‘This guy is good, but
not as a shooter’

By Jon Dougherty

A small-arms expert trained in sniper tactics says he believes the shooter currently terrorizing the D.C. area is very capable, but not because of shooting abilities – because he has yet to be captured.

“This guy is good, but not as a shooter,” says Charles Cutshaw, a technical small-arms and tactics writer for several publications, including Jane’s Information Group.

“One-hundred-yard shots are nothing,” Cutshaw said in an interview. “He is good at tactics. I believe he selects his location days in advance. He reconnoiters the site and selects a good ‘hide’ – a place that affords him cover and concealment, as well as an escape route. Then he takes his shot.”

In each of the 10 shootings thus far, only one shot has been fired – in accordance with the sniper’s credo: “One shot, one kill.” Eight of the 10 victims struck were killed.

If accurate, Cutshaw’s theory would explain why police have few solid leads and why the sniper has been successful in eluding capture. His theory would be even more remarkable if there were more than one sniper, as police believe may be the case.

“Whoever this is, he’s had some kind of [sniper] training,” Cutshaw said. Another hint: The shooter is leaving no brass bullet casings behind, he says, noting that snipers are trained to pick up their brass, as well as leave no other clues to their identity or shooting location behind.

The primary physical evidence police have are the bullets themselves. Authorities have said most of the shooting victims were struck with .223-caliber ammunition.

Cutshaw said the lack of brass casings at crime scenes may indicate the sniper is using a bolt-action rifle, in which he would not eject the shell casing at all. However, he said, if the shooter is using a semi-automatic rifle, he could have it fitted with a “brass catcher” – a device that fits on a semi-automatic rifle and catches the brass casings as the weapon ejects them.

“Somebody has trained him not to leave physical evidence,” said Cutshaw.

Also, he added, “the fact that nobody sees this guy means he is carefully picking his targets.”

The New York Post reported over the weekend that police may in fact have a videotape identifying the shooter. A surveillance camera may have caught the sniper in action in the Wednesday shooting at a Manassas gas station, the report said.

The paper reported Hobert Epps, a 36-year-old Georgia man detained by investigators near the scene of Friday’s shooting, said police compared his face with a photo from the tape. Epps said officers told him a wallet-sized image was taken from a surveillance camera near the crime scene.

Cutshaw was skeptical, however.

“I’d be very surprised if a surveillance camera picked him up,” he said. “If he’s smart enough to do what he’s doing, I’d certainly think he’d be smart enough to avoid surveillance cameras.”

But is the sniper a terrorist? Cutshaw says he thinks it’s very possible the shootings have been the work of terrorists.

WorldNetDaily reported Sept. 4 that an al-Qaida training videotape, captured in Afghanistan, shows Osama bin Laden’s terrorists are not only planning attacks with weapons of mass destruction but are preparing to kill Americans with drive-by shootings and home break-ins, through ambushes of law-enforcement officers and targeted assassinations on golf courses.

Meanwhile, the Post also reported yesterday that cops have retreated somewhat from their initial belief that the shooter may only be a “sniper wannabe” – someone who is fascinated with the sniper subculture but has only limited sniper skills – because of the Manassas attack.

Last Wednesday, the sniper shot and killed Dean Myers, 53, from a distance of around 150 yards – a difficult shot, police said, because Meyers was hit in the head by a bullet that threaded a tight corridor between two fuel-pump islands, said the paper.

Cutshaw even opined that the Beltway sniper, as he is being called, may never be captured, unless he gives himself up.

That viewpoint was shared by a 31-year Marine Scout Sniper veteran, the details of which were included in a column penned by Capitol Hill Blue’s Doug Thompson yesterday.

“He won’t get caught,” the Marine sniper vet – who was not named – said. “He will have to quit on his own or turn himself in.”

The veteran also voiced concern over a theory now under consideration by police and federal officials – that the shooter or shooters were trained in the U.S. military.

He said the Manassas shooting “was the work of a pro. Well-planned, scoped out. I’m starting to think this guy was trained by one of the services.”

Police have asked the Defense Department to check various armed forces’ sniper schools for information about former students, rejected applicants or students kicked out for psychological problems, the New York Post said yesterday.

Over the weekend, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., badgered the National Rifle Association for opposing a bill he has authored calling for a national database of “ballistic fingerprints” for every firearm sold.

Each firearm would be test-fired by gun makers before they are sold, with the bullet “fingerprints” put into a federal database.

“We let our police use human fingerprints; why don’t we let our police use the fingerprint that guns and bullets make?” asked Schumer.

Cutshaw said he is disappointed by some lawmakers’ calls for stricter laws against so-called “sniper rifles,” mostly because he says they are – perhaps intentionally – misrepresenting certain weapons for political gain.

“The call is already going to ban sniper rifles, but what’s a ‘sniper rifle’?” he said. “It could be any rifle with a scope on it.

“You don’t need a true sniper rifle for shots at 100 yards or so,” he continued. “Any rifle with open sights will do. I can take those kinds of shots with most [semi-automatic] rifles on the market now.”

Related stories:

Gun-rights groups undeterred by attacks

Shootings tied to Michaels crafts stores?

Police weigh multiple killers, vehicles

FBI terrorism task force on case

FBI: Maryland shootings fit no category

2 ‘Hispanics’ sought in DC-area sniper hunt