Some area parents say fear for their children increased when they heard the statement, presumably from the sniper, declaring that children are “not safe anywhere at any time.”
Montgomery County, Md., police Chief Charles A. Moose recently read the chilling words at a press conference and said the message was a postscript to a letter police found at the scene of the sniper’s Saturday night shooting in Ashland.
Other parents said the warning was simply a reiteration, since the sniper has already shown a lack of compunction at shooting children.
“He already proved that he was not incapable of targeting kids when he shot that middle school student,” Cindy Thomas, a Lake Ridge mother, said a as she met her children at their bus stop.
Among the sniper’s victims was a 13-year-old boy wounded as he was dropped off at school in Bowie, Md. on Oct. 7.
Thomas and the other mothers at the bus stop said their neighborhood’s distance from the interstate and local roads that are perpetually traffic-laden increase their sense of safety.
All of the sniper attacks have been near easy access to major thoroughfares.
The mothers said they allow their children to play outside after classes and prefer that their children ride the bus to school.
“I feel better putting them on the bus. It lets them out right there at the front of the school,” Thomas said.
“And the bus acts as a barrier,” said Joanna Palkovitz, who was meeting her daughter.
The children said restrictions at school bother them more than fear of the sniper.
They don’t like being kept inside all day and look forward to having recess again.
“We always have to sit inside and watch movies,” Sarah Thomas, 10 said.
“We always have to sit inside and watch boring movies,” Rachel Palkovitz, 9, said.
Paula and Kathy, two mothers from McLean who preferred not to give their last names, said the threat made them reconsider an outing with their boys to a local skate park and increased their fear for their children’s safety.
“We had this day planned and we had to think again about coming to a kid-oriented facility,” Kathy, 41, said.
Even though they decided not to deprive their sons of the afternoon trip, the women said they took precautions when they arrived at the mall.
“We dropped our kids off at the door and made them go inside first,” Kathy said.
Paula said she thinks the sniper sent the message because he intends to shoot another child.
“I just think most of the people he has shot to date have been adults,” Paula, 45, said. “He’s basically saying he’s going to hit a kid again.”
“I think he wants the money and mentioning kids will make them [the authorities] ante up,” Paula said.
The women said the recent killings have not initiated a yearning to pick up their children and move somewhere else.
“I don’t have any guarantees that any place else is going to be safer,” Paula said. “There are crazy people everywhere. We just happen to have one here … now.”
Sara Gillespie said she doesn’t worry more since Moose released the warning, since the sniper has already killed indiscriminately.
“I don’t really take that seriously because nobody is really safe at any time or any place anyway,” Gillespie, 17, said.
Staff writer Keith Walker can be reached at (703) 878-8063.