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Sunday, 13 October, 2002, 22:37 GMT 23:37 UK
US police defend sniper probe
Guardian Angels help a driver at a petrol station
Volunteers have been offering to pump petrol
US police hunting for a serial sniper responsible for shooting 10 people in and around Washington DC have defended the limited amount of information they have released on the attacks.

Investigators said that they must strike a balance between harnessing the public's help in capturing the killer and offering up too much detail about the suspect.


The concern is that we pollute the whole thought process, cause people to... think they see what they heard on TV and mix that up with reality

Police Chief Charles Moose
Police Chief Charles Moose, from Montgomery County police said that he wanted to avoid "muddying the waters" by prematurely releasing an inaccurate sketch of a suspect.

On Saturday police released an image of a vehicle allegedly seen by witnesses near the attacks, but so far they have not offered a description of a suspect, and refuse to answer questions on whether the killer may have been spotted by witnesses or caught on surveillance cameras.

Click here to see the sniper's trail

"Please rest assured, when we have something we are confident the media can help us with, we will use that," Chief Moose said.

"It is a fine balance, but we do understand the power we have with the media in the 21st century, but we also know that we must use that appropriately," he added.

Chief Moose
Chief Moose says he is releasing all that he can

Rumours have been flying that the suspect has been seen and that they police are now working on a composite sketch, but the police refuse to be drawn on the subject.

"The concern is that we pollute the whole thought process, cause people to... think they see what they heard on TV and mix that up with reality," Chief Moose said.

The killings which began 10 days ago have struck fear into the heart of ordinary Americans who now fear going about their daily mundane tasks such as pumping petrol or visiting the shops.

Call to arms

Members of the New Black Panther Party and Guardian Angels volunteer organisations have announced a joint effort to "defend the community and shut down the sniper" in a rally at a petrol station in Woodlawn, Virginia.

In a statement they urged men with military training to help set up patrols to "defend the children and the community".

"We are at war and must organise," the statement added.

Sniper attacks
2-3 Oct - Five people killed in Montgomery County, Maryland
3 Oct - Man killed in Washington DC
4 Oct - Woman injured in Fredericksburg, Virginia
7 Oct - Boy injured in Prince George's County, Maryland
9 Oct - Man killed in Manassas, Virginia
11 Oct - Man killed in Fredericksburg, Virginia

At several petrol stations in Virginia workers have been turning out in military flak jackets.

There have been precious few clues as to who might be carrying out the attacks, although profilers say that the most likely candidate is a man, aged in his 20s or 30s, who probably grew up with guns or received training in the military.

A report in Time Magazine said that the FBI has asked the Pentagon to scour its records for recently discharged soldiers who may have been through sniper training, but neither the Pentagon nor police will comment on the claim.

Mystery truck

Police are urgently seeking information on a white box truck which witnesses reported seeing at the scene of more than one of the shootings.

The two photo-fit pictures which the FBI released show a flat-fronted white truck with a roll-up rear door.

There is a small dent on the truck's rear bumper and unidentified black or purple writing on the side.

The vehicle's license number is not known.

Chief Moose said that investigators were also compiling another composite image, this time of a white Astro van spotted near the scene of Friday's shooting at a petrol station, which will be released on Monday.


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The BBC's Emma Simpson
"Officers are watching and waiting for where the sniper may strike next"

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12 Oct 02 | Americas
12 Oct 02 | Americas
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