Sniper Warning: 'Children Are Not Safe'

Investigators in the serial sniper case pleaded with the shooter today to contact them without hurting anyone else, hours after they revealed that an earlier note to them warned "your children are not safe."


The focus on the sniper's communications comes as authorities investigate whether the deadly shooter struck again this morning. Conrad Johnson, a 35-year-old bus driver, was gunned down as he was about to start his route.

As officials tried to determine whether Johnson was the killer's 10th fatality, they sent out messages to the sniper and to the community.

In one press conference this afternoon, Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose said police had received another message in the Washington, D.C., area serial sniper case. Plus, Moose disclosed details from an earlier communication.

Moose and his task force investigating the sniper attacks chose to respond to several reports about the contents of a note left at a shooting Saturday in Virginia. The note demanded a large sum of money — $10 million according to The Associated Press — and said that if it was not paid there would be more violence. The multi-page letter reportedly was written in garbled English.

Alluding to community concern about school children's safety, Moose said investigators thought it was important to reveal the exact wording of the threat.

"Your children are not safe anywhere at any time," Moose read.

Moose would not reveal more about the contents of the note, saying it would jeopardize the investigation. He said leaders in the investigation and school officials were previously told about the threat so that they could make informed decisions.

In another press conference tonight, Moose offered a direct message to the sniper.

"In the past several days, you have attempted to communicate with us. We have researched the options you stated and found it is not possible electronically to comply in the manner you requested," Moose said. "However, we remain open and ready to talk to you about the options you have mentioned. It is important that we do this without anyone else getting hurt. All us at the same number you used before to obtain the 800 number that you have requested."

"If you would feel more comfortable, a private post office box or another secure method can be provided," Moose continued. "You indicated that this is about more than violence. We are waiting to hear from you."

Moose took no questions from the news media and offered no further explanation for the comments he made.

Maybe a 13th Victim

The latest communication came as police were trying to confirm whether today's shooting death was related to the 12 other related shootings since Oct. 2. Besides the nine confirmed deaths attributed to the sniper, three people have been injured.

"Evidence, ballistics will be gathered," Moose said, adding that it "will be determined if this situation is linked. We will have that work done, and when it is complete then that will be shared."

Officials identified the victim as Conrad Johnson, a married man with a large extended family who loved basketball and who had been employed by Montgomery County for nearly 10 years.

Johnson, the driver of a commuter bus in Aspen Hill, Md., was shot shortly before 6 a.m. about a half-mile away from the same area where the serial sniper attacks began. He was standing on the top step of his bus, preparing for his morning bus run. The bus was parked near a wooded area known as North Gate Park.

Johnson was airlifted to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md., where he was treated for a single gunshot wound to the chest, a hospital spokesman said. He died at the hospital.

Police Offer No Descriptions

Moose said investigators could not offer any descriptions of vehicles or suspects linked to today's or past shootings and he urged everyone in the region to be cautious.

"We realize that the person or the people involved in this have shown a clear willingness and ability to kill people of all ages, all races, all genders, all professions, different times, different days and different locations," Moose said.

Police did not know if the shooting was the work of the person or people who carried out the earlier attacks, but they responded as though it was. A widespread dragnet went into place shortly after the first report of the shooting came into 911 dispatchers and heavily armed police stopped numerous white vans.

Police searched a wooded area next to the bus stop where the driver was shot, using trained dogs to sniff out any possible clues.

School Closures

Schools remained closed for a second straight day in the counties around Ashland, Va., where a note was found after the shooting Saturday night of a 37-year-old man in a restaurant parking lot.

"There was a credible threat made in the area that something was going to happen," a high-ranking local government official told The Richmond Times Dispatch.

Though most school officials were cagey in their response to questions about the closing, one source in the Richmond schools confirmed to the Times-Dispatch that the note was the reason that schools were closed.

"We went out at first and said schools are the safest place," Chesterfield, Va., County School Board Chairman James Schroeder said. "But if police have information saying our schools might be threatened, we have to respect that."

Public schools were still open in Montgomery County under code blue, which means children do not go outside and all school doors remain locked. Officials canceled afternoon pre-kindergarten classes and kindergarten classes in the county.

One victim of the sniper, a 13-year-old boy who was shot outside his school in Bowie, Md., earlier this month, is still recovering in the hospital. The 12th shooting victim, a 37-year-old man shot in the abdomen outside a Ponderosa restaurant Saturday in critical but stable condition after two operations. Today, a family friend and attorney confirmed the man is from Melbourne, Fla. and the media to "leave the family and neighbors in peace." He said he was issuing only a written statement at the request of authorities in Virginia.

ABCNEWS' John Miller in Rockville, Md., Bob Woodruff in Ashland, Va., and Beverley Lumpkin in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.