CNN TALKBACK LIVE
Two Men Held in Sniper Probe
Aired October 21, 2002 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Carol Costello in for Arthel Neville today.
(INTERRUPTED BY CNN BREAKING NEWS)
COSTELLO: And welcome back to TALKBACK LIVE. After the shooting in Ashland, Virginia, we learn that the sniper had possibly left a message. And Chief Moose, the Montgomery County Police chief, turned to the media to respond. Here's what he had to say.
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CHIEF CHARLES MOOSE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: He didn't add anything more than that. And again this morning, as police picked up two men for questioning, the chief took to the air waves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOOSE: The message that needs to be delivered is that we are going to respond to a message that we have received. We will respond later. We are preparing our response at this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: And again, he just left the podium.
So the question, Is the sniper communicating with authorities and how should they respond?
Joining us now to talk about that, Charles Bahn. He's a professor of forensic psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Keith Warburton. He's an attorney and former FBI agent.
Welcome to you both.
Let's start with you, Dr. Brahn because Chief Moose keeps coming out and making these cryptic messages and then he just leaves the podium. What do you suppose he's trying to do?
CHARLES BAHN, PROF. OF FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY: He's obviously trying to get a communication or a conversation going. In every event of this kind, there's an underlying message that the person is trying to convey even when the shooter is mentally ill. There's something that he wants to say and he -- Chief Moose is asking, What is it? Clarify it for us.
COSTELLO: Is he doing a good job?
BAHN: I think that he's doing an excellent job, after his governor called the man a coward and virtually challenged him to do his worst.
COSTELLO: And I guess you don't think that was a very good idea.
BAHN: I think that that's a surprise.
COSTELLO: What do you think about that, Keith? Was that a mistake initially?
KEITH WARBURTON, FMR. FBI AGENT: Any name calling that's not run by the behavioral science people that are obviously working, the people from the FBI and the experts is a mistake.
And I think what Chief Moose is going to do from now on is not give any information to the news people that isn't in a communicative mode to the sniper.
COSTELLO: Well, tell us a little bit how they come up with what to say in their new vain of giving out information to the sniper through the media.
WARBURTON: It will involve their experience with serial killers, experience with communicating with them and also the information that they gather from the notes or communications they've had with the sniper. What to say, whatnot to say, what's likely to enrage him or what's likely to bring him out.
COSTELLO: They have very little to go on to do that, right?
WARBURTON: We don't know what they have. And that's a good thing. That's a good thing that the chief is putting the kabash on to get information out, because we don't know what information will have an adverse effect on the sniper or snipers.
COSTELLO: Dr. Bahn, why does this sniper possibly want to communicate with police, supposedly through the media?
BAHN: He's communicating with all of us already through the media. He has a message for the entire world perhaps.
COSTELLO: What message is that, though?
BAHN: The message may be what's on the Tarot card. Life and death is in my fingertips. The message may be some cause or some purpose beyond that, sane or insane.
COSTELLO: What do you think of this note that police found at the Ponderosa shooting scene? Does that fit into things as far as you're concerned?
BAHN: No. It really seems to be -- to have something to do with something entirely different, as does the arrest of the two men. That seems to me to be a sideline and not related to the shooter.
COSTELLO: OK. We have an audience question right now, Sherry (ph) from Georgia. What do you have for us?
SHERRY: Oh, I just think that having killed 10 people, there is an ego issue here and he's showing off. He's getting deeper into this and more bold.
COSTELLO: Well, Keith, could it be as simple as this that? He's showing off, showing police what he can do?
WARBURTON: Yes, I think it's very on the point, your audience member. When the chief was saying the schools are safe, he hit at the school. When they're saying that he doesn't hit on the weekends, when does he hit? He hits on a Saturday. And when we hear about the army -- the Air Force having resources of a spy plane, he says to them, You can't even catch me with a spy plane. I'm going to hit down out of the reach of the plane. So, he's challenging the police and sometimes the communications, whether it's notes or whatever, is a challenge. This is a thrill that he's having, whether it's the hunt of his next target or baffling the police.
So that's what's going on. His ego is his thrill that he's getting.
COSTELLO: OK. Stop right there, because we have to take another break. We'll have more TALKBACK LIVE after that break. Stay tuned to CNN for the 4:15 press conference that's happening in Montgomery County, Maryland. Chief Moose may come out and have more to say. We'll know later. Stick around.
COSTELLO: And welcome back to TALKBACK LIVE.
Of course we're talking about the D.C. area sniper. His latest victim came recently at a Ponderosa restaurant in Ashland, Virginia. This morning, police arrested two men in an Exxon gas station, but that is not looking too promising. In fact, there is word that we have that these two men weren't even connected to this, although we're not sure right now.
Right now, we were talking about how police are communicating with the sniper, with Chief Charles Moose coming out giving these cryptic messages to the media to pass on to the sniper. And I wanted to ask you, Lou Palumbo, how a relationship is established between a police officer and a killer.
LOU PALUMBO, FMR. LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENT: Well, basically, you know we put out the availability and they respond. That's pretty much how it's done in most conventional circumstances. There are always exceptions to these generalities, where the perpetrator of a crime, be it a serial killer or sniper in this instance, will initiate contact with you. But as a rule, we generally try to open up avenues of communication.
COSTELLO: And is that why we see just Chief Moose talking directly to the sniper as he seems to be doing?
PALUMBO: I suspect that is why we've chosen Chief Moose, yes.
COSTELLO: OK. We have an audience member who wants to talk about something. D.J. (ph) from Georgia, what do you have to say?
D.J.: Is it possible that there might be more than one sniper?
COSTELLO: A lot of people have been wondering that very thing. Kelly, what do you think?
J. KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: You know you can argue convincingly either way. The problem that I've had with the two sniper idea, or the two scout sniper kind of thing, that's pretty much U.S. doctrine. Snipers don't deploy alone. They always have a scout and a sniper.
The sniper intently focuses on his target and the scout gives him close-in protection and makes sure that he can withdraw effectively without the pair of them being caught. The trouble is the assumption that an aberrant personality is applying generally accepted practice by a formally trained and ethical sniper. We simply don't know.
We don't know whether this is terrorist related or criminal related. And all the conjecture and the opinion has a tendency to cloud the issues. Fact does not argue.
COSTELLO: You're right. Dr. Bahn, let me talk about what Kelly just mentioned. As to the mindset of a person, most of us will never be able to understand.
BAHN: Well, obviously, that's true. But there is some kind of a message still being conveyed. If the person is a very disturbed individual with feelings of great grandeur, that they're smarter than all of the police and so forth, it's going to be a long and arduous battle to find out who that is.
COSTELLO: In talking about being smarter than police, there have been several theories thrown out that these white vans may be a red herring, maybe even this written note that was found at the Ponderosa restaurant is a just red herring that the killer has left behind.
Is that possible, Keith?
WARBURTON: It's quite possible, but the police have to follow up on any lead they can. Like what you're seeing now is what goes on in any investigation. The officers will follow the lead and sometimes the leads don't go anywhere. But they have to follow up.
And that's why it's important that the information they're getting from the public is to be accurate, like the man down in -- with the latest shooting -- not the Ponderosa, the one beforehand...
COSTELLO: Oh, in Falls Church, when Mr. Dowdy came through with false information?
WARBURTON: That takes resources away from the law enforcement. So -- but they have to do it. They have to go and check it out.
COSTELLO: Definitely. Let's talk to Margie (ph) from Georgia in our audience. What do you have to say, Margie (ph)?
MARGIE: Well, my concern is that we live in a country where technology is at its all-time high. Why is it so difficult for them to catch this guy?
COSTELLO: OK. Who wants to take on that question? Kelly?
MCCANN: I could take that, Carol, sure. You know that's a great question, Margie (ph). If you think about it, Osama bin Laden, OK, think about Pamela Smart's killer. It's very, very tactically difficult to isolate one person in a very heavily populated area.
I mean, think about the things and the controls necessary to do that. Preexisting establishment of a network of people who would inform on this person, who would be a stranger. A technical ability to reach down and see, what, a sensor that's on somebody? People don't have those sensors.
So there has to be an initial piece of information that policemen who are investigating surface. And then things can start to happen. But a lot of times people are victims of all of the movies today. You know the movies depict, if you need to find someone, we can find anyone anywhere. Sometimes that's just not true.
COSTELLO: Understood. Good answer.
PALUMBO: I have to concur with him, Carol, in that response. Part of the problem, also, deals with two other factors: how random this is and the fact that this isn't a crime with fruition. People that perpetrate robberies, for example, there's a certain mindset. We understand their motive.
It's more conventional. When we start talking about kidnappings, abduction and murders of children, or even this type of incident where we're involved with the sniper, what is the real fruition there?
And the one thing I just wanted to mention, earlier you mentioned that these men were placed under arrest. They're actually not under arrest. They're actually just brought in for interview, and there is a real significant difference in that. If they placed them under arrest they would have to come through with probable cause in order to take them into custody, otherwise they would be subject to false arrest.
COSTELLO: Absolutely. And thank you for clarifying that for us.
Professor Charles Bahn, I know you have to go. So thank you four joining us today.
Still ahead on TALKBACK LIVE, a region frozen in fear, gas stations deserted, schools closed. We're going to talk to a psychologist on how communities are coping with the sniper's reign of terror. We'll be right back.
COSTELLO: And welcome back to TALKBACK LIVE.
Well, now residents in the Richmond area are faced with the question that has paralyzed Washington suburbs: Where is the sniper and when will he strike again?
Joining us to talk about this sniper anxiety, is Mark Siegert. He's a forensic and clinical psychologist. Welcome to the show.
MARK SIEGERT, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: Thank you, Carol.
COSTELLO: The anxiety level is so high. In fact, Richmond school officials decided to close all schools today. Was that the right decision?
SIEGERT: I think it is the right decision. I think it's the right decision for two reasons. One of them is the anxiety is so high, no one knows where it's coming. And the second one is almost a political social issue. Who in the world wants to be accused of keeping a school open for a soccer match or class and have one of their children shot?
COSTELLO: Well, that's true. I mean no one would want to deal with that guilt later.
They are going to extreme measures in the Washington area. For example, over the weekend football games were played at undisclosed locations; some of them were guarded by military personnel. It's sort of like a police state there.
SIEGERT: Well, there is one thing about this murderer that's very troubling. He has this kind of calm, detached ease. It's -- that level of detachment is so disconcerting that he can kill someone from a distance. He doesn't seem to need immediate pleasure in watching it. He doesn't seem to need immediate feedback from the police. So I think there is very good reason people are really quite nervous at this point.
COSTELLO: Do you think the anxiety level is higher now in the Washington area than it was after September 11?
SIEGERT: I'm not in Washington, so I really don't know. But I think there are some very good parallels here. I know there are schoolchildren say that they feel it's the same even though they know it's different.
Certainly after September 11, New York really was not more in danger than Washington is now. In fact, it was less in danger. So I think there is something relevant to be said there.
COSTELLO: Yes, I want to bring in Trey (ph) again because he is from Virginia and he lives in the area. Do you think it's worse, the anxiety level there now than it was after September 11?
TREY: I think it's probably about the same. The school systems are taking the same measures they took after September 11. All of the outdoor sporting events are either being cancelled or they're being moved to undisclosed locations because, the worst case scenario, if you have a sporting event and the sniper would attempt to attack and someone would get killed, then the school system would feel bad because they would lose the life of a child.
COSTELLO: Oh, absolutely. Have you changed the way you live your life because of the sniper?
TREY: I have a little fear when I go outside. But I think, for the most part, as long as I go about my normal daily life and don't get overanxious about it, I think I'll be fine.
COSTELLO: I have seen gas stations putting large tarps over the pumps to make customers feel safe. And customers really flock to that. Is that overreacting as far as the public is concerned?
TREY: No, I think that actually puts the public at ease about the fears they may have. And I think it's a good idea, because that way they're not going to stop buying gas and things like that. And that way they know when they pull up to the pumps, say if it's 11:00 at night, they will feel at ease. They will know the gas stations have taken the necessary security measures to protect them.
COSTELLO: Right. Dr. Siegert, I wanted to ask you this: when does the anxiety stop, when does the extra protection stop, when the sniper stops? I mean how long does it go on?
SIEGERT: Well, that's a really interesting question. Obviously, if he's caught there is good question to stop it. But if you remember around the time of anthrax, we kept getting all these double messages from the federal government saying live your life normally, but there is a high state of security. There are credible threats.
I think those things make people unbearably anxious. And if you remember then, the use of anti-depressant in New York soared to about 40 percent of the population, which was enormous. I think without him found, unless the shootings go way, way down, people are going to have a very hard time being calm because this really is a very cold- blooded, very calculating, very calm killer.
COSTELLO: I want to go live now to Montgomery County for Daryn Kagan to weigh in on all of this, because you've been in the area for such a long time. How are people feeling?
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, I think it goes in waves here, Carol. We went through that five-day period before the shooting on Saturday, where things seemed to be kind of in an ebb. And you were here this weekend and you used to live in this area, so you might even have a better perspective of whether you saw more people on the streets or not. But with that last shooting, I think a lot of the anxiety has gone back up again.
COSTELLO: Well, you know what I found really interesting, Daryn, is a lot of people are out in the streets in the D.C. area, and a lot of people told me -- my friends who live there, because I have many friends who still live there -- that they feel safer in downtown Washington than they do in suburbia now.
KAGAN: Well, that's true. And one thing -- you mentioned, gas stations. One thing we've seen at least early on in the story is that people are gassing up in Washington, D.C., where the gas can be even a little bit more expensive. But people are feeling safer than out in the suburbs.
But I spent some time inside the district this weekend. I ran up and down the mall by the monuments and such. There were a lot of people out. You know that great seen where people are playing flag football, they have their dogs out. And there were rallies around the Lincoln memorial. People were out enjoying the nation's capital.
COSTELLO: But there were also a lot of events cancelled.
And I wanted to ask you this, Mark Siegert. You know, when false witnesses come forward, like this Mr. Dowdy did, telling police that he saw the sniper when he really didn't, and it gave such a feeling of false hope to the people of the Washington, D.C. area, what does that do to them as far as adding to the fear?
SIEGERT: Oh, I think it definitely adds to it. It is so disheartening. It is so cruel in a whole different way.
We have these people who feel passive, who feel helpless, who want their moment of fame. And they do it at the cost of all kinds of people's anxiety. You know, we have a man who is busy killing without a second thought. I think the point about it being the suburbs really is relevant, because it's safer for him, he can drive away calmly. He's not apt to be seen, where he would be in Washington.
But you take somebody who is making these false threats, he gets everybody to think, oh, boy we're finally getting closer. And we're not necessarily.
COSTELLO: All right. On that thought, we're going to take a break. We have a phone caller from Nebraska who wants to weigh in. We'll get to that phone call right after this. You stick around.
COSTELLO: And welcome back to TALKBACK LIVE.
(INTERRUPTED BY LIVE EVENT)
COSTELLO: OK. We want to cut away right now because we're going to talk a lot more about this on "INSIDE POLITICS," which is coming up. And we also want to remind you at 4:15 there will be a news conference coming out of Montgomery County, Maryland, with an update on the sniper situation there. Hopefully we'll find out something more.
But right now it is time for "INSIDE POLITICS." I want to thank our guests, and let's join Judy Woodruff's show right now.
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