Charles A. Moose

Charles A. Moose left the police force to write a book about the search for the D.C.-area snipers. (Sun photo by Andre F. Chung / September 14, 2003)

BETHESDA - Charles A. Moose, who famously battled the press during last fall's sniper manhunt and claims in his new book that the media's conduct contributed to five shootings, is now pitching his book like any other celebrity - in the media.

He may need them now, but he still doesn't respect them.

In an interview during the weekend, at the beginning of a monthlong media blitz that will include an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Moose said to two reporters: "I respect the fact that you're not a criminal and I'm glad you're working, but I don't really like what you do."

The former Montgomery County police chief's book, Three Weeks in October, comes out today, and Moose will do what it takes to sell it - even if it means placing himself in the center of the spotlight he shunned during the sniper shootings almost one year ago.

He will appear on NBC's Today Show this morning and CBS' Early Show tomorrow, then return to Washington for local television. Later this week he will fly to Los Angeles to chat with Jay Leno - he is a little nervous about that - before returning to New York for radio interviews.

The 322-page book tells, in alternating chapters, the story of last fall's shootings and of Moose's personal history - his childhood in rural North Carolina and his rise through the Portland, Ore., Police Bureau.

Moose, 50, writes of feeling "under siege" after the initial spate of killings, and says the shooting of a boy outside his middle school in Bowie left him feeling "as depressed as I've ever been." The book also reveals details about the crimes that have not been previously disclosed:

  • The sniper suspects who were eventually arrested, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, watched from nearby as the task force charged into a Richmond, Va., gas station and arrested two undocumented immigrants who had been using a pay phone and driving a white van.

    Moose writes, "One report I heard said that one of the snipers had made the telephone call, hung up, stepped across the street to buy a candy bar and was standing on the sidewalk eating it when the task force arrived. He stood and watched as the two unfortunate illegal aliens were arrested."

  • Mildred Muhammad, the ex-wife of John Allen Muhammad, had worked at a Michael's craft store. Several shootings were in Michael's parking lots, or near them. Moose called the connection only a "weird puzzle piece" and would not say if it points to a motive in the shootings.

  • The snipers stuffed blue socks into the holes they had cut in the trunk of their car - one for the .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle and one for its scope - so they wouldn't be so conspicuous.

  • Malvo was supposed to be the lookout on the morning the suspects were arrested at a Frederick-area rest stop, but he fell asleep. Members of the task force were able to move in on the car and arrest the suspects without resistance.

    Moose writes that the relief he felt from the arrests was tempered by the reality that 10 people had been killed and three wounded, and his wish was that he could have stopped the killing sooner. This was brought home when he met with the victims' families the day of the arrest.

    Feeling the loss

    "It was very real for me, seeing the pain these families felt, feeling the loss they had experienced. It made the case all the more human and horrible," he wrote. "It also made it impossible, somehow, for me to feel any jubilation about solving the crime."

    In the three intense weeks leading to the arrest, Moose wondered if the police would ever catch the suspects - and if he would keep his job. If the shootings continued for another week, he figured, people would have been calling for him to step down.

    "I often thought during this period, This is probably the last job I'll have in law enforcement," he wrote.

    Book deal

    As it turns out, Moose stayed on as Montgomery County police chief until June, when controversy over his book deal forced his resignation. The county's ethics commission ruled in the spring that his taking money from a book publisher violated a law that forbade county officials from profiting from their jobs.