Some not surprised suspect spotted, arrested in Tri-State

October 25, 2002|by JULIE E. GREENE

MYERSVILLE, Md. - Tri-State area commuters didn't seem that surprised Thursday to learn two men linked to the sniper shootings were found near Washington County or that someone here reported it to police.

"The people up here seem more apt to be involved and not turn their heads," said Tina Shipe, 40, of Hagerstown. "They'll get involved. They're not afraid to speak their mind or make a phone call."

Shipe was picking up a co-worker at the Md. 66 Park 'n Ride, five miles west of the rest area where the men were found sleeping in a car.


"Around here, everybody knows everybody and everybody's business," said Hagerstown City Councilman Kristin Aleshire, who stopped at the Myersville Exxon on his way to work. "Anything out of order people latch onto."

"It's a lot easier to hide among a couple million people than a couple thousand," Aleshire said.

Exxon dealer Elmer Wachter met with officials from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in his back office for about 30 minutes before government officials emerged with three video surveillance tapes from the gas station, Wachter said.

The station just off the I-70 Myersville exit has eight cameras - four inside and four outside, Wachter said.

"They felt there might be something on there they'd like to see," Wachter said.

When asked if the two men taken into custody had stopped at the station overnight, Wachter said, "I don't know positively for certain, but that was probably the interest in the tapes."

Staging area

Investigators and police used the parking lot of the neighboring McDonald's as a staging area. A helicopter landed in the Burger King parking lot across the street in the early morning hours before investigators took the men into custody, Exxon employee Trish Stine said. Officers also used the Exxon parking lot.

ATF investigators at the gas station said they were not allowed to comment. When asked if there was any reason area residents should be concerned, one ATF officer said, "no."

Media from the local area, Baltimore and Harrisonburg, Va., staked out the station while investigators searched the scene.

Maryland State Police shut down the entrance and exit from the rest stop along westbound I-70 where the two men were found sleeping in a car. The rest stop is less than1/2 mile east of the Washington County line.

Commuters interviewed at the Exxon and Park 'n Ride were excited and cautiously hopeful that the sniper spree was over.

"It doesn't surprise me. We get a lot of activity living close to the interstate," said Keith McMunn, 46, of Myersville. McMunn, who lives a block from the Exxon, said he heard helicopters Wednesday night.

Adele Durelli, 26, of Wolfsville, Md., hoped the men were the men responsible for the sniper shootings, but she wasn't ready to believe it.

"They've just been so smart. This just seems like they're stupid," Durelli said.

If it was the snipers, Durelli said her students in Jefferson, Md., will be relieved. The public school has often been on lockdown status since the sniper spree began Oct. 2.

Close to home

At first, Rich Keeney, 44, of Wolfsville, said he was surprised the men were found so close to where he lives and works. But then he noted, "living this close to D.C., nothing really surprises me here."

Matt Toney, 33, of Waynesboro, said he wasn't surprised the men were found in Frederick County. If they were the snipers, they've gone as far south of Washington as Richmond, so Toney thought they might head farther north.

"If they were going to head west, then this is the logical way to go," he said.

Toney said many of his co-workers live in the Washington area so he's been concerned for their safety.

"I hope it is the people and then we can get on with things," said Toney, who was at the Park 'n Ride.

Working in the Washington area as a subcontractor, Matthew Stull, 31, of Hagerstown, said he's had to deal with living in the shadow of the sniper attacks every day. Just Wednesday night, Stull was questioned by police at his workplace after a suspicious white box truck was reported in the area, he said. It turned out to be nothing.

Troy Jernigan, who works with Stull, said he thinks the men were headed to New Jersey because the car had New Jersey plates.

"I hope that they do a speedy trial, execute them and send a message to the rest of the wackos that we're not going to deal with this," said Jernigan, 39, of Smithsburg.

Cameron Butler, 31, of Hagerstown, said he was used to seeing crime scenes, having grown up in the Los Angeles area, but he never thought he'd see something like this out here.

"I hope it's them," Butler said.

'Pretty scary'

"It's pretty scary. I just woke up this morning to all the news," said Grace Gue, 63, who lives outside Myersville.

Gue and her husband were making their daily morning coffee stop at the Myersville Exxon just as federal investigators were there. The Exxon is about three miles east of the rest stop where the men were found

While other commuters who were interviewed theorized that the two men were taking the I-70 route to flee the area, Gue said she thinks the men may have been spending their nights in rest areas all along.

Gue said she feels "a little" more comfortable now that the two men are in custody, but won't feel completely comfortable until she knows they are the snipers.

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