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Sniper Suspects Linked Again in Md.

November 2, 2002

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BALTIMORE (AP) _ Authorities linked yet another shooting to the sniper suspects Friday, the wounding of a Maryland store clerk more than two weeks before the string of Washington-area attacks began terrorizing the region.

The number of shooting incidents blamed on the suspects now stands at 16, including 12 killed and five wounded around the nation’s capital, in Alabama and Louisiana.

In the most recently linked shooting, a clerk was wounded outside a beer and wine store in Silver Spring, Md., Sept. 14.

Ballistics tests on a bullet fragment were inconclusive; the link was based on witness accounts, similarity of circumstances and evidence putting the suspects’ vehicle in the area the day of the shooting, said Montgomery County police spokesman Derek Baliles.

A week after that shooting, authorities say John Allen Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17, had moved on to Montgomery, Ala., where they are accused of killing one woman and wounding another outside a liquor store. Alabama authorities said Thursday that the same rifle used in the sniper shootings, a .223-caliber Bushmaster, had been linked to the Montgomery case.

Two days later and 315 miles away, on Sept. 23, the men allegedly shot and killed a woman in Baton Rouge, La., outside a beauty supply store.

The men are also suspects in a February killing in Washington state.

A senior Justice Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said police nationwide are checking unsolved crimes for links to the sniper suspects.

In the most recently linked shooting, Rupinder Oberoi, 22, was wounded outside the Hillandale Beer and Wine in Silver Spring. He spent a week in the hospital before being released and is expected to fully recover.

``I’m really relieved the snipers were caught.″ said Oberoi, outside Fox News Channel studios in Washington on Friday night. Later, he told the station that he knew the shooting would be connected sooner or later.

In an interview last month, Oberoi said the bullet entered his back next to his spinal cord, damaging his kidney, liver, diaphragm and colon.

Oberoi did not see who shot him, but said his first thought when he first heard of the sniper shootings was that he was a victim of the same gunman.

``I thought, this is linked to me, the same kind of shooting, one shot and nobody saw anything ... people who are innocent, no motive,″ Oberoi said.

His father, Manmohan Oberoi, said his family was disappointed because they felt police had not aggressively investigated the shooting when it happened.

``If it was investigated well, maybe they would’ve had 18 precious days on their hands to catch the assailants before they struck again,″ he said.

No charges have been filed in the shooting.

``If and when we get the jurisdiction we would add all of the charges including this incident,″ Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas Gansler said.

Muhammad and Malvo were found sleeping in a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice when they were arrested Oct. 24. Authorities found the rifle in their car, which they say was modified so someone could fire unseen through a hole in the trunk.

They face multiple state and federal counts in the sniper spree in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C, as well as the deaths of two women in Alabama and Louisiana.

Meanwhile, Federal inspectors are looking into whether an employee at Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply in Tacoma, Wash., stole and illegally sold the rifle used in the sniper attacks, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Friday.

The store has not been able to account for the rifle’s sale; it was shipped from the manufacturer to the store last June. Less than a dozen employees had access to the weapons, and all have been asked to take a lie detector test, the newspaper reported.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms spokeswoman Martha Tebbenkamp would not confirm the report.

Update hourly