Area residents fearful, but going on with lives

Pat Lomp, 56, returned home to Bristow Wednesday night in time to see TV reports of the shooting of 53-year-old Dean Harold Meyer at the Sunoco gas station in Prince William County across from the Wal-Mart where she had been shopping.

“It felt odd, unsettling,” Lomp said.

Still, she was back at Wal-Mart along Va. 234 Thursday morning, because even though she worries that “no place is safe,” Lomp figures the sniper isn’t “coming back to the same place twice.”

In the shopping center parking lot across the street from where the shooting occurred, most people approached the day with a quietly determined attitude.

“If it’s my time, it’s my time,” said one middle aged woman who asked not to be identified.

“I’m very concerned about the man who was killed, but I’m not going to stop what I do,” said Sandy Dove, 60, of Manassas.

41-year-old Gelu Chira, who immigrated to the United States 12 years ago from Austria, believes that such violence is evidence there is too much liberty and too little respect for authority in the U.S.

“Some people take advantage of the excellent liberties here,” said Chira, now living in Chantilly. “We take so much for granted, we must change our way of thinking. Whatever we have, we have to protect.”

Chira said he appreciated seeing the authorities “taking action,” as he pointed to a pair of state police vehicles in the parking lot. Still, he added, his belief that they had “absolutely no leads” was “scary.”

Inside Wal-Mart, employees said a normal number of customers were shopping the store, and no one browsing the aisles seemed outwardly concerned.

At the gun counter in the hunting department, employee Allen King, 26, had an odd tale to tell. He related a story of an unknown customer who visited his counter about once a week over the past month to purchase .223 caliber shells.

“He was in here yesterday, between 2 and 4 [p.m.],” King said. “It made me think about it last night — just too much of a coincidence.”

The Washington D.C. area sniper, who was conclusively linked with ballistics tests to the Prince William killing Thursday evening, has used .223 shells.

King explained that .223 shells are a less common request. In fact, the customer Wednesday afternoon wasn’t able to buy any because another clerk couldn’t find them. King said ammunition sales at Wal-Mart are usually for shotguns or handguns.

“They’re mostly used for varmint hunting,” King said, “A lot of farmers have them.” King called a Prince William County Police officer with the information.

At the Manassas Farmer’s Market on Va. 28 in Old Town Manassas, flower vendor Andrea, 36, of Gainesville, who asked that her last name not be used, said that she and the other sellers “felt a little exposed” in their stalls early Thursday morning. As the morning passed, people started to arrive, generating “a need to share positive energy.”

“[The shootings] are so random and senseless it’s hard to feel concerned,” Andrea said. “I’m more fearful of what would drive a person to [shooting like that].”

In a vegetable stall next to Andrea’s flower stand, J.A. Christopher said his helper hadn’t come to market because of Wednesday night’s shooting.

“He called me about 10:30 last night and said he was afraid to come,” said Christopher, 65, of Westmoreland County. “My wife didn’t want me to come either.”

But, as Christopher and Andrea agreed with a wry laugh, the tangled traffic pattern of one-way streets surrounding the Farmer’s Market isn’t conducive to anyone requiring a quick getaway.

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