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Child Shot Near School in Md. Suburb

October 7, 2002

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BOWIE, Md. (AP) _ A 13-year-old boy was shot and critically wounded Monday outside a school, authorities said. Police in neighboring Montgomery County hunting for a serial sniper rushed investigators to the scene, and anxious parents streamed in to retrieve their children.

The boy was shot in the chest and abdomen outside Benjamin Tasker Middle School shortly after 8 a.m., Prince George’s County emergency officials said.

His aunt took him to Bowie Health Center, a small hospital in this suburb northeast of Washington, D.C. A Maryland State Police helicopter flew him to Children’s Hospital in Washington. He was undergoing evaluation there, said Peter Hartogs, a hospital spokesman.

``The child is suffering from extensive blood loss and is in critical condition,″ said Mark Brady of the county fire department.

Police cars surrounded the school and officers put up crime scene tape and searched the campus, and parents rushed there.

Sharon Healy had just sent her 12-year-old son, Brandon, to school on his bicycle when she heard of the shooting. She said she ran there and pulled him out of class.

``You think you’re safe, but you’re only as safe as your next step,″ Healy said. Said her son: ``I was scared.″

Othar Haskins, 13, of Bowie, standing outside the school with his mother, India Haskins, said he was a friend of the boy who was shot.

``He’s funny, he’s always around friends,″ Othar said. ``He helps you out when you need it. He’s a good friend.″ The boy cried and put his head on his mother’s shoulder as he spoke.

On Wednesday and Thursday, five people were shot to death by a sniper in a 16-hour span in Montgomery County. A sixth victim was killed Thursday in Washington, D.C. On Friday, a woman was shot and wounded in Virginia.

``We are certainly very concerned about this situation in Prince George’s County,″ Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose said. But he stressed that it was too early to know whether the shooting was related. Montgomery County investigators were being sent to Bowie, Moose said.

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said federal authorities _ the attorney general, Treasury Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms _ have been ``very involved on the ground and have lent support and equipment.″

Asked if there was any evidence that this is a terrorist at work, Fleischer replied: ``I’ve not heard anything like that, but the fact of the matter is that people are trying to determine who the shooter is, or shooters are, and we continue to help local officials in that endeavor.″

Montgomery schools had planned a normal schedule with extra security, but after the shooting in Prince George’s, officials initiated a ``code blue″ alert, keeping students inside during recess and lunchtime, Moose said. Prince George’s county schools issued a similar alert.

Iris Metts, chief executive officer of Prince George’s schools, asked parents at other schools in the county to remain calm and leave their children in class. She didn’t give details on the shooting, saying they would have to come from police.

Meanwhile, police and FBI agents were poring over maps and putting together a psychological profile to hunt down the sniper killer. They also stepped up patrols Monday.

``Clearly, we are at a level of anxiety,″ Moose had said earlier.

Irene Kelly, 60, who was visiting her daughter in Rockville from Pennsylvania, spent part of Monday morning running errands. She said she had ``big concerns, very big concerns.″

``I’m more aware of what’s happening,″ she said. ``I try to get in and out and get home. You have to be aware of your surroundings.″

As officials struggled to solve the puzzle, families and friends gathered together at funeral services, trying to find some good in the midst of such seemingly random violence.

``There’s one bad man, but there’s so many good people who are showing their blessings and prayer,″ Saroj Isaac said at the funeral of her brother-in-law, Prem Kumar Walekar, described by relatives as a quiet, hard-working cabbie.

Sarah Ramos, a 34-year-old woman slain while sitting on a Post Office bench, was to be laid to rest Monday after a private service. Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera, a 25-year-old nanny shot while vacuuming her van at a service station, was to have a wake Monday before her body was flown back to her native Idaho.

Investigators said Sunday they had thousands of tips, but they conceded it would take time to track down a suspect.

Police began to use a geographic profile submitted by investigators that uses crime locations to determine where the killer feels comfortable traveling and may live. Moose said police also were awaiting an FBI psychological profile of the shooter.

Geographic profiling is a fairly new investigative tool, used first in 1990 in Canada, said Kim Rossmo, who compiled the latest profile and is director of research for the Police Foundation, a nonprofit research organization.

The purpose of the tool is to determine ``if there is a pattern there,″ Rossmo said. ``If we can understand the pattern, we can decode it.″

Tests confirmed that the same weapon was used to kill Walekar and three other victims.

The victims were all gunned down in public places: two at gas stations, one outside a grocery, another outside a post office, another as he mowed the grass at an auto dealership, and the sixth, a 72-year-old man, killed on a Washington street corner. Each victim was shot once from a distance. There were no known witnesses.

Ballistics evidence also linked the Maryland slayings with the wounding of a 43-year-old woman Friday. She was shot in the back in a parking lot at a Michaels craft store in Fredericksburg, Va., and was in fair condition Monday at INOVA Fairfax Hospital.

Also Monday morning, police responded to an unconfirmed report of a shooting at a Wal-Mart near the Bowie school but later concluded that no one had been shot.

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