Police provide sketch of truck

Sun Staff

Police yesterday released composite images of a white box truck with weathered paint and a roll-up rear door - one of two vehicles linked by eyewitness accounts to the elusive Washington-area sniper believed responsible for eight killings.

Montgomery County police Chief Charles Moose told reporters in Rockville that the composite is based on interviews with witnesses at more than one of the shooting sites.

It appears to fit the description of a truck seen leaving a shooting near the Leisure World retirement community in Silver Spring on Oct. 3, the second day of the attacks that have reached into two Virginia counties, two Maryland counties and Washington. The truck has unknown lettering on the side and a hard-to-spot dent in the right rear bumper.

Moose says he expects to soon produce a rendering of a white Chevrolet Astro van seen by several people near the scene of Friday's fatal shooting of a Philadelphia man, Kenneth H. Bridges, 53, who was pumping gas near Interstate 95 in Spotsylvania County, Va.

"We also remain very interested in the white Astro van," Moose told reporters.

Police confirmed yesterday that the killing of Bridges was linked by ballistics evidence to the other attacks. Bridges was the eighth person killed in a string of shootings that also left two people wounded.

Moose declined to comment on whether police had obtained a description - even a sketchy one - of a suspect's face.

Authorities have been studying video surveillance tapes from at least one of the shooting sites. Based on the tapes, "There are a lot of people we want to talk to. It's a stretch to say one of them is a suspect," said a person familiar with the investigation.

A man interviewed in Virginia after Friday's shooting said investigators compared his face with a photo of a sandy-haired man. Hobert Epps, 36, of Athens, Ga., said investigators told him the picture was from a video surveillance camera near the scene of one of the shootings, the Associated Press reported.

The release of the truck rendering demonstrated again the extent to which police are relying on citizens to help track the killer.

Authorities yesterday boosted the reward for information leading to an arrest and indictment in the case to $500,000. Any money raised above that total will be given to the victims' families, said Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan. Some of the victims have separate funds in their names.

"We're stressing over and over the extreme importance for the public's help. We desperately need the public's help," said Maj. Howard Smith of the Spotsylvania sheriff's office.

Smith said the sheriff's office received 1,900 tips after Friday's shooting.

Smith said another white vehicle seen nearby bumping into cars was unrelated to the shootings. Police questioned that person, whom Smith called "an aggressive driver."

Appearing with Smith at a news conference in Spotsylvania County yesterday, Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner said he was trying to reassure his young daughters after such seemingly inexplicable events.

He said that he told his daughters: "There's a bad person out there doing bad things. I reassured them they were going to be safe, and police were out there doing everything they could."

Warner counseled people "to continue going on with our lives."

But across the region, there were signs - traffic stops and canceled sporting and social events - that something was amiss.

A walk planned for today in Takoma Park to generate money for Alzheimer's disease research was postponed until sometime next year. "We've decided to postpone ... because we care about the safety and well-being of our families and supporters," Anthony K. Sudler, president of the Alzheimer's Association, National Capital Area, said in a statement.

Montgomery Soccer Inc., a youth organization, canceled all of its outdoor games and goal-keeping clinics.

In Virginia, the College Board, the organization that administers the SAT, scrapped plans to offer the test.

In Burtonsville, a driver said he saw a half-dozen police cars search a white van. The van's occupant, a white man with dirty-blond hair, was taken out of the van and driven away.

But Montgomery County police said there was no link to the sniper. "If there was substance to it, we'd be notified," said Police Capt. Wayne Jerman.

Late last night, police sealed off portions of the Capital Beltway in Prince George's County and began searching vehicles after reports of a shooting in Oxon Hill, WTOP Radio reported. A county police dispatcher said early this morning that the shooting was not related to the sniper.

In Alexandria, Va., members of the Guardian Angels, a volunteer public safety organization, pumped gas at two service stations for travelers who were too scared to get out of their cars, the Associated Press reported.

"We're just trying to do our part to make people safe," said John Ayala, the group's Washington-area director.

Others have been contributing, too, in their own ways.

Friends and family of James L. "Sonny" Buchanan, a landscaper who was killed Oct. 3, recently established a foundation to provide scholarships for children. Buchanan was a mentor for youths.

"Maybe if the guy with the gun had had someone like Sonny in his life, things would have turned out differently," a person wrote on the foundation's Web site.

Anyone with information regarding the identity of the sniper is asked to call the FBI's tip line: 1-888-324-9800.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad