NEW YORK -- The specter of the sniper shootings hit home in New York yesterday.

An ex-Marine -- arrested near the Canadian border after allegedly shooting two men at random in the Bronx -- was labeled a potential "copycat" killer by police who said his weekend slayings have some eerie similarities to those of the Washington-area sniper.

"We do not believe this is the sniper, but we are exploring the possibility that this is a guy who is copying those crimes," a high-ranking police official told the New York Daily News.

The man charged in the shootings lives in a Northern Virginia suburb in the heart of the area being menaced by the elusive gunman.

The two victims also seemed to have been chosen at random.

The suspect, Roberto Mayen, 26, was carrying a 9-mm handgun and had three knives strapped to his legs when he was caught, police said. They also found a rifle-cleaning kit in his car.

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said investigators were probing the Bronx slayings and comparing them with the Washington-area killings "to see if there is any tie."

Police said they did not know when Mayen came to the New York area. But his neighbors in Woodbridge, Va., told the newspaper they last saw him late Friday night in his Honda Civic.

Acquaintances said Mayen recently lost his job and broke up with his New York girlfriend.

At Fort Lee, N.J., about 6:30 Saturday night, a man brandishing a gun stole a 2001 Audi AG from an elderly couple outside a restaurant, police said.

A little more than an hour later, the silver Audi pulled alongside a car on Commonwealth Avenue in the Bronx, and a man stepped out and squeezed off eight shots into Joe Robles, 35, a car service driver, as Robles sat in his car, police said.

The Audi sped off and 13 minutes later pulled up next to a parked car on White Plains Road, police said.

Kleber Valencia, 29, who also worked for a car service, was waiting outside his home for his wife to pick him up. He approached the Audi before suddenly turning away.

A man got out of the Audi and fired once, police said.

Valencia's wife, Zulieka, a nurse, found him face down in the gutter with a gunshot wound to his back. She tried to resuscitate him, but it was too late.

About 8 p.m., police spotted an Audi at a gas station on Soundview Avenue. When they approached, the driver fled, touching off a brief chase that ended when the car raced up a ramp to the Bronx River Parkway and a police van lost it.

About 5 a.m., the Audi crossed the Canadian border at Houlton, Maine. Two hours later, police said, it inexplicably doubled back into the United States.

Immigration and Naturalization Service agents and Maine state police pursued the car for 20 miles before it was stopped.

Mayen was wearing dark clothes and had three martial arts-style knives taped to his legs when he was arrested, police said. A 9-mm semiautomatic Beretta was in the car and a bullet was in his pocket, they said.