The serial sniper shootings that terrorized the Washington, D.C-area are over, authorities said today as they announced the arrests of two suspects and the discovery of a rifle linked to most of the crimes.
Now prosecutors in seven different jurisdictions must decide how to prosecute John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo for allegedly 10 people and seriously wounding three others during a killing spree that began Oct. 2. Prosecutors are expected to meet Friday to discuss filing charges against Muhammad and Malvo.
Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17, were arrested early Thursday morning as they slept in a blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice spotted at a highway rest stop in Maryland. Police had announced an arrest warrant seeking the pair only a few hours earlier.
On Thursday night, police announced Muhammad and Malvo were suspects in the case and that frightened residents of suburban Washington could breathe a sigh of relief.
"Please understand these two are under arrest and detained on unrelated charges to the situation we're investigating," said Montgomery County, Md., Police Chief Charles Moose, who led the multi-agency task force that hunted for the serial sniper. "However, we now consider them suspects in the string of shootings in Maryland, the District of Columbia and the Virginia area."
Investigators recovered a .223-caliber rifle from the Caprice that ballistics tests matched to 11 out of the 13 shootings where someone was killed or injured. Michael Bouchard, the special agent in charge representing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said ballistics was also inconclusive in the one instance in which the snipers missed their target. Different evidence, he said, tied the suspects to the other shootings.
Moose said investigators still have more work to do, but they are confident the Washington, D.C-area residents' ordeal is over.
"We have the weapon. It's off the street," Moose said. "We've been very diligent, very methodical. We've not completed all our work, but we feel things are progressing quite well. Anything remains possible. We continue to look at every angle, every possibility."
Law enforcement sources told ABCNEWS the Caprice that Muhammad and Malvo rode in had a sniper's nest built into the car that allowed the back seat to fold down while someone could lie inside and fire a rifle while remaining hidden.
A shot could be fired through the trunk and the sniper could line up a target without ever leaving the car. This, sources said, also could explain the lack of spent shell casings in most of the shootings. The recovered rifle was a Bushmaster XM-15. Investigators also recovered a scope and tripod in the car, officials said.
The arrests were made shortly after 3:30 a.m. ET, after an alert motorist spotted the two men sleeping in the car parked at a rest stop on Interstate 70 in Frederick County, Md., about 50 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., and notified the authorities.
The police who took the call at about 1 a.m. notified the sniper task force, and SWAT teams surrounded the car at a distance and waited for the right moment to move in.