Now-familiar spectacle moves south

A scene which has recently become common in the metropolitan area repeated itself much farther south late Saturday night when a single shot cracked the night in Ashland.

Another victim was felled by a shot from the dark as he and his wife walked across a restaurant parking 8 and 9 p.m., just off of Interstate 95.

Apparently the man and his wife were travelers who stopped for dinner at the Ponderosa Steak House in Ashland.

The shot that seriously wounded the man came from a wooded area behind the restaurant said Ashland Police Chief Rich Pleasant.

Although police have yet to confirm that the 37-year-old man was shot by the sniper who has so far killed 9 and wounded 11, law enforcement officials in Hanover County, where the man was shot, said they would investigate as if the shootings were connected.

“We don’t know if it’s (the Saturday shooting) tied to the shootings in Northern Virginia and Maryland, but we’re going to treat it as if it is until we know it’s not,” Col. Stuart Cook of the Hanover County Sheriff’s department said in a press conference at 1 a.m. Sunday.

While the federal, state and local law enforcement officials faced the glare of television lights and fed scant information to an insatiable pack of media representatives, onlookers at a nearby waffle house seemed resigned to the idea that the sniper had come to their little town of 6,000 souls 10 miles north of Richmond.

An Ashland woman, who wanted to be identified as Sharon, said she wasn’t surprised at the shooting.

She said she always thought it was inevitable that Ashland, with its proximity to the highway, would wind up in the news.

She and her friends said they didn’t doubt that the Saturday night shooting was the work of the same shooter who has terrorized the Washington area in the last couple of weeks.

“Hopefully, they’ll not connect this to the sniper, but I think everybody along the interstate is worried,” Sharon said while helicopters with searchlights pointing to the ground circled overhead.

As events in town unfolded, state police stationed on the entrance ramps to the highway used flashlights to check the inside of each vehicle and recorded license plate numbers before they allowed the cars access to the interstate.

Interstate 95 remained blocked for some time after the shooting.

Motorists were stopped long enough that many of them turned off their engines and lights and exited their cars to stretch, smoke cigarettes or look up into the lights of helicopters patrolling overhead .

They shook their heads as they talked with each other about the shootings.

“They need to stop this guy,” said a man who was held up in the road block as he and a friend traveled from Georgia to New Jersey.

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