Though al-Qaida training videotapes and manuals captured in Afghanistan specifically show the planning of attacks on Americans in drive-by shootings, experts who have analyzed those materials are cautious about concluding the murder spree outside of Washington yesterday is connected in any way to terrorism.
The videotapes and training manuals, which show Osama lin Laden’s terrorists have prepared to kill Americans with small-arms fire from trucks and vans, were first revealed in a WorldNetDaily report last month.
But John Holschen of Insights Training Center, who produced a report on the tape for military and law enforcement officials, said the rash of shootings in a small area of suburban Washington in a short period of time is unusual but not altogether unique.
“It’s not inconceivable that this will turn out to be a terrorist attack,” he said. However, he cautioned against jumping to any conclusions without more information.
The training video captured in Afghanistan shows al-Qaida operatives practicing the following kinds of assaults:
- using pickup trucks with shooters concealed in the bed of the trucks;
- using motorcycles as a shooting platform for drive-bys and assassinations;
- execution of prisoners;
- ambushes of law-enforcement officers;
- residential assassinations;
- assassination on a golf course using a rocket-propelled grenade and rifle fire;
- drive-up kidnapping of target walking on a street;
- use of tunnels, storm drains and sewers for infiltration during urban raids;
- rappelling from rooftops of buildings to make entry on upper floors;
- use of motorcycles for grenade attacks; and
- raids on buildings with large numbers of occupants – perhaps schools or office buildings.
Skip Gouchenour, a licensed detective in Pennsylvania who has analyzed the videotape and other training materials and made a presentation on them for the Pennsylvania Detectives Association, agreed that the Maryland shooting and murder spree is very unusual.
“I’m not dismissing the possibility of a terrorist connection,” he said. “It’s strange, indeed.”
Gouchenour specializes in investigating murder cases for district attorneys, defense attorneys, police agencies and private citizens. He says he has run across similar murder sprees in his career, but finds some of the details of this case unusual.
Police across the Washington area are searching for what they describe as “a skilled shooter” who killed five people in a random death spree beginning Wednesday night and continuing yesterday morning in Montgomery County, Md.
The shootings took place at two shopping centers, two gas stations and on the lawn outside an auto dealership along Rockville Pike. The victims were ordinary people doing ordinary things on a seemingly ordinary day.
As a result of the attacks, children were kept indoors at schools in the county.
“We do have someone that so far has been very accurate in what they are attempting to do, and so we probably have a skilled shooter,” said Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose yesterday. Police said they are looking for a small, slightly damaged white truck that may have black lettering on the side. Witnesses to the shootings said they saw a truck matching that description leaving some of the crime scenes.
Montgomery County police spokesman Derek Baliles said police suspect the shooter was armed with a rifle.
About 40 minutes before the first killing, a shot was fired through a window of a Michael’s craft store in the 3800 block of Aspen Hill Road. No one was hurt, but Montgomery County police said they believe the incident may have been related to what followed.
The first fatal shooting occurred Wednesday night at 6 o’clock, when James Martin, 55, of Silver Spring was killed in the parking lot of a Shoppers Food Warehouse at Randolph Road and Georgia Avenue in Wheaton. By yesterday morning, the stores in the area were open for business as usual. A security tape from a camera that monitors the lot had been turned over to police.
Then about 7:40 a.m., James Buchanan was pushing a lawn mower over a narrow strip of grass in front of the Fitzgerald Auto Mall on Rockville Pike when he was shot.
The next victim was Premkumar A. Walekar, a part-time cab driver. It was about 8:10 a.m., at a Mobil gas station on Aspen Hill Road at Connecticut Avenue in Aspen Hill, when the killer struck and Walekar died pumping gas.
About 8:30 a.m., Sarah Ramos, 34, was sitting on a bench at the shopping center near the Leisure World retirement community off Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring when the killer next took aim and fired.
It was just before 10 a.m. at a Shell gas station in Kensington and Lori Lewis-Rivera, 25, was vacuuming her minivan. The station, at the corner of Knowles and Connecticut avenues in the heart of Kensington, is visible from all directions. But again the killer struck as if coming from nowhere.
Throughout the day the manhunt intensified, but as night fell there had been no arrests.
Though authorities have downplayed the possibility of terrorism, the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Secret Service have all been involved in the investigation.