Sniper probe heads west

Area police Wednesday made pleas for witnesses to come forward with any information about the elusive serial sniper, and issued an arrest warrant for a 42-year-old man they believe has information.

Police also confirmed that Maryland bus driver Conrad Johnson, 35, was the 10th victim killed by the sniper since he began his deadly hunt Oct. 2.

The killing Tuesday was linked by ballistic evidence, as well as other evidence, said Special Agent Mike Bouchard of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The sniper has shot three others who have survived.

Police issued an arrest warrant Wednesday for John Allen Mohammed, whom they believe has information about the shootings.

Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose said Mohammed should be considered ”armed and dangerous” and that he was being sought on a federal weapons charge.

”Do not assume from this allegation that John Allen Mohammed, also known as John Allen Williams, is involved in any of the shootings,” Moose said.

Sgt. Kim Chinn, Prince William police spokeswoman, made a nationally televised request for witnesses near the scene of the Oct. 9 shooting of Dean Harold Meyers to call the nation-wide tip-line and tell authorities they were calling in reference to the Manassas killing.

Tip-line personnel will then direct witnesses to the appropriate people.

Chinn’s plea came during a noon press conference at Montgomery County, Md., police headquarters

“We think that there might be more people in the area at the time than we’ve heard from,” Chinn said in a Wednesday telephone interview. “So we just wanted to make sure that we were getting all the information we could get.”

Chinn said people should call if they were in the area that night, even if they don’t believe their information is worth anything.

Meyers, 53, of Gaithersburg, Md., was felled by the serial killer at a Sunoco gas station off Sudley Road near Manassas just after 8 p.m. He was the sniper’s seventh victim.

Prince William County detectives and other law enforcement personnel would like to speak with those people and urged them to call.

Moose made a similar plea. Police in his jurisdiction also believe there are more witnesses to Tuesday’s shooting of Johnson, a bus driver, he said.

Police believe some of those witnesses may not have come forward because of their immigration status. He said those people should rest assured knowing that status is not the primary concern of the sniper task force.

Moose said he has no authority to arrest or deport illegal aliens for immigration related offenses.

Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner James Ziglar said in a Wednesday press release that “a special visa status is available to people who assist law enforcement in combating and solving crime.”

He said undocumented aliens who come forward to police will not be pursued by the INS.

The plea comes just days after two illegal immigrants arrested and questioned in connection with the serial shootings were turned over to the INS for deportation.

Gov. Mark Warner, who was in Manassas for the dedication of the new cupola on the city hall, had earlier in the day participated in a conference call with leaders of communities along the Interstate 95 corridor.

He expressed full confidence in the ability of law enforcement officials to solve the case. The National Guard is not an option right now, he said.

Moose also issued a direct message to the sniper at Wednesday night’s briefing:

”Let’s talk directly. We have an answer for you about your option. We are waiting for you to contact us.”

A U.S. official in Washington said authorities were looking for two ”people of interest,” including one who was formerly connected to Fort Lewis, an Army base south of Tacoma, Wash., that provides some of the most intense sniper training in the U.S. military.

Moose made no mention of a second person.

In Maryland, officials are considering putting National Guard troops at polling places if the sniper has not been captured by Election Day, Nov. 5.

“We are committing all available resources from the state to the case. I know local law enforcement has been working 24-7. The federal government has been a strong partner in this effort. I’m confident we’re going to see a successful conclusion,” Warner said.

On Wednesday area students went to school after learning the killer wrote “Your children are not safe anywhere at anytime,” in a letter left at the scene of the Saturday night shooting in Ashland that wounded a 37-year-old man.

Moose said no one is safe from the ghost-like killer, who has been able to shoot and slip away, unnoticed and unscathed.

“We realize that the person or the people involved in this have shown a clear willingness and ability to kill people of all ages, all races, all genders, all professions, different times, different days and different locations,” Moose said Tuesday.

According to police, the option to publicly release a copy of the post script at the end of the letter was being considered, so that someone could recognize the handwriting, although no decision has been made yet.

The task force’s nation-wide tip-line is 1-888-324-9800.

Staff writer Chris Newmarker contributed to this report. Staff writer Daniel Drew can be reached at (703) 878-8065.