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Prince William County was thrust into the national spotlight this week when a Maryland man was gunned down outside a gas station near the Manassas Battlefield just off Interstate 66 on Wednesday night. Prince William Police confirmed Thursday that Dean Harold Meyers, 53, who worked in Manassas, is the ninth victim in a shooting rampage that has left seven people dead and two wounded over the past week.

These sniper attacks have spread throughout the Washington, D.C., suburbs accompanied by a climate of fear which is not likely to subside until the attacker is captured or killed. Fear among the public is also fueled by the lack of evidence and the perceived randomness of the attacks by a shooter who can fire from hundreds of yards away.

Residents are afraid to fill their cars up with gas. People are looking around as they walk outside. School students aren’t allowed to play outside and there will be no high school football games this weekend. It’s very difficult to tell residents what to do in situations like this. With so many unanswered questions, it’s up to the public to act with awareness without panicking.

The shootings have taken place in four different counties in two states and in the District of Columbia. Police departments from Prince William to Montgomery County have a good reputation of working together since they share the D.C. suburbs especially since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. It is this cooperation that will ultimately bring this killer to justice.

With so many different locations investigating what appears to be a single criminal or group of criminals, however, the FBI should begin to take over the investigation at least in a supervisory role. That doesn’t mean that any specific jurisdiction needs to abandon its particular case, but the federal government can at least coordinate all the major players.

Regardless of who heads what is going to be a massive investigation, it will ultimately take attentive police work and a vigilant public to solve the case. And the Washington area has both in large supplies.

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