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Beltway sniper-case chief takes 'victory lap'

Maryland police detectives are furious over their old boss taking a “victory lap” on the 10th anniversary of the horrific serial killings by two black Muslim terrorists in October 2002.

Former Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose returned to the Washington area earlier this month to proudly “reflect” on the sniper case, which dragged on interminably for three full weeks.

“I can’t believe we got it solved so quickly,” he told a local CBS news station.

But detectives tell WND that Moose deliberately delayed capturing D.C.
snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo to avoid profiling black suspects.

They say Moose’s judgment was clouded by a personal grudge against the U.S. legal system, which he believes has unfairly targeted him and other African-Americans – including his son, once arrested for distributing crack cocaine. Moose admitted he hated cops and only went into law enforcement so he could expose from the inside how they allegedly frame minority defendants.

In 2009, the now-retired chief turned down an invitation to attend Muhammad’s execution, believing capital punishment is biased against blacks.

Since retiring, Moose has tirelessly lobbied Congress for a legislative ban on criminal profiling.

Detectives who worked the case under Moose insist they could have arrested the snipers weeks earlier had Moose not created a “false profile” of white suspects driving a white van in lieu of solid descriptions of Muhammad and Malvo driving a dark, older-model Chevy Caprice “hoopty,” a used cop car commonly used by black gang members.

By withholding their race from both law enforcement and the media, they say Moose not only endangered the lives of patrol officers but cost the lives of innocent residents in the nation’s capital.

The snipers managed to shoot 13 people, killing 10, during their terrifying siege of the Beltway.

In the end, it took 22 days to catch the snipers – even though on Day One Moose had received an accurate description of Muhammad and Malvo and their vehicle from a Papa John’s worker, who witnessed “two black guys” “hitting high fives” after opening fire in a Maryland shopping center.

The eyewitness account did not come in the form of a call to a tip line or even as an oral statement to a patrol officer. It was a written statement taken by a detective who in turn relayed up the chain of command. Yet the chief dismissed it.

Days later, after the snipers fatally shot a Washington man, D.C. police twice alerted Moose to be on the lookout for the dark-colored hoopty sedan.

Moose ignored the so-called BOLOs and told his task force and the public to be on the lookout instead for a white suspect in a white van.

“D.C. kept telling him about the car the snipers were in and that they were black, but he buried the information because he didn’t want any profiling to go on,” said a Montgomery County police detective who worked on the case.

Over the next two weeks, police pulled over the snipers’ Chevy Caprice several times in routine traffic stops. But Muhammad and Malvo, an illegal immigrant from Jamaica, were released each time, because they were not the white suspect in a white box truck police were told to look for by Moose.

“It was so frustrating,” a Montgomery County police sergeant said, “because we kept getting forced off the path, even though we had clues that they were black and driving a dark-colored sedan.”

Around the end of the first week of shootings, after a boy was shot in Maryland, investigators actually spoke by phone with Malvo, who had left a note at the scene. Detectives who worked on the case say his accent and dialect were easily recognizable as Jamaican.

“If you’ve ever read anything written by someone from Jamaica, or if you’ve ever talked to someone from Jamaica, you can tell right away they’re Jamaican,” a Montgomery County police detective who dealt with Jamaican drug dealers as an undercover narcotics officer said.

There was little doubt at that point they were dealing with a black immigrant, he says. Yet Moose ordered police to keep questioning white suspects.

Two weeks into the snipers’ bloody rampage started, after reports tied a dark-skinned suspect to another fatal shooting at a Home Depot in Virginia, some in the media demanded to know if the task force would release a composite sketch of a possible suspect. Chief Moose refused, arguing he did not want to stereotype “some group.”

“If it somehow paints some group or causes people to be misidentified and causes them hardship, that is a dilemma we want to stay away from,” he explained.

Yet all the while, he advised patrol officers to stop Caucasians, especially whites who owned firearms.

“Moose didn’t want his officers stopping every black in Montgomery County,”
said an officer who worked for him. “Of course, it was okay to stop every white in a white box truck.”

Two days after Moose’s press conference, the task force received a tip from a witness in Tacoma, Wash., who suggested police check out a man he served with in the military named John Muhammad. It was their first clue they may be dealing not only with a black, but a Muslim.

The same day, Malvo essentially gave himself up by phoning his own tip into the task force about a related shooting in Montgomery, Ala.

Still, investigators and patrol officers were ordered to stay on the lookout for a white guy.

By Oct. 22, it became clear to some investigators that Moose knew exactly who the murderers were, yet still chose to withhold their identities from rank-and-file police and the media.

That day, the task force headed by the chief assigned an investigative team that included an FBI sharp-shooter to stake out the home of Muhammad’s ex-wife, Mildred, in Clinton, Md., based on the tip they had received from the Tacoma source.

The task force had the snipers cold – their names, race and even religion – but Moose still insisted on holding off issuing a lookout for them.

“We were sworn to secrecy,” said one of the undercover agents on the stakeout, who says he was shown photographs of both Muhammad and Malvo that night.

That same day, members of the sniper task force were still interrogating white men in the area, and confiscating their rifles.

“If we knew about them two days before they were caught, you know Moose knew about it a lot sooner,” the undercover agent said. “Deaths could have been avoided” if the chief had released a lookout.

It was also on that day that bus driver Conrad Johnson was fatally wounded in Aspen Hill, Md., three days after the snipers wounded another man in southern Virginia. The snipers had come full circle, managing to return to the original crime scene, while Moose stubbornly stuck to his profile of a lone white gun nut.

“Historically, cases similar to this have been perpetrated primarily by white males,” Moose wrote in his 2003 autobiography.

Late in the evening on Oct. 23, 2002, Moose revealed in a terse statement that the task force was no longer looking for a white suspect in a white vehicle, and provided a physical description of Muhammad and his dark blue 1990 Chevy Caprice, the same hoopty witnesses saw from the start. Photos also went out of Malvo.

(When the critical information was given to officers on patrol, it was done through the web board, an internal computer bulletin board not available to officers in patrol cars.)

About three hours later, which was then early in the morning on Oct. 24, a trucker who had heard the descriptions broadcast on the radio spotted the snipers at a rest stop, blocked their car with his truck, and called the cops.

After three full weeks of ignoring clues and stalling the public, Moose finally put out a lookout containing the descriptions he had known for at least a week, and the suspects were caught within three hours.

Three weeks of living hell for Washington area residents ended in just three hours. During those 22 days, Beltway commuters had to pump gas behind giant tarps to shield them from the snipers’ crosshairs after they’d gunned down a victim at a gas station. After a schoolchild was shot in the back, parents across the area had to escort their children to school behind police cruisers parked in front of school buildings.

Detectives say Moose prolonged the nightmare because he didn’t want to stereotype blacks as criminals. They say his anti-profiling policy cost lives.

“I made it abundantly clear that racial profiling was not going to be accepted,” Moose confirmed at an ACLU event in 2004.

Five years earlier, he vowed to end racial profiling while taking the top cop job in the Washington suburb of Montgomery County. The county had been under federal orders not to profile black criminal suspects, an agreement Moose struck with then-Attorney General Janet Reno, who recommended Moose for the job.

Coming into office, Moose announced to the NAACP that he would help reverse stereotypes of blacks as criminals, arguing that it was a media distortion that blacks commit a disproportionate share of crimes.

“Cognizant of the fact that we’re still in an age when I’m afraid some people look at African-Americans and think that because of some of the images that they get in the media that we are involved in crime more so than perhaps other cultures, I have some pride and responsibility to turn that around,” he said in a 1999 interview with a local newspaper.

Moose was particularly sensitive to racial issues, having personally been “the victim of some discrimination.”

He said he never trusted the police and assumed they planted evidence to convict innocent blacks.

“I really didn’t like the police,” he told ABC News. “I was pretty sure the police made up the things they did so that they could be mean to African-Americans.”

“He’s got a chip on his shoulder,” said Walter Bader, who locked horns with Moose as president of the Montgomery County police union. Bader complained that Moose withheld information from street officers during the sniper incident.

Moose and his civil-rights lawyer wife have filed dozens of racial discrimination lawsuits against hotels and other businesses and entities.

In 2003, for example, Moose received more than $10,000 from Marriott International after he threatened to sue the chain for $200,000 for asking him to show his room key when he wandered into a restricted area of the chain’s luxurious resort in Honolulu.

Moose also claimed he was the victim of racism in similar incidents involving another hotel in Arizona, a Metro transit police officer, a horseback riding instructor in Hawaii and a fourth incident that took place in Jackson, Miss.

A review of court records just in the Washington area shows he has filed dozens of complaints alleging racism, many of which were dismissed as meritless.

Moose shocked law enforcement in 2009 when he refused to attend Muhammad’s execution.

“I don’t think I will be personally interested” in going, he said at the time.

In the past he suggested he was not happy the mass murderer would be put to death, remarking in 2003: “I don’t think there was a lot of cheering in the black community that these guys were going to go on trial in a death penalty state.”

That same year he explained to CNN that it was personal: “It pains me” that so many African-Americans who “look like me” are on death row. In another interview, he blamed the “overrepresentation” of blacks on “systemic racism.”

Detectives say they were sickened by the courteous, even apologetic, tone Moose struck with the snipers while trying to persuade them to stop their killing spree.

Looking back, knowing what they know now, they say they wouldn’t be surprised if on some level he “sympathized” with them and harbored “mixed feelings” about finally capturing them.

WND’s extensive coverage on the case includes when Muhammad was given the death penalty, following his conviction.

A controversy had erupted earlier when Moose planned a book about the episode, and pocketed a $4,250 movie option fee, when officials raised concerns that his actions violated rules against public employees from profiting from such situations.

WND also reported when some of the original witnesses, who reported two black men in a dark car, said police were skeptical that they saw what they said. Police at the time were looking for “a white man in a white truck or van.”