from the original on November 27, 2004. Retrieved August 16, 2009.
- "Sniper accused "wanted to kill wife"". The Scotsman. Edinburgh, Scotland. 1 November 2002. Archived from the original on 10 January 2009. Retrieved 16 August 2009.
- Liptak, Adam (April 23, 2005). "Virginia Justices Set Death Sentence in Washington Sniper Case". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 24, 2009. Retrieved March 27, 2010.
- "Sniper Accomplice Says Mentor Had Extortion and Terror Plan". The New York Times. May 24, 2006. Archived from the original on April 24, 2009. Retrieved March 27, 2010.
- Urbina, Ian (May 31, 2006). "Washington-Area Sniper Convicted of 6 More Killings". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 24, 2009. Retrieved March 27, 2010.
- Michelle Malkin (September 11, 2001). "The Moose is On Fire". Capitalism Magazine. Archived from the original on January 30, 2010. Retrieved August 16, 2009.
- Markon, Jerry (September 17, 2009). "November Execution Date Set for Muhammad". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 10, 2012. Retrieved December 2, 2012.
- White, Josh; Barnes, Robert (November 10, 2009). "Supreme Court rejects sniper's appeal". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 11, 2012. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
- Johnson, Kevin (11 November 2009). "D.C. sniper executed in Virginia". USA Today. Archived from the original on 13 June 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
- Calvert, Scott M. (November 11, 2009). "D.C.-area sniper executed". Los Angeles Times. p. A11. Archived from the original on November 14, 2009. Retrieved November 17, 2009.
- Potter, Deena. (November 11, 2009) "Washington sniper John Allen Muhammad executed" Archived 2018-01-19 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved January 18, 2018.
- Dena Potter (November 11, 2009). "Silent DC sniper mastermind Muhammad executed". WTOP news. AP. Archived from the original on December 8, 2009.
- Markon, Jerry (17 September 2009). "Nov. Execution Date Set for D.C. Area Sniper Muhammad". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 8 May 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
- Wagner, Paul (26 May 2017). "Judge overturns life without parole sentence for DC sniper Lee Boyd Malvo". Fox5 DC. Archived from the original on 26 May 2017. Retrieved 26 May 2017.
- "Crime Library: The DC Sniper Beltway Attacks - Crime Museum". crimemuseum.org. Archived from the original on August 31, 2015. Retrieved September 10, 2015.
- Carter, Mike; Miletich, Steve; Mayo, Justin (April 20, 2003). "Errant Gun Dealer, Wary Agents Paved Way for Beltway Sniper Tragedy". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on November 15, 2009. Retrieved December 20, 2015.
- "Ownership Transfer of Bull's Eye Shooter Supply Approved". Archived from the original on August 30, 2003.
- Manning, Stephen (September 10, 2004). "Families of sniper victims reach settlement". Associated Press. Archived from the original on February 14, 2006. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
- Steve Manning (September 8, 2004). "Family of Sniper Victims Hope Gun Makers Learn Lesson". wtopnews.com. AP. Archived from the original on October 21, 2004.
- Higgins, Adrian (March 24, 2005). "A Garden of Hope and Renewal in a Violent World". Washington Post. p. H1. Archived from the original on September 4, 2017. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
- "'Monster in My Family': DC Sniper's Ex-Wife and Teen Accomplice Talk". 2Paragraphs. July 22, 2015. Archived from the original on July 23, 2015. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
- Michael Hobbes; Sarah Marshall (January 6, 2020). "D.C. Snipers Part 1". You're Wrong About (Podcast). Event occurs at 110:19. Retrieved May 29, 2021.
- Michael Hobbes; Sarah Marshall (February 3, 2020). "D.C. Snipers Part 2". You're Wrong About (Podcast). Event occurs at 110:19. Retrieved May 29, 2021.
- Michael Hobbes; Sarah Marshall (February 24, 2020). "D.C. Snipers Part 3". You're Wrong About (Podcast). Event occurs at 110:19. Retrieved May 29, 2021.
- Michael Hobbes; Sarah Marshall (March 23, 2020). "D.C. Snipers Part 4". You're Wrong About (Podcast). Event occurs at 110:19. Retrieved May 29, 2021.
- Harris, Tony. "Monster: DC Sniper". Monster: DC Sniper. iHeartRadio. Retrieved August 30, 2021.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Beltway sniper attacks.|
- "Serial sniper continues to cause fear in the region". The Gazette. October 17, 2002. Archived from the original on November 22, 2002.
- Interactive map of the shootings, at the Washington Post
- D.C. Sniper: Ten Years Later, at The Baltimore Sun