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Washington Area Sniper Still at Large

Aired October 21, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, the sniper manhunt heats up, as police make a public plea: Call us.
But are they asking the sniper, an accomplice, a witness, who?

Meanwhile, a possible break in the case turns into a letdown. Two men are taken into custody, one in vite van -- white van. But now it seems they had nothing to do with the sniper case.

As the latest victim fights for his life in a Virginia hospital, we're going to sort it all out. In Richmond, working the story for ABC News is Bob Woodruff.

In Washington, Mitchell Miller covering for it WTOP radio and CNN.

And Bob Schieffer, who anchors the CBS Sunday morning show "Face the Nation."

In New York, Dr. Michael Welner, psychiatry professor who's interviewed spree killers.

In Boston, criminology professor Jack Levin.

And we'll get perspective on the story from news veteran, Hugh Downs, the host of ABC's "20/20."

They are all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

The puzzlement continues. Joining us to begin the program, Bob Woodruff is covering the sniper story for ABC news. He's on hand in Richmond.

And Mitchell Miller, who's covering it for WTOP radio in Washington and for WCNN that's in Washington.

Before we talk with them let's show you a clip of Chief Charles Moose of Montgomery County, where the first shootings occurred. Watch.


CHIEF CHARLES MOOSE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: To the person who left us a message at the Ponderosa last night, you gave us a telephone number. We do want to talk to you. Call us at the number you provided. We are going to respond to a message that we have received. We will respond later. We are preparing our response at this time. The person you called could not hear everything that you said. The audio was unclear and we want to get it right. Call us back so that we can clearly understand.

KING: Bob Woodruff of ABC news in Richmond. What do you make of these three statements?

BOB WOODRUFF, ABC NEWS: Well, Larry, you know, clearly there has been a dialogue that has been opened up here between what the police believe is the killer and the police. You know, after the shooting on Saturday, there was a note found, as you know, at -- nearby the Ponderosa where there was a -- where a man was shot, a 37-year-old man was shot.

The police told us that the killer had left a number for them to call. They waited by the phone. The next day, all day long and the killer never called. So they went public, that first clip you showed, to try to appeal to the killer through the media to try to get him to call and apparently, from what we understand, he did but he wasn't very clear and his voice was possibly disguised and garbled. And they want him now call back.

KING: Mitchell Miller, are you getting any word of what he or they are asking for?

MITCHELL MILLER, WTOP REPORTER: Well, there are indications that, very cryptically, that this note may be asking for money.

However, I have to add that that's not really clear exactly if that's the chief aim here. There's also indications in the note that more violence may be threatened although law enforcement officials, as you might imagine, are very careful about indicating exactly what might take place in the mind of the sniper.

So, right now officials are really concerned about what's going to happen next, obviously. I think one of the things that strikes me is the fact that apparently a call came into authorities from this Broad Street area, in the Richmond area. Now whether or not it was exactly tied to the killer or an accomplice of the killer isn't really clear, but it strikes me as kind of odd that the fact that the killer would leave a note in an area that obviously was going to be poured over by police and that a follow-up call, if you will, was going to be made after.

Clearly if that's the case, then the killer or killers wanted the police to get this note.

KING: And, Bob what about that weird thing today that everyone covered this morning? We have a 24-year-old Mexican and a 35-year-old Guatemalan taken into custody, one pulled from a white van at a gas station and all the hints this morning was they got him.

What was that all about? WOODRUFF: Yes, I have to tell you, Larry, it's one of the strangest days that I've witnessed in a long time. Eight-thirty this morning, we get word there's been an arrest, or at least some people taken into custody at this gas station that you see right behind me.

According to witnesses, the man who was talking on the phone had driven up in his van, which matched the description of the van that has been reported at several scenes, and the police came up, guns fully drawn and pulled the man out of the car and threw him on the ground.

Well, as it turns out, the media flocked down here. I think ABC, we sent about five crews down here thinking this might be it and it turns out these guys were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it just goes to show you, Larry, just how high these tensions are at this point and if there is any type of possible break in the story, if there's some evidence they may have caught this killer, they will put the full force of the law into effect and do whatever it takes.

And I have to say the people in Richmond that I've talked to, when they heard this was one big mistake, they weren't all that sympathetic with the people. They said, Hey, you know, we've got a killer out there and if it means doing something like this and getting somebody that happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, as long as amends are made later, that's what had to be done.

KING: I don't know, Mitch, what the psychiatrists or psychologists on our panel are going to say, but others today have been saying that he is toying with us. True you think?

MILLER: Well, much has been made about the fact that this is being a game -- a game being played by the killer or killers. And if that's the case, this is about as high stakes a game as you could possibly have.

And the fact that a note now has been left here in this instance, clearly indicates that the killer may be stepping up the stakes once again. We keep talking about the fact that the stakes keep being risen, but now there's an effort at a dialogue being made. You have this situation which is really bizarre in a sense where almost watching a nationally broadcast give and take between a killer and law enforcement with the media as the conduit.

So it remains to be seen what's going to happen next. But certainly this was a roller coaster day in this investigation.

KING: Bob, what's the condition of the gentleman, the 12th person shot?

WOODRUFF: The 37-year-old man is in the hospital here at MCV. He is -- I think you've probably heard all day long he has part -- many of his internal organs or parts of them removed. His pancreas, his spleen, part of his stomach. He is in critical but in guarded condition.

The doctors believe in the short-term he should be able to pull through. And if he can make it through the next few months, that he should have a very good long-term prognosis. But in the meantime, he could suffer from infections and there's a lot of complications because of the depth of the surgery that they had to conduct on this man.

But at this point, his wife is by his side and you may have heard that she's not only asking for the prayers for her husband and asking that people pray for the attacker as well, which I thought was quite interesting.

KING: We're going to take a break and when we come back, Woodruff and Miller will remain with us. We'll meet out entire panel. They'll go with us the rest of the way.

Don't go away.


KING: As we come back, for the benefit of our viewers, the scene you're watching is the memorial service held today for Linda Franklin, the former FBI employee. This was held in Arlington, Virginia.

Joining us now in Washington, Bob Schieffer, anchor and moderator of CBS' "Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer" and CBS News chief Washington correspondent.

In New York, a return visit with Dr. Michael Welner, associate professor of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine and a gentleman who has interviewed three spree killers.

Jack Levin, professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University, author of the book -- numerous books including "Mass Murderer: America's Growing Menace."

Good to see Hugh Downs again, formerly host of the "Today" show and ABC's "20/20." Author of the new book "My America: What my Country Means to Me by 150 Americans From Everyday Walks of Life." There you see its cover.

And staying with us in Richmond, Virginia is Bob Woodruff of ABC and Mitch Miller and CNN.

All right, Schieffer, you've covered many things in a long career. I guess every time you think you've covered it all, something else happens. What do you make of this?

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: Well, what I make of this, Larry is this is in many ways a story that I find that Washington is having in some ways a harder time dealing with than even 9/11 and the anthrax scare.

In the case of 9/11, nothing will ever compare to the horror of that day, obviously. But we were all blindsided by it. There was none of the anxiety in the beginning. This time, this thing has happened. It is so random, I guess is what makes it so hard to deal with, even during the anthrax scare that was somehow -- it seems to me sort of centered up at the Capitol, at the post office.

This, nobody knows when the next one of these things is going to happen. People cancel soccer games, schedules are rearranged, high school football games are canceled. And yet, to this point, we still have not seen this person or persons. We have no idea who it is.

Even in the case of 9/11, we knew in the hours after who was behind it. We still don't know why this person is doing what he's doing.

KING: Dr. Welner, if he is corresponding with the police, if he's leaving notes and talking to them on the phone, what do you read into that?

DR. MICHAEL WELNER, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: There is any number of things that one can conclude. But what you brought up on this program is very important when you consider what he's been doing the last few days, really the last several days.

I think he's scared. I think that in the last shooting that he carried out, he made sure that he would be that much more concealed, that much more easily able to leave the scene and I think that he's carrying himself in a very psychopathic manner.

When you corner are a psychopath, they respond by intimidating and by snarling. And that's the tone of what you're describing. I think this is all a con. And he's doing what he has to do to create a diversion because if the police are running after telephone booths and people who pick them up, and looking for people to call them at certain numbers, then he is able to scout out another location, far from police attention, and perhaps from a community's attention whose eyes are transfixed on Richmond.

Because really, what else does he have available to him? He is afraid and aware of the police presence.

KING: Jack Levin, what do you make of that read?

JACK LEVIN, CRIMINOLOGIST: Well, I think -- I don't know how scared he is, but it could be certainly a con. He may be taunting the police.

You know, Larry, very few serial killers communicate with the police or the media. And those are the serial killers who use their hands and they enjoy the physical contact. For them, the violence is an end in itself. They enjoy the sadism, the torture, the game.

But you know, there are a few killers, who have communicated and most of those killers distanced themselves from their victims. For example, the Unabomber, Theodore Kazcynski (ph), would mail bombs to strangers. He never faced his victims at all.

The Zodiac shooter in New York about a decade ago would shoot the victim in the back.

And David Berkowitz used a gun. He's one of the few serial killers who used a firearm and he also communicated with the police and with the "New York Daily News."

So what I'm saying is, that when these killers, like the sniper in D.C., distance themselves, you get a clue that it's -- that the killing may not be as important as what happens because of the killing.

KING: I got you.

LEVIN: They get to be big shots. You see? They're playing this cat and mouse game. So communicating with the police becomes extremely important for this killer.

KING: Hugh Downs, what do you make of what Bob Schieffer had to say and comparing it to 9/11 and in some ways making it more anxious?

HUGH DOWNS, FMR. CO-ANCHOR, ABC'S "20/20": Well, I think they've got good thoughts about this and I think generally media has covered it about as well as the facts that are known. They've done it well.

But this is more mysterious, Larry, than anything I ever -- not only anything I tried to cover, but even tried to follow. The mystery appears to deepen. And I'm sure it's been in the minds of many that, Is there a possibility that there is some connection to organized terrorism as a diversion, using one person who would be doing this so that we wouldn't think too much about what the next big hit is going to be?

KING: Can you understand Schieffer's explanation of the anxiety factor, almost higher than it was 9/11?

DOWNS: Yes. Well, it's true.

KING: You don't know what's around the corner.

DOWNS: There is a great statistical safety against having that happen you to. But if it happens to you, it's 100 percent.

KING: You're electrocuted on a golf course, you're a statistic.

DOWNS: That's it. And so I think that leads people to say, Why take chances? If you can have to cancel the soccer game or something, it's very disruptive. That's again what hints at -- I'm not saying I subscribe to this -- it might be a part of a terrorist plot.

KING: Bob woodruff -- we'll be taking calls for this panel, they're with us for the rest of the way.

Do you have to examine what you're covering, do you have to say, Am I doing this right? Am I appealing to him in a way? Am I doing this wrong?

WOODRUFF:: Absolutely. I think that there have been cases in this particular investigation where investigators asked us, as members of the media, not to report certain things and we have for the most part agreed with them when it was obvious that those would be damaging to the investigation or even dangerous to the public. And I think after a couple of these examples of the sniper taunting the police, for example, when we started doing these geographical analysis and saying that, for example, He did not strike on the weekend and then suddenly struck on the weekend. When Chief moose came out and said, The children are safe and he came and he struck a child. I think those really drove it home to us in the media that we have to be careful because once we try to analyze this person, he may just try to prove us wrong.

KING: Has it been difficult for you, Mitch?

MILLER: It has been difficult. I mean, you're dealing with, for example today and last night, very cryptic messages that are coming through from police and you want to know exactly what is being said and you want to explain that to the public at large, but yet just like the public, we don't know everything that is going on, obviously, and we're trying to find out as much information as we can.

And, as was pointed out, you don't want to go into too much about whether the patterns or this way or that because you don't know if it is necessarily true or not.

For example, in the last four shootings, three of them have been at night. Now, does that mean that the shooter is now moving toward a more -- an approach where it doesn't happen during morning rush hour, as it's happened in the past? We just don't know and so there is this guessing game that we have to be careful that we don't guess too much.

KING: Bob Schieffer, is it true, I read in the papers that you -- you act differently now when you go to the gas station?

SCHIEFFER: Well I think everybody does, Larry. I mean, somebody asked me the other day, they said, Are you scared when you go outside? Well, no, I'm not scared when I go outside but this is always in the back of my mind and sometimes it comes to the front of my mind.

And I think any prudent person is going to at least look around. I would just add one thing to the discussion on the coverage, Larry, and that is I think the coverage on this has been by and large pretty good.

I think the rule for all reporters in covering a story like this is the same as you follow when you're covering combat. You don't ever broadcast troop movements in advance, you don't ever broadcast strategy in advance. It's same time in this situation. You don't disclose police strategy if you come across it in advance.

But you have to keep the public informed. You have to keep the public informed with credible information, because otherwise there is a chance of setting off panic because rumor takes over and especially in this day of the Internet and all the communications we have, that is a major concern it seems.

KING: We'll take a break and be right back with more thoughts and your phone calls.

Don't go away.


MOOSE: The person you called could not hear everything that you said. The audio was unclear and we want to get it right. Call us back so that we can clearly understand.



KING: Dr. Welner in New York, assuming that Chief Moose is communicating directly with the perpetrator who is contacting him, is he handling this correctly?

WELNER: I don't think there is any doubt that he's getting a lot of input from the behavioral scientist team about how to approach him. I support the approach that I'm seeing of his being respectful and measured and firm.

I want to add to your previous comments about the media coverage. I do think that there is some fundamental flaws that need to be examined. This is being presented with an undercurrent of a sporting event. We're not in the Orange Bowl here. This is not the police versus a shooter. It is simply a person engaged in criminal enterprise who is trying to get away. If he knows...

KING: How are they doing it as a sporting event?

WELNER: Because this is not a matter of taunting. This is a matter of his just being aware that police may be watching one area more closely, so he offends where he's not likely to be caught. And I think the more it gets presented about the police failure to come up with answers or his success in alluding, as he is shifting and trying to find something to focus on to continue to motivate him to kill now that the spree is over, it will pit him versus the police and feed right into whatever grandiosity we're trying to stay away from.

KING: I see. So it's the fourth inning and the sniper's ahead 2-1.

WELNER: You know what I mean.

KING: Yes. Jack Levin is that a danger here?

LEVIN: Well, it's always a danger. You know, killers are inspired by a wide range of factors. But, you know, I really think that the problem began long before this sniper went on his killing spree.

You know, it's not the amount of attention we give this because, as you pointed out earlier, and Bob Schieffer pointed this out as well. You know, people will create their own news if information is not forthcoming. You know, I remember in 1997 when Andrew Cunanan was on the loose and he was terrifying the nation. People didn't know where he was for two months and, you know, he was seen on the same day at same time in Lebanon, New Hampshire; Naples, Florida; San Diego; Chicago and four counties in North Carolina. People were scared to death. We have to give them the information.

But I'll tell you what, the one thing that we do wrong and it happened long before the sniper went on his spree, is that we make celebrities out of these people. We -- they know -- they know if they -- if their body count is large enough, they're going to get on the cover of "People" magazine.

KING: Well taken. But how you do you, Hugh Downs, avoid that? Do you not call them by a name? Do you not say the sniper? What do you do? OK, he's a celebrity. How do you not make him a celebrity?

DOWNS: One of the ways is, if his name is known, you know, the guy that killed John Lennon, there was a Canadian journalist -- or Canada generally would not print his name or show his likeness. They didn't want him sitting in jail writing a book, making enough money to get loose.

That seemed to me like responsible journalism. The public has a right to know, but do we have a right or do we want to know something that is going to harm in the long haul --

KING: Anything here?

DOWNS: Not so far.

KING: How have we created a celebrity?

DOWNS: I don't think we have. He's created his own celebrity. I mean, what he does has to be reported. And in doing that, that does sort of make him, in a shadowy way, a celebrity. And that might be something that he wants and it plays into his game.

But I think -- when it comes to press coverage, you've got to have it. Because if you try to bottle it up, I think that's worse for the public.

KING: Bob Woodruff, has there been criticism of the police chief?

WOODRUFF: Some people said today in particular that I talked to around here after these press conferences seem to be, on the one hand not giving out enough information, and on the other hand, providing some kind of conflicting information. There were people that were frustrated. They said, Look, when the police have something solid, then why don't they come forward then and that's when we want to hear from them.

On the other hand, some people said they wanted to hear more information and they thought the police were being too circumspect, that they weren't saying enough.

So, like many of these issues, it -- you get criticism from both sides and sometimes that's a good example that you're actually doing it right. So he may be actually doing things about right. KING: Mitch Miller, there was no school for him to go to for this was there?

MILLER: There really isn't. I mean this is virtually unprecedented. Now you him communicating, effectively, possibly, anyway, with the killer. And you had, of course, all of these developments just happening, I mean, most of the initial events occurred in Montgomery County in just a matter of hours.

I mean, you had four people dead in two and a half hours in Montgomery a few weeks ago and then all of a sudden it continues. So the police chief, who we've had at our radio station and has been very open and trying to help out with the media prior to all of this, certainly knows what he's up against when he's in an area around Washington D.C.

On the other hand, the idea that he would be living, sleeping, eating everything related to this over the last several weeks, I'm sure he and no one else had any idea that was going to happen.

KING: Bob Schieffer, in the criticism that we make of a celebrity, do we?

SCHIEFFER: No. And I also would like to say that I don't know any reporter around here that thinks we're covering the Orange Bowl. I think that the people who are covering this story, the people who are going through this in Washington D.C., where this person is operating, understand very well that this is a life and death situation. I don't think anybody thinks this is a sporting event or something to be taken unseriously. I just totally and completely reject that kind of criticism.

WELNER: And I think when you refer to things as taunting without even looking at the notes that are being sent, when you presume that there is a game and you're using words like people are playing a game, then you --

SCHIEFFER: Who is using -- excuse me, but I don't use the word taunt. I don't use the word game and I don't know who you're talking about.

WELNER: OK. Well, I'm not addressing you specifically, and we'll leave it up to the viewers to decide whether they've heard these words used. My point is: celebrity is unavoidable. My point is: that it cannot be presented as a competitive enterprise. It is simply a criminal who is attempting to get away, who has done something notorious.

We have to cover it, it's obviously it grabs attention, but we cannot present it in such a way that he is competing or outcompeting or smarter than or playing a game. He is the same person who -- you're not doing it but others are.

SCHIEFFER: If I may so, I think that's obvious. But I would also point out something else that is obvious. There is no two sides to this story. There is nobody down here that's on the sniper's side. We're all on the side of the police on this. We all want to catch this person. We all want to stop this.

KING: Let me get a break and come back with more and include your phone calls. Don't go away.


KING: I'm going to go to your calls momentarily for our panel.

But, Bob Schieffer, are we dealing with semantics here? So many reporters have said that he's playing a game with us. I don't think they mean that as a football game.

SCHIEFFER: Well, certainly not.

KING: He's playing a game with us. That's a correct term, isn't it?

SCHIEFFER: Think I so.

KING: So -- but you think the doctor is wrong when he states we're treating it as a game?

SCHIEFFER: Well, to somehow suggest we're -- I'm getting the impression that he seems think we're all enjoying this in some way.

WELNER: Oh, please, come on, I'm not saying that. I'm saying that you're the wordsmiths and you choose your words carefully and we respect your selectivity. You are a perfect example of an articulate person who is an example to his colleagues and you teach your colleagues to choose their words carefully. Maybe we can infer, but perhaps he can't.

And that's my point. I think we do no service by taking any risk that we pit him vs. the police in a competitive exercise even if it is unconscious and that's all I'm trying to say.

KING: Hold it one second.

Hugh Downs, isn't it in a sense that?

DOWNS: Well, it is. The two meanings of the word game...

KING: He's out trying to do something and they're out trying to stop him from doing it.

DOWNS: And it's perfectly proper semantically to say he's plying a game the police because he's -- the pattern seems to be he wants to come near getting caught but not get caught. That's a game. And I don't think the press in any way has tried to make it into an arena event. That is not it.

KING: Jack Levin, would you gather if he's watching this now, and he might well be, that he's enjoying this? That he enjoyed the exchange between Dr. Welner and Bob Schieffer?

LEVIN: Well, I'm not sure I did, but, you know, he might have enjoyed it very much. And I think the point is that he wants desperately to feel important, to be -- to feel good about himself. I think he possibly was a pretty miserable character before.

But he's -- he's a sharpshooter. He wants us all to know that. And I think that by playing this cat and mouse game with the police and being a celebrity -- and I don't want to let go of that -- I think he's getting everything that was missing from his life.

And just to make sure that you understand what I mean, there are serial murder trading cards. We're putting murderers on the place where we used to put our heroes, our baseball players. There are serial murderer calendars, T-shirts. We pay $2,000 for artwork by John Wayne Gacy because he killed 33 people. That's what I'm talking about. I'm talking about making these monsters into celebrities.

Last week "Newsweek" put this killer on the cover and called him "The Tarot Card Killer." Well he's now got a moniker and he will now live in infamy alongside the Hillside Strangler and Unabomber an other people who have become big shot celebrities. That's what I meant.

KING: You wanted to say something?

DOWNS: Yes, I wanted to say this: whoever this is a perfect example, Larry, of a human who has matured probably physically very well and mentally -- the rational machinery in his thinking process is quite in tact, obviously. But emotionally and empathetically he leveled off at about age 2. And these are very, very dangerous human beings. When they have access to high tech weaponry, this constitutes a real danger for our community.

KING: Do you feel, Bob Woodruff, you're aiding him?

WOODRUFF: You know, I suppose when you look back in hindsight sometimes the reports, like I said earlier that we report that they didn't attack in a weekend and he attacks on a weekend. He didn't hit any schools and he hits a school -- sometimes you feel that perhaps that report itself may have led in this psychopath's mind to a particular kind of killing.

And that in that sense, you know there is great regret about that. But on the other hand, you know, what is the alternative? I think in this story, more than others we have been very careful.

Let me just give you an example. This is a story for the Washington Press Corps that is very close to their hearts. They've got family in Washington. There's a story around Washington. They're used to reporting things that don't touch them so closely. So I think what that what you're seeing a press corps that is very competitive and very on to the story. But at the same time, is actually more careful about what they report and more serious about what they report than they otherwise would in many other stories.

KING: And do you feel, Mitch, that there is -- does Bob have -- I want to get some phone calls in -- But, Mitch, you to feel ever you're contributing to his well being in a sense? MILLER: You always have that concern. I mean you don't want to give out any kind of information that would certainly cause this individual or individuals to do anything more to cause more killing. On the other hand, I don't think you can allow what this person or persons do to paralyze us and to not release any information related to it.

You know, to go back to what the police chief is doing or not doing vs. what the killer is doing, clearly as Bob Schieffer said, we're not sitting here marking down, well this is one good point for the police chief. Here is one good mark for the killer. I mean we want this killer caught. And this is a killer who is absolutely terrorized our community, the community I live in, that a lot of the people around here live in and we're very careful about how we release information.

KING: Alexandria, Virginia -- hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. As you said a little while ago, I believe that he may be very much watching this program. And I was wondering if the panel and -- are they aware when they characterize this killer, it may be very much affecting his future actions like boosting his ego or getting him frustrated. Are they being careful with their comments?

KING: Dr. Welner, true?

WELNER: I think we've covered that topic the exchange. But I think -- I want to point out to the viewer this very important aspect of this case. This started out as a spree killing. And a person is under considerable amount of distress when he's killing and he is destroying and attempting to get away and he has a certain tunnel vision and then there was a break. And that is a point where this killer cools off.

And in my experience, in my professional experience in working on spree cases, when a person cools off, he then has to ask himself, Why do I continue to do this? I think as a public, obviously the public has to mobilize to try to sort out who may be responsible, but, if he is searching for an agenda which may be criminal enterprise, it may be irrational or it may have a cause, there is nothing that we should be doing to guide him in any particular direction that propels him to continue to kill.

Eric Rudolph went away. Harry Bertosada (ph) went away. Some people go away, some people don't.

KING: We'll take a break and come back with more phone calls. I'll reintroduce the panel, too, right after this.


KING: We're back. More on this story tomorrow night, John Walsh one of the guests. Let's reintroduce the panel.

In Washington, Bob Schieffer, the anchor and moderator of CBS' "Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer."

In New York, Dr. Michael Welner, associate professor of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine.

In Boston, Jack Levin, professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University.

Here in Los Angeles, Hugh Downs, formerly of "The Today Show" and ABC's "20/20," and author of the new book "My America."

In Richmond, Virginia, Bob Woodruff covering the story for ABC News.

And in Washington, Mitch Miller, covering it for WTOP radio and for CNN television.

Hopkin, New Jersey, hello.

Hopatcong, I'm sorry. Go ahead.

CALLER: Hi. Personally, I think that the media is doing a great job. But I'd like the panel to discuss why do they think the federal government hasn't taken this over, coordinating it.

How many more states do people have to be killed in before the feds takes this over?

KING: Bob Schieffer, you're based -- you study the federal government every day, do you not? Why haven't they -- why isn't the FBI been doing these press conferences?

SCHIEFFER: Well, the FBI is involved in this in a very big way. There are hundreds of federal agents that are involved in it.

KING: But who's running it?

SCHIEFFER: Well, now, at this point, it seems to be this kind of consortium of police chiefs with the FBI and the Alcohol and Firearms people also there.

I can't give you an answer on that. I can just tell you that the president is being briefed every day on this situation, according to his national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. He's keeping a very close eye on it.

The FBI is involved, but at this point, they have decided to leave it in the hands of these local police.

KING: You know why, Hugh Downs?

SCHIEFFER: Maybe they have the answer. I don't.

DOWNS: I don't know why. But -- and there's a question: Would it be better under one umbrella thing...

KING: There is an umbrella, isn't there? There is a... DOWNS: If the FBI is involved, yes. But there has been no statement that the FBI is now in charge of the whole thing and the police would answer to them.

Maybe at some point, if we face this kind of thing again, we'll have to do something to treat it as an interstate problem and not just a local problem that it started out.

KING: Richmond, Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Hi. I had a question, I guess, for Dr. Welner.

Kind of regarding the changes in activities and maybe the thought process going on with the sniper's plans. It seems as though he's gone more towards actually going away from trying to be a hidden target and actually trying to reach out and communicate with the police now. What could be causing that change in his thought process?

WELNER: You know, there are a lot of explanations and it's awfully hard without actually seeing the note. I don't want to cop out, so I want to refer to the story at the top of the hour of his intimidating, perhaps in his tone, in the letter in guiding police to a telephone and through some sort of exercise, where really no communication took place.

And so, it's not the statement of an agenda through a note, and it's not his connecting through the note. But you get a sense that the police are being manipulated. And when you start to see that, then you see it as part of the scheme that a criminal is undertaking because he has very little resources to help him get around in a way. There's no support, there's no shelter, perhaps available to him. So, this is something he may be offering up because he's so aware of the police presence. That's as far as I could go.

KING: Middletown, Connecticut, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Larry King?

KING: Yes.

CALLER: Has anybody thought that this gentleman could be a Vietnam vet? It is 30 years at Arlington, the wall.

KING: Jack Levin, is that a possibility? Is this one of those delayed syndromes from the Vietnam War?

LEVIN: Well, I don't think it's post-traumatic stress but I do think that veterans have access to and training in the use of firearms. This individual could have a military history. He could be in law enforcement or maybe a cop wannabe. He probably goes hunting.

I think that, you know, there's a variety of opinions as to his degree of marksmanship. But it seems to me he's an expert sharpshooter and, you know, some place he learned that and practices it now. And that does give us a clue but, you know, keep in mind, there are millions of veterans and most of them wouldn't hurt anyone.

KING: Bob Schieffer, we're told this is a big story around the world. I know stories of London, front page newspapers. If this were Des Moines, would this be as big a story?

SCHIEFFER: Oh I think it would because, again, because of the randomness of it, the mystery, nobody knows who this person is. We don't know at this point why they're doing it.

But I will tell you, Larry, it has just overshadowed every story in this community. When we were debating in the Senate, when the Senate was debating whether to go to war with Iraq, senators would go out on the floor of the Senate, make their speeches about Iraq, come out in the corridors and ask their reporters, is there anything new on the sniper?

It is all this town is talking about. It is going to have a major impact -- you know, we have elections coming up, midterm elections and there's some very important things to be decided. Who is going to control the Senate is very much an open question right now.

And yet there has been almost no coverage of the Senate, nobody is talking about it. Certainly not in Washington. This is just has had an amazing impact on this town. I really have never seen anything quite like it.

KING: We'll be back with more right after these messages.

Don't go way.


KING: Valliant, Oklahoma, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Based on what I've heard, I'm afraid to ask what I've planned to because I don't want to give the sniper any ideas.

Does the panel ever fear that they may, in fact, in these discussions, give him some idea of what to do? And what kind of precautions are the reporters taking when they're out in the field?

KING: Bob Woodruff, you want to respond to that? Are you taking precautions? You're out there in the open now.

WOODRUFF: You know it's interesting, Larry, I really haven't. And you know, we've covered wars and been in these kind of areas where the danger seems to be even greater. And we didn't take many precautions there other than to stay out of the places where you thought weren't safe.

The irony of this story is that it addresses this very prime fear that people have, which is a lack of control over your ability to choose these places that are safe.

This town I used to work in used to be considered very safe even though there is a fairly high murder rate, because you knew where to go, what neighborhoods to go, what to do. You can't do this in this case.

But the other thing about reporters on this story, too, is we have come to an area after a shooting has happened. And I guess we go on the assumption sometimes that it won't happen twice in one place. You know, I kind of loathe to say that, but, you know, this is -- this is what our working summation is so we don't really take very many precautions to tell you the truth.

KING: Jack Levin, the other part of her question, do you think you ever can give ideas to the culprit?

LEVIN: Oh, you know, murderers get all kinds of ideas from everywhere. Kip Kinkle, who killed his parents and some of his fellow students, in Springfield, Oregon, was inspired by "Romeo and Juliet" and another one of the schoolyard snipers was inspired by Stephen -- Stephen King novel.

We have to watch our words. We have to watch how we say things. But we know so little about this killer that we really don't understand what will set him off. There are some -- obvious things.

For example, when law enforcement begs him to give himself up, I think we play right into what he wants. He loves to be begged. He wants to hear the pleading. They probably ought to stop that.

But, you know, otherwise, I think that it is impossible to say what exactly will inspire this killer.

KING: Hugh?

DOWNS: It may be inherent in coverage that you give some ideas here and there. Responsible journalists I think stay away from it. I think it would be specific. I think a lot of copycat stuff comes out of -- just it's inherent in covering the news. Doesn't mean we shouldn't cover the news that we run into.

KING: How do we explain the copycat, Dr. Welner?

WELNER: The copycat is not going to be formed tomorrow. The copycat is a person who is watching this broadcast, who is that person who is fascinated by the person who is responsible for this, who identifies with him and at some point, if his life really is going nowhere, and he experiences himself as enough of a failure, he may consider this as an option.

So a copycat is not a spontaneous event. It's nurtured through events like this. And there is one big deterrent here that I hope people can emphasize. Is the killer considering how frustrating, annoying, paralyzing it is to have to spend 24 hours a day trying to get away from the police? Is that the destiny that he wants?

If he decides that it isn't, perhaps he is just going to choose or decide that it's just not worth it. He's already achieved his notoriety, he has already captured and controlled and taken over an area's safety and feelings of safety at this point. Is it possible for him to just focus on being able to peacefully not look over his shoulder and people who are contemplating this don't consider what they're going to do if they actually don't die in the process.

KING: Mitch Miller, any mood of optimism at all?

MILLER: Well, I mean, certainly today we had all kinds of moods going from ups and downs. There was a point where some people may have actually thought these people were going to be apprehended today.

Certainly now we have a point of dialogue apparently with the killer or killers or at least somebody tied to the killers. So I think there is a little bit of optimism now that at least there is, again this movement forward. Of course it waxes and wanes literally from hour to hour.

I think as journalists here in Washington, D.C., Bob Schieffer and I were talking about, we have a responsibility to put out the most accurate information to the public to help them make the daily decisions and help them go about their daily lives. We have to help them know whether or not their schools are going to be open, whether or not their child can go play in an athletic event that's either near their house or a far distance away.

And I think that's going to be very, very important as this continues to play out.

KING: Bob Schieffer are they telling the children in the area not to trick-or-treat?

SCHIEFFER: We haven't heard that yet, Larry. But we may well. I would like to just say one thing, Larry. People here are being very cautious. We talk in our newsroom every day.

For the last two weeks on "Face the Nation," when we've handled this subject, we have gone over in advance the questions we're going to ask various officials. I know of various news organizations in this area that have withheld information at the request of the police department.

We're trying to be good citizens here and fulfill our responsibility. I just want to leave you with that and to those who think otherwise, it's simply not true.

KING: We thank you all very much. Bob Schieffer, Dr. Michael Welner, Jack Levin, Bob Woodruff, Mitchell Miller and Hugh Downs, always good to see you, who is about to become, get this folks, a great grandfather.

I'll come back in a minute and tell you about tomorrow night. Good night.


KING: John Walsh is tomorrow night's guest. He's now involved in the sniper chase as well and he'll be among others. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT

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