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Montgomery County Press Conference

Aired October 9, 2002 - 07:26   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We'll go straight back to Montgomery County for this update.

CHIEF CHARLES MOOSE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: ... we're dealing with. We are trying to get the latest update on the calls to the tip line and the classification in credible leads. I'm afraid I may not have that until the 9:00 briefing. So I realize that remains an area of interest.

We do want to continue to encourage people to call the tip line, 240-777-2600. But we will have those exact numbers at the 9:00 briefing.

I'll take questions.

QUESTION: Can you comment on this report of the tarot card found near the Prince George's County site?

MOOSE: It is inappropriate to comment about this card. There has not been anything authorized for release by me. I need to go back inside, work with my team, get to the root of this issue and certainly that will occupy a lot of my time this morning.

QUESTION: Chief, it seems like the root of the issue (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

MOOSE: I have to go back inside and talk to my team. Nothing about any kind of card has been authorized for release and it has been my practice to not talk about the investigation, to make sure that I don't do anything to compromise the investigation, to hinder our ability to bring this person or the people involved in this into custody.

And I certainly would hope that everyone would have that same attitude, that they don't want to be the conduit to somehow make it possible for this investigation to be hindered, for the person or the people involved in this investigation to be alerted, to be unduly upset, to be sent in some kind of direction. Unfortunately, we have any number of talking heads in the media, retired police professionals -- and, you know, as a police professional it is very, insulting when there are retired police professionals because we know that they've not been briefed. They have not seen any of the evidence. They've not talked to any investigators.

They will, they're calling the suspect or the suspects in this case, they're calling them names. They're ranting and raving on all of the various stations. They're telling people in the community information about the age and therefore those people are, again, starting to have a closed mind about calling us and giving us information because they've heard someone on TV say that this is the age and therefore they are not calling about someone that may be younger or older.

So I would hope that those police professionals would realize that maybe they don't live here. Maybe they don't have children that live here. And so it's all fun to be on television, but maybe they need to come here, live here, sit outside and have coffee and then let's see how open they'll be to ranting and raving and calling the suspect or the suspects names.

If they're putting people in this community at risk so that they can have the pleasure of being on TV, it is so sad, because at one point they did really have a commitment to law enforcement. But what I'm seeing is an absolute ego problem. They are no longer anybody, but they do have the media in America, that all of a sudden makes them somebody again. And it really is sad.

So I feel sorry for them. But I also plead with them to stop. I plead with the networks, I plead with all of you to think about the value of the interviews, the value of the air time that you're giving them. There are so many young people in our country doing terrific things. Wouldn't it be nice to have that air time given to the president of a student body and let them talk about some project that they did to help the homeless? Wouldn't that make America feel a lot better than listening to a retired something that wasn't successful in their job but now they're on TV?

We've got retired police chiefs out there looking for other jobs, taking advantage of this situation to get their face on television. How sad. How insulting. So do they stop or do you stop, as the media, in giving them that opportunity?

We have to make some choices in America. Maybe this is one of those points in time where we do that. Who is the responsible party? But what happened to individual responsibility? We have the best that our federal government can offer in law enforcement to help us on this case. We have the best that Montgomery County, the Maryland State Police, the Gaithersburg City police, the Rockville City police, the Montgomery County park police. We have the best that we all have to offer to try to bring this to closure.

If anybody out there is doing anything to interfere with that, I plead with you to please rethink what you're doing. It just does not make sense.

In Montgomery County, our citizens have asked the Montgomery County Police Department and all available federal resources to work this case. I have not received any message that the citizens of Montgomery County want Channel 9 or the "Washington Post" or any other media outlet to solve this case. If they do, then let me know. We will go and do other police work and we will turn this case over to the media and you can solve it. But to date, the people in my community have asked the police department to work the case. So I beg of the media, let us do our job. If the community wants you to do it, they will call today and we will have a vote. And if it's decided that Channel 9 is going to investigate this case, then so be it. So be it. I don't think that's going to happen and I beg my community to make their voices heard, because I am convinced that are broaching interference and the interference is unacceptable.

It's sad when it comes from retired law enforcement. It's sad when it comes from my team, that if my team is somehow releasing information, if my team feels it's important to put things out there, that's sad. And if the media feels that it is their job to put things out there so that they can be promoted, then that is also sad.

But folks, fortunately my investigators are committed. They're still back there. Many of them didn't go home last night. Whereas this was disturbing, it also was another incentive so that they're exercising due diligence.

So we will continue that task. But again, I ask my community, do you want the police department to work the case or do you want Channel 9 to work the case? Let me know because there is no room, in my mind, for both of us to work the case.

QUESTION: Earlier this week, when the decision was made to keep kids in school, several officials said they thought that was the safest place for them to be. Today, kids in this county are not in school, for unrelated reasons. But does this raise particular concerns for you that they're not in one place?

MOORE: It does raise concerns that they're out of school today simply because many of their parents have to work. They're going to have to make decisions on their own. I don't know what's going to come into their homes in terms of violence, in terms of violence that they may see on television. They will certainly be desiring to go out to neighborhood playgrounds, to go out and see their friends. So we will certainly try to increase our patrols in the various neighborhoods.

But, yes, we don't know. And in a time of all of this fear, I felt very good about the fact that Dr. Weast and his staff have worked through scenarios, have talked to them about their feelings, have served as professionals and adults in the classroom. And today they won't get that.

So I'm going to pray that it's going to be OK, but it is kind of a different place for them to be because many of them will be without adults today and we hope that the parents spend time with them and prepare them and set out a schedule of some sort so that they could have a day that is productive.


Today is a teacher development day in Montgomery County. And they're using that day to help prepare the teachers for what's to follow here. So the teachers are getting training on, additional training on dealing with what's happening in our community and what's appropriate to say to what children at what age.

So we are using this day to help prepare our school community to do the best they can with our children.

QUESTION: Mr. Duncan, while you're there, can you tell us the status of the reward fund?

DUNCAN: The reward fund is, we announced yesterday it's at $237,000. We are still getting calls in. We're still getting checks in. So later today we hope to have another update on where we stand with that. But it is, the figure is increasing.

QUESTION: Do you have a $50,000 check from the Montana Development?

DUNCAN: I spoke with him yesterday and he's FedExing it. So it should be here today. So, but I had a very good conservative with him and I want to thank him for his generosity and his challenge to others across this country to help.

We're getting calls, we're getting money from people all around America and it is much, much appreciated. So thank you.

QUESTION: There are a number of hot lines that have been set up for people to call who live in different counties. Can you talk about the status of the effort to consolidate these into one hot line?

MOOSE: We are certainly aware that we have some potential confusion. A lot of agencies clearly have crime solver lines. People are familiar with those numbers. We want to consolidate that and the technology piece, people are working on that. So we're aware of that. I appreciate that question. And as we get that resolved today, we will come back and continue to share that.

Many of you have been very helpful in getting that number out and we really, it's not a good time to create more confusion. We know that.

ZAHN: We're going to keep an eye on this news conference and bring Clint Van Zandt, the former FBI profiler, into the discussion.

Clint, I know you were on your way from the Bureau when Chief Moose here unleashed a bunch of diatribes about you guys in the law enforcement community, saying it's sad and insulting that you guys are spending a lot of time on television talking about this case.

Now, from what I understand, part of his frustration comes from the fact that Channel 9, the local affiliate there, broke the story of this tarot card being found at the crime scene, which, with a message, "Dear policemen, I am god."


ZAHN: Why is Chief Moose so mad at you guys?

VAN ZANDT: Well, I don't know who he's mad at specifically. You know, Paula, I've been on both sides of this issue. As an FBI agent for 25 years working cases, you want to just take all the facts and information and you want to pull it up to yourself. You want to hold your cards to your chest, so to speak, and don't let anyone else see that. I mean as an FBI agent, you never wanted to talk to the media. You didn't want the media involved because you wanted to be in control. That's what we do in an investigation. We're in control of it.

But the reality is in this day and time, you can't hold all of that back. Now, there is certain information the police should get, should hold back, should keep special so that only they and they, in this case, shooter knows it.

But the public is sitting out there -- you, me, other people who live in the Washington, D.C. area -- saying we need some frame of reference.

And I think what the talking heads like myself are trying to do is simply to give a generic frame of reference to help people understand because the police, rightfully so, are reticent in sharing information about the case.

Now, I would be upset, as the chief is, if I had this specific piece of information, this card that they would have loved to have held close, because now the potential exists for copycats, for other things like that to take place.

But the question, Paula, is were did that information come from? You know, perhaps one has to conclude it came from someone in the law enforcement establishment who shared that initially with the media. Or they let the media get too close.

ZAHN: Well, share is a nice way of putting it, Clint. Share is a very nice way of putting it. You're talking about a leak here, and that's why the chief is so angry.

VAN ZANDT: Well, yes. And, again, that anger, you know, this is a man, I mean this man is a saint. We've seen a tear coming down his face when a child is shot. So this man is an absolute saint. He's probably working 22 hours a day. The pressure in one of these cases, Paula, is absolutely phenomenal.

And, again, I fully appreciate police position is we have nothing to say to no one. But the reality is that it doesn't work that way. I found it out since I've left the FBI. I realize what that balance is and what the talking heads, what your experts have to be very careful of, is that we speak in generics.

That's like when we've been talking on your program, we've been very careful not to say well, this is a white male between 18 and 25 who's six foot tall who dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade, hypothetically. You know, whether the FBI develops that specific profile or not, the last thing I would want to do, and I think anybody else would want to do, is say wink, wink, nod, nod, let me tell you the secret profile that the Bureau has. And therefore you, the public, can self eliminate anyone else who doesn't fit that profile.

And the people that I've seen, the profilers, the psychologists, the former law enforcement officers, have spoke in generics about cases they have worked in the past. We've spoken in statistical probabilities. And I think the media -- and I've been forced, kicking and screaming, to understand this from my time in the FBI -- serves a purpose because the public has this insatiable desire to know, sometimes just because we like to inquire, we like to know what's going on.

ZAHN: Right.

VAN ZANDT: But the other part is we want to protect ourselves. We want to know, should we be out shopping, should we be buying coffee, should I go to the grocery store? Paula, you know...

ZAHN: But, Clint...

VAN ZANDT: ... if I drive to the...

ZAHN: ... before you go any further, because I know we've got to go to a commercial break here.


ZAHN: His message was loud and clear. He's essentially saying you guys are interfering with the investigation.


ZAHN: And he's saying if you're putting -- and I'm not saying you directly because he never said your name -- but if your, folks like you who are on TV talking about this are putting lives at risk then shame on you.

VAN ZANDT: Oh, and I believe that, too. If they're putting lives at risk.

Now, the challenge is, of course, not giving away specific information, not suggesting who future targets could be and not challenging -- I mean we've heard the, we've heard the governor of Maryland get up on TV and say this guy is a coward. Well, that's kind of a challenge that's being issued by that level of government.

So the responsibility, I think, flows uphill and downhill in this case.

ZAHN: Well, we appreciate your coming back, because I don't think I've ever heard a law enforcement agent unfurl those kind of comments about folks who are talking about all of this on television.

Thanks for your insights, Clint.

VAN ZANDT: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Just stay in the Bureau for a while until this news conference is over, OK? Because I'm sure we'll be calling you back.


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