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Prince William County Police Hold Press Conference

Aired October 10, 2002 - 13:27   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We are also going to keep all of you posted on a news conference that we're waiting for out of Woodbridge, Virginia. Investigators are still trying to determine whether a man that was shot and killed at a gas station, that that shooting is tied to the same sniper responsible for the eight other shootings that have occurred in the Maryland-Virginia area.
Actually, I'm told they are walking in right now, getting ready to step up to the podium there in Woodbridge, Virginia.

We're expecting to hear from Sergeant Kim Chinn from the Prince William County Police Department -- and here she is, about to talk. Let's listen in.

SGT. KIM CHINN, PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT: I'm Sergeant Kim Chinn, Prince William County Police Department. I would like to start by introducing everybody here on the stage. Captain Garrett (ph), Don Garrett (ph), Virginia State Police; John Marshall (ph), secretary, Virginia State Police; Jeff Rome (ph), SAC, ATF, Washington Field Division; Craig Gehrhardt (ph), the Prince William County Chief Executive; Chief Deane, Prince William County Police; Paul Ebert (ph), the Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney; Chief Skinner (ph), Manassas City Police; Shaun Connaughten (ph), the chair of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors; and FBI Agent Tom Canally (ph) from the Washington Field Office.

I would like to introduce Chief Charlie Deane -- C-H-A-R-L-I-E D- E-A-N-E.

CHIEF CHARLIE DEANE, PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT: We don't have a lot of progress to report, but we can report that the autopsy has been completed, and the indication is that the person died of a single gunshot wound to the upper part of the body. The autopsy results did reveal some evidence. That evidence has been turned over to the ATF laboratory, who are conducting analysis at this time. The overall circumstances of this case still appears to be consistent with the other shootings, that is the overall circumstances are consistent with the other shootings in the region.

Yesterday and today and throughout this series of incidents, we and other law enforcement agencies in the region have been in regular contact. I've been in touch with the chiefs of other region -- of the entire region this morning. We're having other contacts today. I would like to reassure the public that there is clear and well- thought-out coordination within this entire region around these type crimes.

We are still looking for a white panel mini van, like a Dodge Caravan.

Just to review some of the cooperation that's gone on to date, of course, the FBI set up its universal telephone number for crime solver type information. They have assisted with us rapid start lead tracking system, which is compatible with the system that is being used in Montgomery County. ATF has been here since the beginning with us offering all their assistance from helping with -- as have all of the other agencies, helping with crime scene searches and helping with any evidence that might be found. Officials from Montgomery County were on scene with us last night, and we have been in regular contact with them throughout this investigation.

At this point, I'll take some questions, but we have the other folks that will speak, Paul Ebert, the commonwealth's attorney for the county, and then Mr. Earhart (ph), the county executive will talk about some issues related to support and community.


DEANE: No, this investigation, of course, is a local murder case. It's a homicide case that occurred in Prince William County. Prince William County clearly has jurisdiction in this case. But we are -- and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) will talk to -- we are in close coordination with other agencies, federal agencies. As I mentioned, we are certainly in communication with Chief Moose and the other officials that have had shootings, and we will continue to coordinate with them. We don't know today that this case is related. But overall, things seem to be consistent at this point.

QUESTION: Can you spell that out? When you said that there were some overall circumstances that are consistent, could you spell out some of those circumstances, the method?

DEANE: No. Not other than what we've already released. You know the circumstances as they have been released to date regarding this being at a service station, individual being shot, probably just before gassing the vehicle. And the circumstances that we released, many of them speak for themselves. Of course, there are other circumstances that we are not going to discuss. But overall, I would say that this case appears to be consistent with the other shootings.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) ... how long (UNINTELLIGIBLE) going to stay out there if you haven't found a shell casing?

DEANE: We certainly have found evidence at the scene and during the autopsy, but we're not going to discuss any details of what was found. It would be inappropriate.


DEANE: Yes, yes, we have witnesses that we think are of value, have provided valuable information.

QUESTION: What about the Asian man (OFF-MIKE) DEANE: He was found a short time after we put out that lookout, and he was interviewed and was in the vicinity at the time of the shooting. He is a witness of some value.

QUESTION: Is it safe to say you are proceeding as if this were another example of the sniper?


DEANE: Yes. From the beginning, we have felt that we should treat this case -- of course, we did preplanning, like all of my colleagues in the region: what if, if something happened here. And we had made several determinations as to how we would proceed. And in this case, the initial information indicated that it could be related. We have found nothing that's inconsistent to date. So we're treating as if it's related, and we'll continue to treat it that way until we find out whether it is or isn't. But that's, I think, a logical way of doing it.

Another thing we established early on was pretty wide large crime scene, to protect that crime scene. We took the whole intersection in and all that. And part of that was related to making sure we did what we could do to recover any possible evidence.

QUESTION: Did any of the evidence include communications from the shooter?

DEANE: Ma'am?

QUESTION: Did any of the evidence you have gotten include communications from the killer?


QUESTION: Did the earlier -- back to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) statement that there might have been one or two people in the vehicle that you're looking for, are you closer to knowing whether you're looking for one person or two people, or do you just not know?

DEANE: I think what I said was that we -- several -- there are several levels of quality of information. We are always evaluating what witnesses have said and what the physical evidence indicates. And at this point, the best information that we feel should be released is concerning this white panel vehicle. There are -- I know you hear the police scanners, so I know there is other information out there and I would just say that that information is of different levels of -- we have different levels of confidence, but we are not going to be in a situation -- we want to be very open with our colleagues, that's police information, to be used for police purposes. And I think it has a different ring to it when we release it. So we're being very honest and open, but the information that we're releasing is information that we have to the greatest level of confidence in.



DEANE: The upper part of the body.


DEANE: There are surveillance videos from lots of facilities around. I can't comment on whether there was any at that station or not.

QUESTION: If the shooting was confirmed, what would you tell the people of Prince William County to reassure them about their safety?

DEANE: That we are doing everything we can to coordinate with the other jurisdictions. And in my view, an excellent investigation is under way, lockstep coordination. And we're doing everything we can to solve the case. And we should be cautious. And we should reassure our citizens and their children and the community that overall, they are safe -- this is a frightening kind of crime, but we will be providing information as time goes on.

QUESTION: Can you tell us how many agents you have working on this case that is divided up into Prince William County (OFF-MIKE).

DEANE: I'm sure over 200 have been involved since the beginning, and we had probably a couple hundred last night. And we have a two- prong investigation going on right now. To be real general, the crime scene investigation is still going on. That's probably going to be concluded in the next few hours, sometime today. And then the follow- up investigation of doing the things we need to do.


DEANE: The only comment I would say that is evidence has been recovered and it's being analyzed in the laboratory. But I would say that overall, information from this investigation indicates that the cases could be linked.


QUESTION: ... surveillance cameras all around the area. Have you determined whether or not the suspect or the suspect's vehicle has been caught on film at all (OFF-MIKE)?

DEANE: I can't comment on that.


DEANE: We investigated that very thoroughly with the assistance of ATF and FBI and others, and we -- so the same people involved in both of these investigations -- and we certainly are comparing our notes. But our view last night was that was probably an accidental shot of -- from a shotgun, probably bird shot, that broke that window and is probably unrelated to any kind of intentional crime. But we certainly are looking at those.

QUESTION: Do you have any license plate information on this van at all?

DEANE: No. We do not.

QUESTION: Are you getting closer to knowing anything about the victims, why it might have been that particular gas station. Was he on a business strip, was he just gassing up there? Do we know anything else about why the victim was in (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

DEANE: All that part of the investigation is underway at this point.

QUESTION: Can you determine where the shots were fired from?

DEANE: We are in the process of attempting to determine that, of course. That's part of the crime scene investigation.

QUESTION: Does the van that this witness has described seem similar to the one in Montgomery County (OFF-MIKE) are looking for? Are there similarities here that you are looking into?

DEANE: We're providing all that information to Montgomery County and Chief Moose and those folks would be best qualified to comment on that part of it.

QUESTION: Chief, when you learn something more on ballistics, will you be able to give us that information, provide whether there is indeed a link? Or when you learn it, will you be able to test it?

DEANE: We're conducting a broad investigation, and if we determine that -- if we come to the point that we are positive that these cases are linked, we'll certainly make that known. We would certainly release that.

QUESTION: Chief, the previous shootings guide the way you in which you initially investigated this one? Did it change anything? Did you go about it differently?

DEANE: Yes, I don't want to go into specifics about that. But we were in regular contact with other authorities and exchanged information. We actually talked about how evidence would be handled, etcetera, if there was another shooting in another jurisdiction. If these cases are linked, certainly we see Montgomery County as a lead agency. And we are going to take the lead from them. But this a murder case in this jurisdiction, and we're going to do everything we can to bring it to a conclusion.


DEANE: Generally speaking, yes.


QUESTION: Chief, are your officers now working with the Montgomery County task force?

DEANE: Yes. QUESTION: Chief, what is your role, Prince William County's role on the task force right now? And what do you envision it will become if it is truly linked?

DEANE: Well, let me make it clear that we do not have anyone in the room on the task force today. But what I would say is that we are in direct contact with them on an hourly basis and we are just continuing to compare notes and discuss the case with them. And as time goes on, we will be part of a task force if it's determined this case is definitely linked to those other cases. So the role we've had is we're investigating this case, and we are open to suggestions from them, and we want their input as to overall strategies. And we will all benefit by working together on it.


DEANE: No, I see this as a Montgomery County case, a Prince William County case. The FBI has authorities that will be discussed, I'm sure, and are very, very supportive of this investigation. But at this point, we are proceeding here, and then other jurisdictions.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) ... what sort of evidence are you waiting for to make that connection?

DEANE: A final decision will be made when we have reached point that the evidence indicates that it's definitely linked and I don't think we should go into it any further.

Patrols around service station and malls near interstates?

Not going to discuss what we're doing, certainly common sense would say entire region of law enforcement is very vigilant around wherever we think there might be something. But I don't we should go into specifics.

At this point, I would like to ask Mr. Ebert if he has any comments on what's been asked or said.

PHILLIPS: All right. Police chief Charlie Deane, the chief of Prince William County, talking about how investigators are trying to determine right now whether a man shot and killed in a gas station there in his county indeed was gunned down by the same sniper responsible for the deaths of six other people and wounding two others. This would be the ninth shooting for this sniper if indeed this is all connected.

He did come out and say that the victim died of a single gunshot wound to the upper body. We're talking about 53-year-old Dean Harold Myers (ph), who was pumping gas there in Prince William County. The chief does say that this shooting is consistent with other shootings. He does not know yet if they are related. But he did say the autopsy provided evidence, very important evidence, that has been turned over to investigators and is being analyzed right now in a lab.

Meanwhile, police are still searching for a white panel mini van, something similar to a Dodge Caravan -- encouraging anyone that knows anything about the shooting or has seen that type of vehicle to contact police.

For more on emotional and physical toll that the attacks are taking on folks, let's go live to Washington, where our medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is standing by.

Elizabeth, what do you think? Is this really changing life in these areas?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I would definitely say that it's changing people's psyches. The anxiety here, Kyra, is palpable. People aren't panicking, by any means, but people are always asking themselves questions: Should I take my morning jog? Do I let my kids play near that big window in the living room? Do I let my kids walk to school, or do I drive them? Speaking of walking to school, we were at a school today with a camera crew. A woman saw our cameraman with a camera on his shoulder, and she jumped, and she said, I thought that was a gun.

We spent the morning with the Davis family here. This is Matthew Davis. He's walking his 6-year-old son Nathan to school. They live two miles from one of the shootings, about five miles from several others. And Matthew talked about this ever-present anxiety.


MATTHEW DAVIS, WASHINGTON RESIDENT: Everybody has a map in their head, I'll bet, in this neighborhood about where these killings have occurred, so you can think about where they occurred in relation to you. You've read the psychological profiles. So all these things are going through your head; you're think here is the map of where it struck. What can I read from that? Here is the psychological profile. Is this a guy that would come into a neighborhood like this? How busy is this street? Does this qualify as the busy street that he seems to operate on?


COHEN: You can hear Matthew having this debate with himself: Maybe if I map out where this guy's been, I can figure out where he's going. And he said he sort of plays this game and then he realizes that actually, it's not very helpful to do so, this seems so random. And the anxiety seems without end -- Kyra

PHILLIPS: Meanwhile, how is he talking to his little boy, Elizabeth? And what are you telling people from a medical perspective on how we should talk with her children about this, especially if we live in this area?

COHEN: Matthew and Cristine (ph) Davis are doing what the experts suggest with kids that little -- their kids are 6 and 4: Don't say anything, keep the TV off. He didn't explain when we were there this morning in their house. He made up some reason why we were there; he didn't tell them the truth. Don't tell them anything. When they're older -- and they're inevitably going to hear it from their peers -- then what experts suggest is that you take them step by step: You answer their questions, but you don't need to give every gory detail of what's happened.

PHILLIPS: But what about words of warning? If you see someone strange with a -- driving quickly by the school, there's got to be some sort of tip to where the child should be aware, right?

COHEN: Well, I think it really depends on what age child you're talking about. I don't think it really helps to tell. I have a 5- year-old; it wouldn't help to tell her, Honey, if you see this -- she's just not old enough to calculate all that. But I think that with older children, you perhaps could. But a lot of it depends on the child. I mean, some children might be ready for that, but some children you might completely freak them out if you tell them that.

PHILLIPS: Elizabeth Cohen, from Washington, thanks.

COHEN: Thanks.


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