Catching Killers (2021) s03e04 Episode Script

Trained to Kill: The DC Sniper

Oh my God.
A man is dead on Aspen Hill Road.
- What? Ma'am?
- Oh my God. This is
Ma'am, listen to me!
What is wrong?
A man has been killed
in front of me.
We have one down.
There's blood all over. I'm at the Mobil
This was not a static scene.
It certainly wasn't secure.
So I went to my trunk
and put on a ballistic vest.
If there's a shooter out here, you know,
we can't do our job if we get shot.
And then chaos erupted, literally.
Montgomery County.
Somebody's been shot
on our back lot.
We need an ambulance
at the corner of Mills and Connecticut.
Got blood coming
out of her nose and her mouth.
There was that feeling.
Not so much, "When's it gonna stop?"
but, "Where's next?"
We're not sure if he was shot.
We had a lady shot
in our parking lot.
Oh, I'm scared.
I thought, "Oh boy.
This is just gonna be hell."
Good mornin'.
I'm Terry Ryan, a retired police detective
from Montgomery County, Maryland.
My father was in television.
He was in station management
for one of the local broadcast facilities.
And, um, he would go out to crime scenes.
And he would often bring me along.
I have early memories,
maybe ten years old, hoppin' in the car
and drivin' to a a nearby event.
My buddies
thought it was a little goofy.
That was kinda my introduction
to homicide investigation.
I was assigned
to the department's major crimes division.
I was in the homicides section there,
um, when these events began to occur.
And it was anything but a normal morning.
At the corner of Aspen Hill Road,
which runs in and out of Washington, D.C.,
out to the suburbs.
It was our rush hour, still, that morning.
There were several patrol officers
already present.
They had established a perimeter
with crime scene tape.
And also were interviewing
folks that were standin' by.
A bang was heard by a lady who was
also getting gas at an adjacent gas pump.
She heard the victim say,
"I've been shot," as he dropped.
No one sees anyone running.
A person, a speeding vehicle.
Nothing to suggest
what might have occurred.
We had a general idea where the shot
may have come from, directionally,
but you don't know
if it came, at that point,
from a moving vehicle passing by
or from the shopping center
across the street.
I was lookin' for the projectile.
Or a shell casing.
And we didn't find anything.
My supervisor at the time,
uh, was Sergeant Roger Thomson.
He ran the crew I was assigned to.
Or squad.
Roger's the best supervisor
you could imagine having.
You need to
- We did that already.
- You did that already?
Basically, I grew up
in Montgomery County, Maryland.
I went to school there,
went to high school there.
And then I worked there,
uh, for the rest of my career.
I was a police officer for 30 years.
I was a detective for 20 years.
And I really enjoyed
being able to put the pieces together
to try to figure out the puzzle.
When I got to the Mobil station,
and Terry Ryan is tellin' me
what has happened at the scene.
And then I received a phone call
to tell me that we had another shooting.
This woman was shot while she was sitting
on a bench in front of a fast food store.
Just a mile or so away.
So I have two different crime scenes
within a matter of minutes.
Highly unusual.
We don't have that many homicides
in Montgomery County.
I'm thinkin' about, who else can I send?
Because I've run out of people
to send to the, uh to the crime scene.
I was on a cell phone,
talking with the commanders,
talking with the
the people at both scenes.
And then I receive a phone call
from an investigator
who's down at the hospital
to update me that a possible accident
that he's on is actually a shooting.
The victim was mowin' a lawn,
and he was shot in broad daylight.
Just like the other people.
So, now we have three murder victims.
And we had no eyewitnesses
as to where this, uh, shooter was.
We got a problem.
What the hell's really goin' on?
We're all faced with somethin'
we hadn't dealt with before.
I was somewhat fearful of, uh,
maybe getting shot while I was there.
I didn't know
where the shooting was coming from.
Roger had kinda seen it all.
But I could sense just from his eyes
he had a different vibe goin' on.
Each supervisor
up the chain of command,
they're all comin' at Roger.
"What do you know?"
And he's kinda in a situation
he hasn't been in too often.
There's very little to tell.
We have no witnesses.
Everybody heard the gun going off,
but nobody saw it.
Your adrenaline's goin' all the time.
And tryin' to keep your adrenaline
from from taking over.
You're trying to keep from
losing your mind, basically.
He's got it. Go handheld, Doug.
Now we have a steady stream
of reporters, cameramen coming down.
Take a look behind me.
This is the gas station,
the Mobil gas station.
Where the shooting happened
We're trying to keep them away from
these crime scenes, but it's difficult
because you don't have
enough personnel to do that.
Breaking news right now.
Investigators continue to
to link three shootings
in Montgomery County.
A man pumping gas,
a woman sitting at a bench
There were more news reporters
and cameramen
than there were police officers.
And honestly,
it made it a little more difficult
for us to do our job.
In Montgomery County,
the shooter remains
out there on the loose.
It was tough to talk to your colleagues
because the media, law enforcement
all used the same wireless carrier
at the time.
And there was just so much radio traffic.
911, what's your emergency?
Yeah. We need an ambulance
at the corner of Mills and Connecticut.
Here we go again.
There's been another shooting
at a gas station a few miles away.
I called my mother
because she frequented that gas station.
And I told her not to go outside
and not to go to any stores in the area.
"Just don't leave the house."
Roger approached me and and said,
"I hate to do this to you,
but, um there's another event."
"We gotta get somebody down there.
Will you go?"
It was an incident involvin'
a young woman in her 20s. A mother.
Ms. Rivera was vacuuming her van,
which was parked just beyond here
at a coin vacuum that's still here.
Mr. Rivera, uh,
Lori Ann's husband, was contacted.
Uh, he came to the scene.
I had to notify him of his wife's death.
I could just see the emotion.
I mean, he was grieving, himself.
He said, "What do I tell my kid?"
I'm sorry. It's just, you know. It's
Just take your time.
I'm good. I'm good.
I was glad I got to the office
because I could sit down
and try to get things pieced together.
I'd be able to take
all the information I had
and try to make
some kind of sense out of it.
We get information from the night shift
about another shooting
that happened the night before.
Right around 6:00 p.m., um,
Mr. Martin was shot at a shopping center.
And of course, once again, there were
no eyewitnesses to the shooting. None.
I know that I have five shootings.
The night before,
Mr. Martin was shot.
The following morning,
the very first shooting was Mr. Buchanan.
Witnesses heard a loud bang.
They thought his lawnmower had exploded
and hit him.
I've got Walekar shot
at the Mobil station.
Sarah Ramos is shot at the shopping center
just north of where Mr. Walekar was shot.
Then poor Rivera was shot
at the Shell station.
Generally, there's some kind
of connection between a victim
and the suspect.
Do they all work at the same place?
Do they all live in the same place?
Did they all have a confrontation
with just the one person
who's the shooter?
So you have to go
and talk to the victim's family
to see whether or not
there is some kind of connection.
'Cause that's what your main goal is
as a detective.
You're trying to get
those pieces together like a puzzle.
We're tryin' to gather
a lot of information,
and my commander told me
that he was gonna be
in charge of the investigation.
The FBI was involved.
ATF was involved.
And so it was somewhat of a relief
that all this pressure
was reduced
and was going to somebody else.
Let's start on October 3rd,
and we can pick some
of the earlier stuff up later.
My brain doesn't go backwards.
It's just forward.
It's all compartmentalized.
My name is Michael Bouchard.
I was the special agent in charge
of the Baltimore Field Division.
Um, Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
One of my duties as
the agent in charge of the field division
was to deal with the media.
When I first arrived,
I'd say there were probably 50
to 60 media people,
all stationed outside police headquarters.
I certainly didn't look forward
to doing it,
particularly under these type
of circumstances.
But you're in the D.C. area.
It's the fishbowl.
Whatever you do here,
people are always looking in.
Agent, which agency has
operational command of this investigation?
So, they were askin'
a lot of questions.
None of this
not dealt
We didn't have many witness statements,
and we didn't really know
exactly what we were looking for.
So there was not much
to release to the press.
I can't respond to that question.
I'm sorry.
Agent Bouchard
Thank you.
The most significant evidence
that we had were the ballistics.
The bullet that was taken
from each of the victims.
These projectiles were taken
to the ATF Laboratory.
A mile or two from police headquarters.
And I was confident with Walter Dandridge,
who worked, uh, in our laboratory.
He was
a top-notch forensics examiner.
Probably one of the best in the country.
I do remember Mike Bouchard.
He's one of those bigwigs
that we low-level government workers
don't come in contact with so often.
He's just a humble guy.
Just does his job, grinds away.
Solves a lot of good cases.
This was an ongoing situation.
The pressure was building,
and they wanted answers immediately.
The first projectile
and fragments that I received,
I determined that
it was fired from a rifle.
It was a caliber .223,
Remington projectile.
Each projectile fired
from a single firearm
will leave the same individual marks.
I was able to determine that
each one of the shootings the first day
were fired by the same firearm.
This was a big break for us.
Because once we knew
a rifle was being used
in those Montgomery County shootings,
we felt we were dealing with a sniper.
Meaning someone shooting
from a long distance,
and you can't see
where they're shooting from.
That meant that the shots were being
taken from a good distance away.
You know, probably more
than 50 to 100 feet, if not more.
And so, the detectives
expanded the search area.
We're looking for, uh, witnesses.
At the Mobil station, uh,
there was, uh a witness
that had seen a white box truck
across the street.
The witnesses at the Sarah Ramos shooting,
they saw a white box truck
leave the area rapidly.
Maybe the reason
why this gunshot is so loud
is because it's reverberating
from the back of the white box truck.
Maybe the person is lifting the gate,
takin' a shot, and then closing the gate.
So that's why we don't have any, uh,
eyewitnesses who actually saw the suspect.
By the end of that first day,
we were all pretty much worn out.
I know I personally thought,
"I just hope this is over."
You know, "We can solve
what already occurred."
It was in the evening.
We get a phone call.
Another shooting took place
in Washington, D.C.
Just over the Washington, D.C., line
with Montgomery County.
He wasn't robbed. Nobody saw anybody.
It was surreal.
Uh, how could this still be happening,
um, and what is the connection?
In little more than a day,
six bullets, six murders.
The next day, the media had begun
to, uh, almost camp out.
Not just out on the street,
in front of police headquarters.
They were in our parking lot.
They're approaching us
as we walk out our door.
He will hold another press briefing here
at six o'clock tonight.
Perhaps he'll have more information.
You can't explain what happened.
We couldn't explain it.
Not at that point.
The media had this all over
television, radio, uh, the print media.
And a decision is made
with the police chief
to put out to the public that we were
seeking somebody in a white box truck.
It's a Ford Econovan.
We knew we couldn't solve this case
without the media.
The public, they were our eyes and ears.
Please take a look at these.
And if you know anybody
that drives one of these vehicles
Keep this
in the back of your mind.
If you saw something like this, call us.
If you should see
something in the future, call us.
White delivery trucks
are being stopped and examined
We started to receive
a lot of phone calls.
They saw a white box truck
at this intersection.
They saw a white box truck
at that intersection.
These are all in shopping centers
and gas stations.
But no information that connected
any driver with any of our shootings.
911. What's your emergency?
We've had a lady shot
in our parking lot.
- Is she breathing?
- I do not know.
The shooting
of Caroline Seawell
in Spotsylvania County, Virginia,
changed the scope
of this investigation significantly.
Now we had
different jurisdictions involved.
The speculation is that the shooter,
or shooters, are now going mobile.
And are gonna target people
in different areas.
What's the motive here?
Because they appeared
to be random shootings,
how do you stay one step ahead and try
and figure out where they might go next?
Till we find out what the motive is, um,
we're gonna have
a tough time solving this case.
So, we decided to expand the task force.
A little bit closer.
Takin' my nose?
April Carol interview.
Take two. Mark.
I was home and my phone rang,
and my supervisor said,
"Are you sitting down?"
And I said, "Sure, what's up?"
And she said, "I have to assign you
to the sniper case."
My family and I
had just moved to Washington, D.C.
This was the first and only time
I'd had a woman as a supervisor,
who also was a mom, and she said to me,
"Are you sure you can do this?"
"I know you have your kids
and you're just getting settled."
And I said that I had just found a nanny
and that we would make it work.
"Put me in, coach. I'm I'm ready."
I'm home, having breakfast
and coffee, getting ready to go to work.
Breaking news.
A 13-year-old boy
is in critical condition. Hundreds
It was just this overwhelming,
sickening feeling like, "Oh my God."
for a sharpshooter
A kid was now shot,
completely innocent, at school.
It's stepping over the line,
shooting a kid.
I guess it's getting to be
really, really personal now.
It just really hit home for me,
the fact that,
being the mother of three boys,
and realizing schools really weren't safe.
Could this happen to my kid?
It solidified in my mind
that the shooter realized
the type of fear that they were creating
throughout the area.
That people were scared to death
and that they wanted to take it
to a new level by shooting a child.
And see what the reaction
of the public would be.
After the Iran Brown shooting,
the level of emotional commitment
and intensity was at an all-time high.
You don't want to go off shift.
You don't want to take a break.
This case is full-time,
24/7, until they're caught.
If you have any information
about this case,
you are urged to call the tip line.
The number is 240
So as soon as we put the number out there,
it just lit off a firestorm of calls.
We had 100 phones
with 100 employees,
from all the agencies,
taking those tips and putting them
into the system for processing.
My job was to go through the tips
and decide, based on things
we've learned to date,
which were priority leads.
And that was a lot of pressure
because you didn't wanna miss anything.
I didn't know what I was looking for.
And quite frankly, it's a lot of instinct.
In a serial case,
it had been my experience
that the subjects attend
the press conferences.
They come back to the scene of the crime.
They watch law enforcement
doing what they're doing.
And so, we would play back the video
of that press conference,
looking for anyone acting suspiciously.
We were all very aware
that the killer could be among us.
A person was seen in the video
after the press conference,
walking up to the podium
and just rifling through
the papers Chief Moose had left behind.
And we thought that was super odd.
He was the number one suspect
at that time.
And so we needed to look for this man.
I was driving to work the next day,
and I am at a light.
And I look over now, and I see
a person that I feel like I know.
And then the brain
was quickly processing that,
and I remembered the photo.
I'm looking at the photo,
and I'm looking at the car, and
It was definitely him.
This could be the sniper,
right here next to me.
I have to do something.
Okay, what do I do now?
I can't make a vehicle stop right here.
There's way too many cars
and way too many people.
And I followed him
into a business complex, and he parked.
If I went in by myself,
I could miss him
and then potentially lose the car as well.
So I made a phone call
and got my supervisor
from the task force, uh, rolling,
along with some backup,
and we were able
to take this man into custody.
We could have him now.
This could be it.
We could actually have caught the killer.
One thing I remember
during the questioning
was the look on his face
when it became apparent to him
that he was a suspect in the shootings.
"Wait, what? You think that was me?
You think this is me? No."
What he said to us
was he was just infatuated with the case.
I have seen
genuine innocent people's reaction
versus guilty people's reactions,
and, you know,
I kinda threw my hands up like,
"Yeah, this this knucklehead's
wrong place, wrong time."
We did check alibis.
We talked to his wife.
There were a number of things that just,
within minutes,
came together to rule him out.
Damn, you know, if it just was him,
we'd caught him and we can move forward
and people are safe again.
The shooter whom police call
an elusive serial sniper
is terrorizing this Washington region.
Any time there was another shooting
our heart sunk that,
you know, a sense of failure
that we haven't stopped these killers.
We would have liked
to have solved this by now, but it's
People were just terrified.
that we're trying our best.
School sports stopped.
School recesses stopped.
Ten people have been shot,
eight are dead,
as a sniper terrorizes
the Washington area.
The latest victim,
53-year-old Kenneth Bridges.
We had no idea, uh,
where they were gonna be next.
Like tryin' to hold
a pile of sand in your hand.
It just keeps goin' out because you
you can't grasp it
and and do something with it.
I'm sitting at
the investigative table, looking at leads,
and the agent that's sitting next to me
gets a call on his cell phone
from another agent who's
at a Home Depot in Falls Church,
in the store, and heard gunshots.
My husband was off,
and with my three boys,
and were gonna be going
to a Home Depot that day.
The panic, personally,
when I heard "Home Depot in Virginia,"
and I didn't know where they were
was swirling as I was driving there.
Fortunately, they called
and said, "We're home, we're good."
And I said, "That's all I needed to know.
I'll call you later."
I'm arriving at the scene,
and I'm walking through,
now, this massive parking lot
towards our command site.
And my personal phone rings.
I saw that it was my dad in Los Angeles,
and I said, you know,
"Hey, Dad. I'm fine. Everything's good."
"But I can't really talk right now."
And he goes, "I know you can't talk."
"I'm watching you walk
across a parking lot at a crime scene."
Another woman was dead.
Almost certainly, police said,
at the hands
He was panicked
that if he could see me on the news,
that the suspects could see me too
and that I could be shot.
And it sent my head spinning.
I remember putting the phone back
in my pocket, thinking he was right,
and we were just
out in the open for a shot.
I could never shut it off,
try as I might.
I had no idea,
when I was assigned to this case,
the level of intensity,
and anxiety and stress
that would accompany it.
It's Saturday night.
My wife and I had dinner
for the first time together
probably in about a week and a half.
We just caught up on things
that were goin' on with our children.
And I got interrupted
with a phone call
that another shooting
had taken place in Ashland, Virginia.
And they had some forensic evidence
that might help us solve the case.
I told my wife, you know,
I was gonna have to go to work.
She took it like a trooper.
I won't say what she really said, but
Anyone who's married knows.
Jeffrey Hopper.
He had some significant injuries.
But fortunately survived.
He and his wife were traveling down I-95,
stopped for dinner,
when his wife heard a shot ring out.
She thought
it came from a wooded area.
Crime scene technicians found a note
tacked to a tree in a plastic Ziploc bag.
Yeah, I can read it.
"For you, Mr. Police.
Call me God. Do not release to the press."
"If stopping the killing is more
important than catching us now,
then you'll accept our demands,
which are nonnegotiable."
The demand was
that we place ten million dollars
in a Bank of America account
with an ATM card.
"We have tried to contact you
to start negotiations,
without any response."
This was a big break in the case.
Let's look back
to when they might have called,
see if we can find out
anything additional.
He had contacted Officer Derick
who worked in our media section,
and told Officer Derick
they were involved in a shooting
and robbery and murder
that occurred in Alabama.
Initially, the investigators thought
it didn't seem like it was connected.
The shooting happened many miles away,
about a month before, uh,
everything started in Montgomery County.
But you could just take a lead like that
and give it to an FBI agent in Alabama,
and they could look up the information.
So, two people
were leaving a business,
and a person went up to them
and shot them,
stole the proceeds from that business,
and took off running.
But the suspect was carrying
a Shooters magazine.
While he was running,
he dropped that magazine.
We talked to the detective about
evidence obtained from that crime scene,
and he said, "We received fingerprints
from the catalog."
They ran it through
the Alabama state identification system
and did not get a hit.
And so, we reran that fingerprint through
the national database, and it got a hit.
The fingerprints came back
to a 17-year-old named Lee Boyd Malvo.
This is an aha moment. This is an OMG.
You know, "We've got something here."
He appeared to be an immigrant
from the West Indies,
and he had been detained,
coming across the border
from Canada into the States,
and was fingerprinted at the time.
They asked Malvo who he was with,
and he said he was with an older man.
That person had legitimate paperwork,
and that his name was John Allen Muhammad.
I was involved with running the files
on everything that
we could possibly know about Muhammad.
He served in the army
under the name John Allen Williams.
He was under a restraining order
that had been filed by his ex-wife
to prevent him from seeing their children
because he had kidnapped them
for a significant period of time.
I absolutely felt, from that moment,
that we were onto the right guys
and we were gonna get 'em.
That was one of the highest points
that people had over those three weeks,
that, you know,
we think we're on to solvin' this thing.
We were running records
in Virginia and D.C.
Any national databases that we could
about Muhammad.
And the one we keyed on the most
was a vehicle that was registered
to John Allen Muhammad.
It was a blue Chevy Caprice,
purchased in New Jersey.
We had a license plate.
We had a name. Two names.
The biggest thing in all of our minds is,
"What are we gonna do with all this
when we don't know where they are yet?"
And, "Please let us get them
before the next killing."
Some bus driver's been shot
at Oxen Hill.
Oh, I'm scared. Please send some help.
Please. I'm on the bus.
You're so close
but then you're not.
We have another victim.
I think we probably felt
the most pressure after that shooting.
You know, "Move fast.
Move fast. Get through this."
"Let's take the pieces that are important
and get 'em done so we can find 'em."
A federal arrest warrant
has been
I was working the night shift,
and it was
on the TV that was, uh, in our office.
We've also learned the vehicle
that they're looking for
is a burgundy or blue Chevy sedan.
I was surprised to hear
that we were looking for a blue Caprice.
'Cause we had so many leads
about white box trucks.
I'm getting ready to leave
the task force office,
and a supervisor from the tactical unit
he stops me and says, "Don't leave."
"I think they found the car."
He's communicating with state police.
The car that we're looking for
has been spotted
in Washington County at a rest stop.
They believe it's occupied.
They can't tell it's occupied
because it has dark windows.
So I left the task force office. Quickly.
We don't want the media
to follow us up there,
so I don't have my red light siren on.
We were all gonna meet the state police
right near the rest stop.
I was hopin' and prayin' that, uh, we had
the right car and we had the right people.
And we were gonna find evidence in the car
that was gonna link them
to the shootings that we had.
We finally get to the, uh, staging area.
I talk with the captain
who's in charge of the state police there.
He tells us the SWAT team
has already arrived.
To go in the wooded area
to approach the car,
and we're just to to wait.
We're just anxiously awaiting
confirmation that we had them.
And hopefully, nobody gets injured
during the the takedown.
Eighteen seconds.
A lot of things
go through your mind.
You have a lot of adrenaline going.
And then I get a call.
The tactical team
busted out the two windows
on either side of the car.
Pulled both of them out.
I see the two suspects,
Muhammad and Malvo,
and they purposefully put them
in separate locations
on both sides of the car.
So they couldn't talk
or communicate with each other.
Broken glass everywhere.
An initial search was made.
And there was a hole in the trunk.
And you could crawl into the back
and take the shot.
And as soon as the back seat is pulled up,
you can see the rifle there.
It was like, "It's over."
Tell us what you think
of Chief Moose.
We love him!
We walked out the door,
and there's all,
you know, people cheering,
uh, kids with signs.
You know,
we're all, like, taken aback.
Trying to be focused.
"Here's what we're gonna say."
Thank you, Chief.
Sorry to keep everyone waiting tonight.
That was the one day that the media
didn't have a lot of questions.
Um, they were just happy to hear
what we had to say.
October 3rd, Prem Kumar Walekar
in Montgomery County.
October 3rd, Sarah Ramos
in Montgomery County.
And he started naming all the victims,
and I had tears flowing.
And it was just that relief, um,
the exhaustion finally coming through.
And our thoughts and prayers go out to all
the victims of these shootings. Thank you.
My kids were watching the press conference
and looking from the TV to me,
and looking to the TV, to me.
And they're like,
"Wait, Mom. They you caught him."
"Why are you crying?"
And they're like,
"Wait. We can have recess now."
And they're jumpin' up and down,
high-fivin' each other.
And they stopped and looked at me
and said, "Right, Mom?"
And I said,
"Yeah, you can have recess now."
It was the joy
coupled with all of the emotion.
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