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Montgomery County Sniper Press Briefing

Aired October 25, 2002 - 12:54   ET


GOVERNOR PARRIS GLENDENING (D), MARYLAND: Let me say a few brief comments.

We are here with our colleagues, first to say how absolutely pleased and excited we are that this nightmare of 22 days is over. For the 5 million to 7 million people that were impacted by this, there's just a huge sense that this is over and we can now move on with our lives.

We also obviously must continue to remember the victims and their families, the 10 individuals who were killed and the individuals who were wounded as well.

Let me just -- a couple quick points.

First, our tremendous appreciation to law enforcement. We have received, today, in my office already just thousands of calls. And almost every one of those calls were expressions of appreciation to the law enforcement community. I don't think there's ever been a better demonstration of law enforcement -- federal, state and local, all working together.

Second, our appreciation to my colleagues, to Governor Warner and Mayor Williams. Once again, everything else was set aside so that we could work together. We were in regular communication. But more importantly, our staffs were really working together.

Also, our great, great appreciation to the citizens of this state and, indeed, of this metropolitan area. From every perspective we asked the citizens to be cautious, but to go on with their lives, to keep the schools open, keep the economy going, to, as much as possible, have a normal life. And the citizens very bravely stood up and did exactly that.

We asked them for help, and over 70,000 calls came in. Very appropriately, two of the last and crucial calls, in terms of sighting the car and in terms of the rest stop itself, were from citizens. And this has made a difference.

It is time for us now to express our appreciation, to express our prayers to those individuals who have lost family members. But it is also time for us now to move on with our lives and return to normalcy. We couldn't be here without the tremendous help.

Last, a lot of people did so much, but I especially want to give thanks to Chief Moose. He pulled things together in a way that was extraordinary.

And lastly, for the media: I know it's been difficult. And I know your job is to find out as much as possible and to report it and the public's right to know. But again, the tremendous cooperation with the media made a difference. And so, thank you all.

And for the citizens, thank you for your help.

DOUG DUNCAN, MONTGOMERY COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Governor, thank you very much.

Next is Governor Mark Warner from the commonwealth of Virginia.



And I want to start by echoing what my friend, Parris Glendening, has said. The level of cooperation that we had between Maryland, Virginia and the district and the federal authorities has been unprecedented.

Over the last three weeks, we've all felt the fear. I know, as a husband and a father, I've been constantly trying to reassure my three daughters that there were people out there that they could trust that were trying to take care of them. And I think we've seen as citizens that, once again, when bad incidents happen, law enforcement is there to protect us.

We wouldn't be here today if there had not been that level of cooperation between not only the task force in Maryland, but the four separate task force in Virginia. I want to extend special thanks to the over 200 state troopers and more than 1,000 police and sheriffs, department personnel across Virginia that were deployed on this investigation and their ability to work with the federal authorities and the Maryland task force to help bring a successful conclusion to this investigation.

Obviously it was also critically important that we had the citizens' role in terms of tens of thousands of tips and then the eventual sighting at the rest stop up the road a piece.

Also I want to thank the first responders. Once again, in this post 9/11 world, we see the emergency medical personnel, the ICU nurses, the trauma teams respond to these kinds of events, and be there day in and day out.

As governor of the commonwealth, I'd like to also express a special prayer to Virginia State Trooper Mark Casolet (ph) who passed away Wednesday night responding to a -- actually what was originally supposed to be a shooting incident, and then was killed in a traffic accident. And the kind of commitment of that individual, he literally before he had to go on duty, had put on his uniform, gone on his motorcycle and gone to a school to be there when parents were there to pick up their kids to reassure them during that time.

My prayers go out to his wife Lesley (ph) and his two small children and their family.

And obviously I extend my sympathies as well to the victims in our region, and as we now find out the possibility of victims outside our region. It's my hope that this same level of cooperation we've seen between law enforcement and between elected officials, we'll now see as we move into the next phase of this investigation of prosecution.

Clearly this is a case that I believe where the death penalty is appropriate. I hope we will pursue this to the full extent of the law, and I'm hopeful that the prosecution teams as they meet this afternoon will resolve how this case can be speedily prosecuted.

Finally, not as governor, but simply as a citizen and as a dad, I want to say again thanks to Chief Moose, to our Virginia team, to the federal law enforcement officials who finally brought this situation to a close. Thank you all very much.

DUNCAN: Governor Warner, thank you very much.

Next is Senator Paul Sarbanes from the state of Maryland.


Well, the skies are cloudy here today, but the real cloud that's been hanging over our region has been lifted, and we're all extremely grateful for that. And I want to express our very deep appreciation to all of those in law enforcement who've done such a successful job here.

There's been an incredible and unprecedented cooperation between federal, state and local law enforcement officials, and we really need to underscore that in the very strongest possible terms. In many respects this investigation was an invitation of a kind of competitive juices to flow and, in fact, what happened is they were able to establish extremely good working relations through all levels of government. And that, I think, significantly enhanced our ability to carry forward this investigation.

Senator Mikulski and I and Senators Warner and Allen of Virginia have joined in writing to the Department of Justice to see if we can get some federal financial assistance for the state and local governments who have incurred extraordinary expenses in the course of this investigation. I mean, it really has created a fiscal strain I think on state and local governments. And we're going to try to do what we can to see if we can't provide some help in that regard.

And finally I just want to say, although we all are breathing a sigh of relief and life is returning to normal, we know that's not the case for the families of those who were struck down. And our heart- felt sympathies continue to go out to them and also our commitment to do everything that we can to be of assistance to them in this very difficult time.

Thank you.

DUNCAN: Thank you, Senator.

Next is Senator Barbara Mikulski from the state of Maryland.

SENATOR BARBARA MIKULSKI (D), MARYLAND: Yesterday morning, when I received the call from the director of the FBI, Mr. Mueller, and shortly thereafter from Doug Duncan, informing me that they believed that they had apprehended the sniper, I felt like I'd gotten a call that a war was over, that a great lift lifted from my heart, and I know lifted throughout our entire capital region that maybe we could breathe easier, maybe we could live easier.

And today, as we go about our activities in the neighborhood, you see people happy. You see them shopping. Our kids are going to school with a different look in their eye and a different step. We also see people out there shopping and doing the activities of daily living.

We in the United States of America love our freedom.

And when we think of our freedom we think of our Constitution, we think of our laws, we think of the very framework that protects us. We didn't think of our freedom as the ability to buy gas, the ability to go out with our kids and watch them play soccer. We didn't think of our freedom as being able to have a Hallowe'en where the boys and girls in our neighborhood could play trick or treat. But now, we in the capital region, thanks to this incredible law enforcement effort, feel that we've got our freedom back.

I'm here today on behalf of the constituents that I represent, along with my colleagues in government, to express a heartfelt, deep gratitude to our law enforcement who brought -- after 22 hard days, were able to apprehend the person who appears to be the sniper.

I want to thank Chief Moose and all the local law enforcement for the job that they did to be able to do this; to our state troopers in both Maryland and Virginia, as well as our wonderful federal resources.

We want to thank the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol and Firearms and all of the federal agencies that really came together to work on this. What we saw in law enforcement, whether it was the locals, whether it was the state troopers, whether it was the federal agencies, everybody was best at what they were best at and best at what they were most needed for. And they did a fantastic job.

But I'd also like to thank the ordinary people who backed them up: the secretaries, the lab technicians in the ballistic labs. Everybody who worked a 36-hour day in order to be able to find this sniper.

And also, I tell you, I'd like to also thank the spouses. As these law enforcement personnel worked around the clock, they had the love and the support of their families. So to the spouses who love them, to the spouses who know that every day people were out there willing to put themselves in the line of fire, we say thank you for that. And thanks to the schools and the school teachers and the school personnel that really looked out for our kids. You know, it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a community to protect a child. And we all worked together.

And to the citizens who responded, to cooperate with local police, who called in those tips, thank you to them.

And I want to just say to the families and to the victims, God bless you; and to those survivors who are still fighting for their lives to know that we continue to be on your side and we send our thoughts and our prayers with you.

Yes, we will look to see how we can reimburse for the financial cost, but right now we need to get the cost back that it took on our lives.

So thanks to all of you. And God bless America. And God bless the fact that we could do this.

Thank you.

DUNCAN: Senator, thank you very much.

Next is Tony Williams, mayor of the District of Columbia.

MAYOR ANTHONY WILLIAMS, WASHINGTON, D.C.: Our community, our region over the last year or so has suffered in different ways at different times. And certainly over the last month or so all of us have felt a sense of loss, spiritually, emotionally. All of us have had the families of those who have lost loved ones and the families of those who are struggling to survive in our prayers and in our hearts. All of us as a community feel a sense of loss.

And yet today we're a stronger community, we're a stronger region because of the leadership across this region. I certainly want to acknowledge Doug Duncan and the team that he's put together. From an official point of view, acknowledge law enforcement and Chief Moose, federal, state, local enforcement working together. I think it's a tremendous example of how, when a challenge arises, we can come together, work together and succeed together and be a stronger community for it.

Thank you all.

DUNCAN: Mayor, thank you very much.

Next is Wayne Curry, the county executive of Prince George's County, Maryland.

WAYNE CURRY, PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Thank you all. Obviously, I share the sentiments of those who have spoken already. We are obviously relieved that this grim and painful period in our local history is over. We have a lot to be thankful for because of the hard work and expertise of all of the people who worked diligently and tenaciously to identify and then to apprehend these snipers. I want particularly to compliment the inter-jurisdictional cooperation and the interagency cooperation in this matter, which has been unprecedented. Every government you see represented here made infinite resources available to those who were working on this affair.

I want also, though, to remember the families of those who have suffered most grievously through this painful period.

You know, they have sacrificed more than any of us and deserve our condolences and our comfort. Their challenges and struggles are probably just beginning.

And lastly I'd like to say that while we today are relieved and rejoice in a new day in our region, I want especially to thank Mike Bouchard from the ATF, the special agent, and Gary Bald from the FBI, and particularly Chief Moose who, through a very difficult and complicated matter, I think exemplified the best in professionalism I've ever observed.

That's particularly true in the case of Chief Moose, who was subject throughout this complicated matter to second-guessing and skepticism about the approach taken to connect with these folks to establish a route of communication which ultimately lured them to their arrest and apprehension. And he deserves to be accredited for that. And I would like to add my compliments to him for having the guts and the bearing to endure all of that in pursuit of getting this ordeal over.

And then lastly -- and this is a little unusual -- I particularly want to compliment Doug Duncan. He has been a real face and personification of reassurance and leadership throughout this entire period. He assembled us and communicated on a regular basis so that we could make reasoned decisions locally about what we ought to do about things like police deployment, whether schools should be opened and what steps we should take to make our residents safe.

Without that connection and without that leadership, without somebody being on point, taking the ball and demonstrating leadership, we would not have been able, I think, to do the job that we did to make our community safe.

So I want to compliment Doug as well, the governors and all present for the unqualified support that we have had to bring this matter to, we hope, a successful conclusion. And hopefully that the prosecutors will be able to work as cooperatively and collaboratively so that we can bring those people who did this to a swift and perfect justice.

Thank you.

DUNCAN: Thank you very much.

And thank you for those kind words. I got them on tape now, so I'm good.

Next is County Council President Steve Silverman from Montgomery County Council.


I had a chance to come up and see Chief Moose last night when this was over at about 9:30. I wanted to thank him personally on behalf of my wife and my 10-year-old son who was ecstatic at the news, since he can go out and play soccer today. As Senator Mikulski appropriately said, we take a lot for granted in our community and in our country. And the events that we have foregone as a community for the past three weeks are things which we are anxious to get back to.

I thank the chief, and he thanked me for the support, as I think he was thanking everyone in government for support. I told them that we would look kindly on him next spring during his budget submissions to us, when we take up his annual budget.

But, I do want to say that I think it's very important that the lesson here to be learned is that local government needs to be supportive. It needs to, in effect, stay out of the way and provide the opportunity for law enforcement to do the job that they are hired to do, and that they have the expertise to do. And I think that's what we've been able to do over the past few weeks at every level, is to be as supportive as we can across jurisdictions and to make sure that we allow the law enforcement personnel to be able to do that job that they're hired to do. And they did an outstanding an extraordinary job.

Obviously, it's an opportunity to learn as to how it should be done on these types of situations in the future, but I think it's also an opportunity to show how government can work together with law enforcement and get the job done.

Chief Moose has a grateful community and region to thank him, along with Gary and Mike and all individuals who were involved in this. We're very grateful. Thank you.

DUNCAN: Steve, thank you very much.

We will now entertain some questions.

QUESTION: For Governor Warner, you said that you hope that there's the same level of cooperation in the prosecution as there's been in the investigation. You said you thought the death penalty would be appropriate in this case. If Montgomery County takes the lead in this prosecution, as we believe that they will, there obviously cannot be a death penalty sentence for the 17-year-old. How do you feel about that?

WARNER: Well, I think the prosecution teams, and I know they have -- and they're already meeting, and they will be meeting this afternoon -- will setup a procedure that will allow the full prosecution to the full extent of the law in a variety of jurisdictions. But let's the prosecutors move first and lay out their plan. QUESTION: If you could just answer this question. I mean the prosecutor in Montgomery County has already said that if we were to get a conviction on a life sentence, that would mean that this 17- year-old would, in his words -- these aren't my words -- "leave prison in a box just like the other individual might."

QUESTION: Would that be satisfactory for the citizens of Virginia, of your commonwealth...

WARNER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) prosecutors of Virginia will work with the prosecutors in Maryland. And we will have an orderly process. And I will let them make that decision in terms of what order should be made. I think just as we have stayed out, as elected officials, during the first phase of this investigation of law enforcement doing its job, I think we should, as well, allow the prosecutors now to do their job. Let's let them meet. Let's let them lay out their process and procedure, and then might be more timely to...

QUESTION: Governor Glendening, will your moratorium on the imposition of the death penalty have any impact at all on this case?

GLENDENING: The moratorium will not have any impact on the resolution of this. Moratorium was to see whether in prior cases there was anything in the system that was causing discriminatory actions. That report will be issued and done long before the trials are over. But even beyond that, that is not the question, that is not the issue here. And so, this case, obviously, will be outside of that moratorium.

Let me also just say in terms of that, as well, that I think it's extremely important that everyone understands that cases of this type, we do have death penalty legislation at the federal and state level. And when you have something this horrendous, it seems to me, that if there is no question whatsoever about the guilt, that this is the type of incident for which that legislation was written. But it will not, in any way, be deterred or impacted by that moratorium.

QUESTION: And is it your understanding that under the laws of the state of Maryland, John Muhammad, at least, if he's charged with murder, would be eligible for the death penalty?

GLENDENING: I am not an attorney, but that certainly is my understanding.

QUESTION: Governor Glendening, do you have any concern at all that the reason why you put this moratorium in place was because you had concerns about the efficacy of how the death penalty was carried out in your state...


QUESTION: ... politically, very difficult at this juncture to sustain that moratorium because of this case, because there would be such a groundswell of support to have an execution if there was a conviction in this case. What if your report comes back and says, "You know what? The way we're doing the death penalty in Maryland isn't efficacious. It is unfair"?

QUESTION: Would you be able to sustain a moratorium in that climate?

GLENDENING: The moratorium was only to review whether or not there was something in the system that was causing either discriminatory action or some other possibility of individuals who were not guilty being found guilty and sentenced to death.

This is not the case here. There'll be a trial, be a judge and a jury, a prosecutor, and we do not anticipate any interface between the two.

I think this will move ahead successfully. And the legislature will review the results of that study and decide whether or not there should be anything done at the local level to make sure that process is even fairer.

But beyond that, I don't think you'll see any problems whatsoever in terms of full prosecution of this case.

QUESTION: Can you all please tell us the time table for bringing murder charges in this case?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:: You know, that's up to the prosecutors. We're going to leave that to them and let them make their announcement as they work this out. We can't comment on that.

QUESTION: Does anybody have any ball park estimate on how much...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:: No, in regards to a ball park estimate of costs of this investigation, we do not have that at this time. Now that suspects are in custody, we are putting that information together, as well as any economic impact analysis that we're doing, and we'll be working with that over the next few days and week and try to get that.

QUESTION: What is the state of play on the reward money? Is this something that would naturally go to that truck driver? What thought has been given to it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:: There's a $500,000 reward. There are procedures in place with the police department for distribution of rewards for information that leads to the arrest and indictment of the persons responsible for these crimes, and they will work through that.

Any person who called us with information, we hold that confidential, so any discussion of reward would be held confidential with those persons as well.

QUESTION: But there were several tips, I guess. Would they go to somebody that was in Tacoma, would it go to somebody like the truck driver?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:: No, I'll leave that to the law enforcement side, let them determine how they work that out. There's $500,000, so people are eligible for up to $500,000 for the reward. If there's more than one person that gave information, then that money would be split among them.

QUESTION: For the two governors, can you give me whether or not you have a preference for jurisdiction in this instance?

WARNER: Again, I'd respond the same way I did earlier.

WARNER: I think the -- I hope and expect to see the same level of cooperation between the various prosecutorial teams as we've seen between law enforcement. I know they're going to be meeting this afternoon and I'm sure they can work this issue out.

QUESTION: Governor Warner, should the fact that they're...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me just also make sure that we have a -- that we understand that we have a unified approach on this. The normal barriers that exist between states and political jurisdictions and all that absolutely collapsed or were gone in this effort on the law enforcement side.

With regard to the prosecution of the same thing I believe should take place. There was a full level of cooperation. But most importantly, we said, "We will do everything necessary to end this." What we should say at this stage is the same barriers are gone as far as we're concerned. What is the best orderly process to bring these two individuals to the full extent of justice?

The prosecutors are meeting. They will make a recommendation. And we will be supportive of that recommendation knowing that justice will (UNINTELLIGIBLE) same effort without these barriers here. And I think that's the important part of this.

QUESTION: Governor, are you all saying that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) accept whatever the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

WARNER: (OFF-MIKE) Again remember, what we've also got here is there's evidence in a variety of jurisdictions. And I have confidence in our prosecutorial teams that they'll also make an assessment of where they can assemble the best evidence and build the best case.

And we're going to be supportive of their efforts, just as we've been supportive of the various working groups. There have been five separate task forces involved. Not only the Maryland task force; I want to reiterate, there's been four separate task forces in Virginia involved in separate investigations. The level of cooperation between those five task forces, the federal officials, has been, I believe, unprecedented. We hope and expect that same level of cooperation between the federal and two state and district prosecutorial teams as well.

QUESTION: Actually there are six murders in...

WARNER: There also could be -- I think there it's mentioned. There will be an order, but there can also be, as we reviewed earlier, there can be a series of prosecutions here. I mean, it's not -- the event that a single prosecution will end this matter.

Other jurisdictions, we've seen already, for example, that Alabama, I believe, has already filed charges. So there will be a series of prosecutions in this case.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of these questions are more appropriate for the prosecutions, I think. They're going to make a statement later today. And those questions should be directed to the prosecutors.

So we're going to close this down. I think people will be available if people have other questions that want to come up.

Thank you all very much. Thank you for this tremendous support that we've seen. Thank you so much.


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