Cities seek federal dollars in sniper investigation

They secured the schools, stepped up patrols on the streets and waited, hoping that the sniper shootings terrorizing the region would not come here.

The law enforcement response to the sniper shootings in September and October was nothing less than “monumental,” says Manassas Police Chief John Skinner.

“It was clearly the largest regionally coordinated local, state and federal effort I’ve ever been involved in, hands down,” he said.

The goal was to protect residents and catch those responsible for a month- and a-half shooting spree that left nine people dead and four wounded in the Washington area.

And even in Manassas and Manassas Park, extra money had to be spent to cover the additional overtime and manpower. In Manassas, the amount came to a little more than $23,000. In Manassas Park, it was about $5,000.

Prince William County spent $426,000.

In the end, Manassas and Manassas Park avoided the sniper’s sights, though the shooting of Dean Harold Meyers on Oct. 8, just outside Manassas city limits, is the reason suspect John Allen Muhammad is now standing trial at the Prince William County Court Complex.

Manassas is turning in an itemized list of expenses to the state, hoping to get at least part of the extra cost reimbursed by the U.S. Justice Department. Manassas Park is asking for some federal dollars as well.

Whatever is left for Manassas will be covered with salary savings in the police department or the city’s fund balance, says Patricia Weiler, city finance director.

Manassas Park is looking at similar mechanisms, said police Lt. Mark Mathews.

With or without federal aid, the money spent by Manassas Park was justified, said Mathews, who still remembers the apprehension he felt as he stood guard over school children leaving their buses.

“There was a huge concern. You want to do what you can do to provide the extra coverage,” he said.

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