Police investigating another shooting in Md.

ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) — A man was shot in the chest in Montgomery County early Tuesday, and a police task force was investigating to see if it was connected to the serial sniper who has killed nine people and injured three others this month.

Police put a widespread dragnet into place immediately after the shooting, clogging traffic on Connecticut Ave., one of the main arteries into Washington, D.C. just as the morning commute began. Police helicopters began flying over the scene.

The shooting occurred near the site of six other sniper attacks.

The first report of the shooting came into 911 at about 6 a.m. EDT, said Rob Sauerhoff, a 911 supervisor for Montgomery County Police.

Montgomery County Fire Department spokesman Pete Piringer says units were dispatched for a reported shooting on a Ride-On bus. Piringer said he was under the impression that the victim was found on the bus.

Piringer said one adult male victim suffered a chest wound and was being airlifted via helicopter to a local trauma center. He would not disclose which hospital.

Police were setting up roadblocks on the street where the shooting occurred — just minutes from the border with Washington, D.C.

On Monday, the hunt for the Washington-area sniper turned into a case of high-stakes phone tag.

Police say they received a call about the shooting after the latest attack, but the call was muddled. Investigators took to the airwaves and pleaded with him to call them.

“The person you called could not hear everything you said. The audio was unclear and we want to get it right. Call us back so that we can clearly understand,” said Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose, who has been leading the hunt for the sniper who has killed nine and wounded three since Oct. 2.

Moose’s plea came hours after Virginia authorities surrounded a white van parked near an Exxon gas station just outside Richmond and seized two men. They said later the case was unconnected to the sniper.

With a Saturday night shooting at a steak restaurant in Ashland, some 15 miles from Richmond, now linked to the sniper, school officials in the Richmond area closed schools Tuesday for a second day.

Henrico County superintendent Mark Edwards said police information and parental concerns played equal roles in the decision.

Moose did not disclose who received the muddled phone call that riveted authorities’ attention, when it was made or other details.

But investigators believe the call may have come from the sniper and that the caller was the same person who left a note and phone number Saturday night at the scene of the latest shooting, a law enforcement source told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

On Sunday, Moose publicly pleaded with the note writer to call authorities.

Then in the first of two televised statements Monday, the chief said: “The message that needs to be delivered is that we are going to respond to a message that we have received. We are preparing our response at this time.”

Separate reports Tuesday shed more light on the message. The Los Angeles Times and Richmond Times-Dispatch said it contained a threat directed toward schools, which may have led authorities to cancel classes in the Richmond area. Several media outlets reported, that the killer demanded money.

The Los Angeles Times also reported Tuesday that unidentified federal agents said the letter was “very lengthy” and poorly worded, bordering on broken English.

The latest attack came Saturday night in a steakhouse parking lot in Ashland. The victim, a 37-year-old man, was felled by a single shot to the stomach.

He remained in critical but stable condition at a Richmond hospital Tuesday after doctors removed his spleen and parts of his pancreas and stomach. Surgeons retrieved the bullet after a second round of surgery Sunday, and ballistics tests linked the slug to the ambush killer.

The drama and arrests in suburban Richmond on Monday heightened anxieties in an area already tense since the sniper expanded his geographic reach farther from the Washington suburbs.

Witnesses said officers in bulletproof vests converged on the van and dragged out a man before slapping him in handcuffs. Authorities did not say how the second man was arrested.

Hours later, the lead fell apart. A Justice Department official said deportation proceedings had begun against the 24-year-old Mexican and 35-year-old Guatemalan.

Several newspapers reported Tuesday that the men apparently made the mistake of driving the white van up to a phone booth being watched by police. The phone booth had been traced to one that the letter writer had used.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the person who left the note at the steak house included the number of the Richmond pay phone and wrote he would call someone in law enforcement there.

Amid the day’s chaos, the sniper’s latest fatal victim was laid to rest.

FBI analyst Linda Franklin, 47, was killed Oct. 14 outside a Home Depot in Falls Church, Va., while loading packages with her husband. Franklin had survived breast cancer and was awaiting the birth of her first grandson.

“Whoever this perpetrator is has surrendered himself to darkness and evil,” minister Larry Tingle told about 200 mourners at Mount Olivet United Methodist Church in Arlington, Va.

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