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Friday, 25 October, 2002, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Prosecutors prepare sniper charges
John Allen Muhammad
Mr Muhammad served in the Gulf War
Washington area prosecutors are due to meet to discuss filing charges against two men arrested in connection with the sniper attacks that left 10 people dead and another three critically injured.

John Allen Muhammad, 41, and 17-year-old John Lee Malvo were captured at a Maryland rest stop where police found them asleep in their car.

This investigation is not done and the work will continue until we can assure that it is complete

Charles Moose, Montgomery County Police Chief

Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose, who headed the sniper task force, said prosecutors from the seven jurisdictions where the shootings occurred will meet on Friday to discuss filing charges and jurisdictional issues.

Maryland has a moritorium on the death penalty, but Virginia is the state with the second-most executions in the country, after Texas.

The younger man could also face the death penalty if tried in Virginia, as the minimum age for execution there is 16.

Federal charge

Mr Muhammad, a Gulf War veteran, was being held without bail in a maximum security facility in Baltimore after an appearance in federal court on an unrelated federal firearms charge.
John Allen Muhammad
John Allen Muhammad faces a weapons charge

His next court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday.

Details surrounding proceedings against Jamaican citizen John Lee Malvo were unclear, as his status as a juvenile means that his federal court proceedings are closed.

Mr Muhammad had reportedly had a relationship with Mr Malvo's mother, and treated the youth like a stepson.

Mr Malvo was being held as a material witness, pending charges, in the federal case against Mr Muhammad, which stems from a two-year-old court order blocking him from harassing or using force against his wife and children.

The firearms charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Relief

Residents of the Washington metropolitan region are "breathing a collective sigh of relief", according to Montgomery County Executive, Doug Duncan, head of the Maryland community where six of the murders occurred.


The weapon seized from the vehicle occupied by Muhammad has been forensically determined to be the murder weapon

FBI Special Agent Mike Bouchard
Ballistics tests have matched a rifle found in the car of two men arrested in connection with the Washington sniper attacks with the weapon used in the attacks from 2 October, the FBI has said.

"We have the weapon, it is off the street," Mr Moose told a news conference.

Police say they now feel "very positive" that the hunt for the gunman who terrorised the US capital and its suburbs is over.

Federal officials said the firearms offence charge was a way to detain Mr Muhammad while more evidence was sought in the case of the gunman who managed to kill and escape without alerting witnesses.

Former soldier

Mr Muhammad is an "expert" rifle marksmen who served in the army for 10 years, according to the US Department of Defense. He was deployed during the Gulf War and left the army with the rank of sergeant.

An aerial view of the highway rest stop
The men were found sleeping in their car
He is also known to be a convert to Islam.

The arrests came only hours after warrants were issued and a nationwide hunt was launched for the two men.

The swoop was prompted by an emergency call from a motorist who spotted the car which matched a police description.

FBI agents searched a house in Tacoma, Washington state, 3,200 kilometres (2,000 miles) from the capital, taking away a tree stump which may have been used for target practice.

Mr Muhammad served in the army at the Fort Lewis base near Tacoma and is believed to have lived in the house.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's David Willis
"People no longer need to look over their shoulder"
Bellingham Police Chief Randy Carroll
"It appears they have acted on their own"

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23 Oct 02 | Americas
23 Oct 02 | Americas
22 Oct 02 | Americas
25 Oct 02 | Americas
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