Sniper strikes again

An apparent 10th sniper shooting at the Four Mile Fork Exxon in Spotsylvania County just south of Fredericksburg left a man dead Friday morning, one week after the sniper first struck in the Fredericksburg area and 10 days after the shooting spree began.

The 53-year-old black man was pronounced dead at Fredericksburg’s Mary Washington Hospital after being transported there by paramedics following the 9:30 a.m. shooting.

Spotsylvania County Sheriff Howard Smith would not release the victim’s name.


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Smith would not confirm whether the man was felled by the sniper until getting the results from ballistics tests conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Special Agent Harold Scott of the ATF said in a Friday afternoon press conference that evidence had been sent to ATF’s lab and would be given highest priority. Authorities do not know when ballistics test results will be available.

Smith would not comment on the nature of any evidence at the scene, including surveillance videos. He did say evidence had been recovered.

There were also several witnesses who police and federal agents believe are credible, but Smith said nothing they said would be made public. He would not say whether the people witnessed the shooting.

A Virginia state trooper working a routine accident across the street heard the shot, but did not see a white van or the shooter. Smith said the trooper rushed over to the victim of the shooting.

Police said a white panel van matching the description of a vehicle seen at two other shooting scenes was spotted by witnesses to the Four Mile Fork shooting. It was apparently bumping into other cars on the highway as it fled. Police do not know if that van belonged to the shooter. The van driver was never caught.

State police and several area jurisdictions working near or on interstates 95, 66, 495, 395, U.S. 1 and other major arteries in and around Washington, D.C., have been stopping and searching white panel vans at gunpoint.

State Police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said police were looking for a Chevrolet Astro van with ladder racks on the top. Traffic stops deadlocked cars on those roads for hours Friday. State police set up some roadblocks on I-95 and U.S. 1 and were checking cars as they drove through.

Federal agents and police in Spotsylvania closed U.S. 1 and the parking lot to a Ramada Inn across the street from where the victim was hit. They searched for evidence, standing side by side, looking for anything on the ground that could be a clue. They searched with bloodhounds and other dogs around the road running between the Ramada Inn and Exxon and in their parking lots.

Large areas of the Ramada Inn parking lot were taped off, as was a significant area near the Exxon station and a field adjacent to it.

FBI agents, including Terrorism Task Force and Evidence Response Team members, ATF and Secret Service agents accompanied by U.S. Marshals, Virginia State Police, Spotsylvania and Stafford County Sheriff’s deputies and Montgomery County Task Force members were all on the scene investigating the case.

The shooting came less than 38 hours after a Gaithersburg, Md., man was shot at a Sunoco gas station near Manassas. Every shooting thus far has occurred near a major intersection.

Authorities believe the shooter flees on major highways before police can arrive at scene.

One person was killed Oct. 2 and five were killed Oct. 3 in Montgomery County, Md. A woman was shot in the back Oct. 4 outside a Michaels Arts and Crafts store in Fredericksburg as she loaded bags into her van. She was released from the hospital Tuesday. A 13-year-old boy was shot and critically wounded as his aunt walked him into school Monday morning.

If connected to the serial sniper, Friday’s murder would bring the death count to eight.

Anyone with information is asked to call the tip line manned by FBI agents at 1 (888) 324-9800. Anyone who sees a “suspicious” white panel van with a ladder rack on top is asked to dial #77, which will connect the caller with the local state police barracks, where the information will be forwarded to troopers.

Manassas Crime Solvers’ confidential tip-line can be reached at (703) 330-0330. Prince William’s tip-line is (703) 670-3700.

Staff writer Daniel Drew can be reached at (703) 878-8065.

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