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Sniper case concludes in our back yard

November 04, 2002|by Tony Mulieri

It's 5:30 a.m. and the phone is ringing in the newsroom.

Kevin Gilbert, The Herald-Mail's chief photographer, is calling on his cell phone from the ramp of a rest stop on South Mountain.

Kevin has received a tip in the wee hours of the morning that the sniper suspects are about to be arrested at a rest stop off Interstate 70.

The night before I had watched the bizarre events unfold on TV as police officials converged on a house in Tacoma, Wash., taking out a tree stump, of all things, from the back yard, but I had no idea what was to happen the following morning.

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You mean the sniper suspects have been arrested in our own back yard? I can hardly believe what Kevin is telling me over the phone.

I call up the Associated Press story on my computer screen and there it is. Two arrested at I-70 rest stop.

Unbelievable.

It's not every day that a major, national story lands squarely on our doorstep.

It is 5:45 a.m. and the phone is ringing again. Terry Headlee, The Herald-Mail's executive editor, is calling to tell me what he just heard on the news. I tell him I have Kevin on the other line and the AP story in front of me.

Terry says we have to get one of our own reporters out there.

I check the reporters' schedule and Andy Schotz is listed as the early reporter, but he is also scheduled to cover an important court hearing at 8:30 that morning.

Julie Greene is listed as his backup. Call Julie, Terry says, and send her to the scene.

I call Julie and wake her up. She will later tell me she had been in a wonderful, deep sleep when the phone rudely awakened her.

She asks me to print out the AP story and write down the directions to the rest stop. She arrives in the newsroom in a matter of minutes, picks up the directions and is off to the interstate.

As the morning progresses, reporters and editors trickle into the newsroom and begin to work on the story. City Editor Liz Thompson arrives and starts coordinating things behind the scenes.

Staff writer Laura Ernde chases down a tip that the 911 call came into Washington County's emergency dispatch center.

Andrea Rowland checks out a tip that a Hagerstown man works at the rest stop and was there when the arrests were made.

Meanwhile, Kevin is calling me from various sites near the rest stop. The police won't let him get close enough to take a picture.

Julie calls from her cell phone. She can't get anywhere near the site either, and we agree that she should go to the Myersville Exxon and get reaction to the arrests from people in the area.

Daily Mail copy editor Arnold Platou is laying out the front page. We have a photo of Maryland State Police Major Greg Shipley on the page, but we are hoping for something from Kevin.

It is approaching the Mail's deadline. Julie gets back and writes a solid story about the people in Myersville, who were as surprised as we were that the sniper suspects were arrested so close to home.

Kevin calls. He won't have a picture for the Mail, but he is going to stick around and get something for the next day. Kevin's persistence pays off. He gets shots of the local man who works at the rest stop and other photos related to the arrests.

We go to press. The Daily Mail, the only afternoon paper left in the region, has the stories on its front page as it hits the streets.

A team effort.

Tony Mulieri is managing editor of The Daily Mail. He can be contacted at 301-733-5131, extension 7647, or by e-mail at tonym@herald-mail.com.

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