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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Chief Moose Briefs Press

Aired October 13, 2002 - 09:42   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Any minute now, we're expecting to hear from the county executive up in Montgomery County, Maryland, on the latest on the sniper investigation. CNN's Bill Hemmer is manning that position right now. Bill, good morning to you.
BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Carol, good morning again. Another quick note here on the reward side of this, you know, in many cases, money talks. Yesterday, they announced that they are right at the half-million mark, $500,000, donations coming in virtually from upwards of 30 states across the country. Once they reach that $500,000 mark, Carol, any other contributions given will be given to the families of the victims. Things like scholarship funds, money given out to families to help take care of their kids. That's part of the community effort that's gone into this project now, day 11 here in the D.C. area, Carol.

LIN: Bill, by last night, almost 2,000 calls came into the tip line, just in Spotsylvania, Virginia alone. Are law enforcement there getting overwhelmed? Is this too much information for them to process at this point?

HEMMER: They'll tell you publicly that they continue to encourage anyone and everyone to call if you have any information. And they don't want to talk anybody out of calling, because every bit of information is needed right now.

I tell you what I think is difficult for them, Carol, though. On Wednesday of last week, they had what was considered 1,700 credible leads. That's an awful lot of leads when you're looking for just one needle in a haystack. Of the 1,700, though, 500 were considered to really take investigators in a direction where they wanted to go.

It's a difficult process, you know. The phone lines are open. The call comes in. The people who answer the phone essentially take down the information, and then they have to process it. And the way they process it, Carol, is putting the information into a computer and then it's divvied out to the investigators for them to hunt through and pick through and try and figure out which direction they should go.

But listen, all that takes time. You know, the videotape we're watching right now I think is from the Exxon down on Friday morning, two hours ago -- excuse me, two days ago on Friday morning. There apparently has been some sort of report right now about the investigation taking investigators into hotels around the areas where the shootings have taken place. As I say that, I get an indication they should be out any moment right now, Carol.

Let me just finish this point, because they're looking at people who have actually stayed in these hotels, which could be any one of hundreds of people over the past week or so. And again, that takes time. And it takes effort. And listen, they're trying their hardest, but right now it appears, publicly anyway, that there are so few details and so few clues from which to work.

As I say that, here's Charles Moose, the police chief, right now, is on his way.

LIN: Chief Moose is coming out right now.

HEMMER: Indeed, you're right, Carol. And we'll see again if we get any more information or any more facts. Oftentimes, we get very little in these briefings. Here's the chief.

CHIEF CHARLES MOOSE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: I would like to remind people of the hotline number, 1-888-324-9800. We do have a person that has the 1-800 number that is the same. So if you don't hit all three 8s, those calls are going to a private business person, and that is causing a tremendous problem for that individual and that corporation. So please emphasize it is three 8s, not 800. May seem to be a small thing, but you can only imagine if all of these calls start coming into your corporation, the problem that it could cause.

The graphic that we put out is generating a lot of information, a lot of calls. I know that people have tried to also get it off of the various Web pages. That is working, even though, certainly, we did have one of them crash because of the number of hits on it. But that has been corrected. So it is on the ATF Web page. It is on the FBI Web page, and it is on the Montgomery County Police Web page. The ATF Web page, www.atf.treas.gov. FBI Web page: Www.fbi.gov.

We do appreciate those calls and the information that has been generated. Want to remind you that it is to spark the memory. People may have certainly been in the area of these crimes, saw this truck. Someone that does repairs may have had a truck like this brought to them to have the rear damage repaired. Perhaps someone has had this vehicle painted. So we would like to talk to any number of different people that may somehow be associated with this vehicle. And maybe you weren't there that day but, again, have some knowledge, have some association with this vehicle, and we want to stress, please keep an open mind. Please take a look at this set of graphics and determine if you are someone that can help us, bring this kind of situation to closure.

We are opening a phone line for media inquiries. We now have not only the Montgomery County public information officer, but we have a team of public information officers that have been brought together from the various team members to assist in this matter. We will be giving that number to media representatives offline. It's not appropriate for me to announce that so that we can -- we don't want to get calls from everyone that has a tip or a question. We only want that line to be available for people from the media that have questions that we can help you in your job of getting this story out there and questions that you may have.

So we will give you that number offline, and we'll certainly fax it to your stations, to the places that we've been dealing with over the fax machine.

The next briefing will be at noon on Monday. That is noon on Monday, noon tomorrow. If there are any breaking stories or information, we will certainly continue to keep ourselves available, but the next official briefing will be at noon on Monday.

Questions?

QUESTION: You talked yesterday about the possibility of releasing a composite on the white Astro van. Are you any closer to that? Any time frame on that?

MOOSE: The composite on the white Astro van with the ladder, we are working on that. So the exact answer is we're closer, because we're working on it, but we do not have a time frame, except that, again, we're working with a sense of urgency. But we are dealing with witnesses, and we want to be cognizant of the fact that they get that call and we want to work with them in a way that is respectful.

QUESTION: Chief, what, if anything, can you tell us at all about in Gaithersburg at a pool hall or near a pool hall, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that a man was taken into custody in -- he was driving in a white Astro van and also, a rifle was found inside of that van?

MOOSE: Ma'am, we won't be able to talk about that specific case, and I appreciate your patience in that. But I would also remind you that police work continues to occur throughout Montgomery County, the Washington area and the state of Virginia. So we don't want to just see every situation. There is a lot of police work that is ongoing.

QUESTION: Chief, I have a question. First, we heard that investigators have been asking folks at the Pentagon about lists from people who have recently been taking sniper, sniping lessons, sniping training. Do you know anything about that?

MOOSE: Ma'am, it, again, would be inappropriate to talk about anything with the investigation, and if you have someone that's telling you that, then I think you should continue to work with them.

QUESTION: Chief, it appears that the second weekend in a row that this Beltway sniper has taken the weekend off. Do you approach Monday morning with a sense of dread?

MOOSE: Sir, we won't make any assumptions about any kind of pattern, and I never approach Monday morning with a sense of dread. It is a blessing each day that I wake up. And so we will continue to function that way. We want people to be alert. We want people to be cognizant of their surroundings and look for things that are out of place, talk to us about things that are suspicious, but we hope that everyone understands the blessing of a new day.

QUESTION: Chief, are you happy with the way the work is going, the way the investigation is going so far?

MOOSE: I am very pleased with the way the work is going. The team is coming together. I know that maybe in this country, we have different things that come to mind when we hear the word task force. Maybe people have had success, maybe people have questions about task forces, but I would hope that they look at this situation here and realize that we have a team that is working on this matter. It is a team that has come together. It is state, local, federal law enforcement, and the team is gelling, and I feel very good about the progress, and you know, the thing that really makes that possible is maybe two-fold.

One, the continual look of commitment and focus by all of the various investigators, and then the continuous community support -- people calling, people providing information, people looking for ways to help. When you look at those two things, and you look at some of the other information that I have, I am very pleased with the progress.

QUESTION: Is there a geographical area where most of the public seems to be most cooperative, Virginia versus Maryland or D.C.? Is there a hotbed of response, so to speak?

MOOSE: It is, in some ways, sir, not only those three areas, but we are also getting information from throughout this great nation. So there is no hotbed.

QUESTION: Chief, one week ago, when this all started up, most television stations aired pictures of that Isuzu box truck. And now, you now, 12 days later, your graphic is essentially the same thing we've had the whole time. What does that say about the progress of the investigation?

MOOSE: Well, sir, I think from our standpoint, we know that people are very busy. The one thing that's happened over the last 12 days is they've gotten a lot more information. People that maybe didn't focus on this early on now that the number of incidents has continued to incur, people have stopped and focused, people are now thinking about it.

We want to put this out to jog memory. I talked earlier about, perhaps, a repair shop that had no connection to this situation. When they see that, they'll realize that that is the truck that someone brought in to have the bumper repaired. Perhaps someone has been asked to paint a truck like that. It didn't hit on their memory that it was anything except additional work. And now, they realize it's something else.

So again, as the situation continues to evolve, we know that other people may be paying attention. We put this graphic out to jog people's memory.

The mind is, you know, we don't understand it. We don't understand what will be that key piece in someone's memory, but it made good sense to put it back out. And, again, we have more media coverage of that box truck today than we had 12 years ago -- or 12 days ago, I'm sorry. So it made sense.

QUESTION: You talk about being confident that you are going to catch the perpetrator or perpetrators of this crime. But yet, there have been some incidents where the police are nearby. In one incident, as close as 50 yards away. How do you address to the community concerns that, well, if you've got that person or persons so close and you haven't caught them yet, how can we be confident that this person will be caught?

MOOSE: In terms of how we can be confident, I would just remind us that many crimes occur in America, and we solve them because witnesses, people in our community participate with us, investigative materials come together, science helps us out. Very rarely in our business do we solve a crime because a police officer was present and observed the situation and made the immediate arrest. I think that it is very flattering that people think of us that way, but most of the time we solve crime because community members participate, because of witnesses, because of evidence. And that's why we continue to stress how critical it is that we never compromise the identity of a witness or any information that a witness gives us.

QUESTION: Chief, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) your people, knowing what happened last Monday morning, to keep fear from getting the best of them?

MOOSE: I think we continue to ask the same message, that we exercised our resiliency, that this person or these people aren't the first ones to try to instill fear in America. We have overcome that in the past. I have total confidence that we will continue to overcome that type of fear in the future.

So we're working as hard as we can. The task force, the team has come together. We're making progress. People are continuing to give us information. We're following up those leads. We want people to keep the faith, and remember that this is certainly not the first person or group of people that have tried to change us and change our behavior as a nation. So please, remain resilient, and we will continue to work as hard as we can and bring every possible resource to bear on this investigation.

QUESTION: Chief, going back to Friday, the shooting in Massaponax, was it a mistake not to secure Route 1 and Interstate 95 going south, as was done going north?

MOOSE: Sir, it would be inappropriate for me to talk about our police tactics or strategies in this investigation. And certainly, I hope that we all can hesitate to be judgmental. If you saw any footage or photographs, you'd know the commitment, the diligence, the focus of every law enforcement agency in the Washington metropolitan area once that situation occurred and as it unfolded.

Hopefully, we can just all be extremely proud of the way law enforcement marshalled themselves and the way they conducted themselves in spite of all of the urgency that we all have to bring this to closure. QUESTION: Chief, a lot of people in the county have suggested to me that the continued news conferences from you all have sort of reassured the public about what is going on. But you've increasingly cut them back. Why have you cut them back? Is it just because there's not any more information to release, or is there anything else?

MOOSE: Well, sir, there is certainly a number of factors, but I'd say first and foremost, we have committed to keeping people informed, but we've also committed to not taking up people's time just to take up people's time. We want to respect that. We all have work that needs to be done and don't want in any fashion this to move into any arena that could be seen as entertainment. If we have information, we want to provide that information. But if we don't, then we won't waste your time and we won't waste our time. It is a mutual respect, I think, and our best thoughts is that moving to fewer of these is appropriate at this time.

QUESTION: Chief, you haven't released it yet, but some of the people who have been at some of the crime scenes have been shown pictures of people. Are you working on a sketch of a person at this point?

MOOSE: Sir, I appreciate that question, but it would be inappropriate, again, for me to talk about any of the nuances of the investigation.

QUESTION: Chief, there are members of the Black Panther party came down here from New York yesterday. They were wearing bullet- proof vests, and they were urging people who live around hear to buy them and to go out looking for the sniper themselves. I mean, what do you say to something like that?

MOOSE: Ma'am, I did not hear any of that that you just reported with regards to their comments or any instruction that they were giving. We need less violence in our community, and any further comment by me would be inappropriate.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you had brought up that a media outlet was following investigators and perhaps even witnesses, and you asked them to stop. Could you tell me if that's continuing, or has that stopped?

MOOSE: I have no comment there. My message for us: if you are engaged in that type of activity, please stop. And if you are thinking that is one way for you to get the competitive edge, then please reconsider that.

I would, again, make the plea that maybe in this case, because of the ongoing sense of fear and danger that everyone is experiences -- experiencing that this could be the one case where you, in a very competitive industry, could hopefully decide to not be competitive, to not do those things that put you on the edge that may put the investigation on the edge, that may put people in danger.

But I understand that it is an industry, it is a business, highly, highly competitive. We're talking millions and millions of dollars, but our plea from this team is that, please, in this case, with the ongoing danger, could we not do the things that maybe put us on the competitive edge, because we think it would be inappropriate.

And I know that is very tough for everyone, but that is our request. And I think it would be appreciated by this team, and I know it would be appreciated by the entire law enforcement community. And if we thought that was going to help us, we would ask to you do it. But we have no evidence that that helps whatsoever.

QUESTION: It would appears to be the second quiet weekend. Has it given you time to do other things in this investigation, or are you still in such a state of alert that it didn't make any difference?

MOOSE: Well, sir, I would remind you that we have a very good investigative team, a team that has been brought together. We have the good fortune that they have a high degree of focus. They are generally not the individuals that respond to the scene. So I don't know that quiet or busy distracts from the investigation. They are continuing their work, and they have been doing their work.

So whereas I appreciate that question, we always hope that there is no more violence, that is our hope, and not so much because it frees up or makes the investigative works busy, but let's just hope there's no more violence, because we don't want any more violence.

QUESTION: Is this quiet weekend a hopeful sign?

MOOSE: No violence is always hopeful. Yes, sir.

All right, the next briefing will be at noon tomorrow. That's noon on Monday.

LIN: All right, that was Chief Charles Moose, from the Montgomery County police department, asking the public to keep the faith, that he is satisfied with the progress of the investigation so far.

Especially satisfied with this computer-generated truck graphic of a white truck with undetermined lettering on the side. They reproduced it from several witness testimonies of trucks seen in the area near the shootings. And they're hoping that it will generate some more calls, perhaps even from some people didn't realize they may be connected to the investigation.

Say for example, a body shop trying to repair the damage on the rear right side of that truck, or perhaps someone brought that truck back in to be painted to disguise it, since the picture is out now. But several of the law enforcement experts we've been talking to say that the public should not completely focus or obsess on this one visual aid because they -- the public should actually keep an open mind to all possibilities.

The chief also saying that they're hoping that more calls come in, despite the fact that they already have 1,700 pretty promising leads. And they got some 1,900 calls alone just in Spotsylvania, Va., in that investigation. CNN's Bill Hemmer has been standing by monitoring the chief's remarks. Bill, I saw the surprise on your face when the chief was saying that the next briefing wouldn't be until noon tomorrow. Is this unusual?

HEMMER: Well, listen, we've gotten at least two briefings a day from this location in Rockville, Maryland, so I found that a little surprising.

But the chief will stress to us all the time, just because they come to the microphone and don't give us new and fresh facts, that does not necessarily mean that the investigation has hit some sort of stonewall. In fact, I quote him, "Just because the facts are not out, it does not mean there is no progress."

And the people living in this community, Carol, they hope that is indeed the case.

A couple of things to pick up on here. We did not get a release of that Chevy Astro van that apparently had some connection, possibly, to the latest shooting on Friday morning. It may come out later, but you heard the chief say we're closer, but do not have a sure time frame.

Part of the hold-up for that, Carol, is that when they get these pictures together and comprise this composite, they go back to the witnesses where they got the information in the first place, show them the picture, show them the composite, and say, you know, "Okay, is this what you saw? Have a second look at this and make sure you are indeed positive before we put it out to the public."

That's the same thing they did prior to releasing this composite last evening. This composite of a truck that apparently was seen at a number of locations here in Montgomery County alone. Only in Montgomery County we're talking about in these cases relative to this truck that took place well over a week ago.

The chief is trying to tell everyone, someone out there may have a memory, seeing this truck. Perhaps someone owns a body shop, maybe a paint shop, where this truck was taken in to be repainted or maybe it's possibly to do with this damage to the right rear bumper, this indentation that we've described for the past day. Perhaps they have came in and tried to have it fixed.

And that's the push right now, to try and get any information out of this.

You mentioned the briefing, Carol, noon tomorrow is the next one. And once again, the calls continue to come in, but how strong they are, how credible they are right now remains an open issue.

LIN: All right. Thank you very much.

HEMMER: Sure.

LIN: Bill Hemmer, reporting live from Rockville, Maryland. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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