| A mother speaks with police officers in the Aspen Hill area of Maryland on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Washington, Oct. 23 (Reuters): Anxious parents sent their children to school throughout the Washington area today despite a threat — “Your children are not safe anywhere at any time” — from the gunman who has killed nine people and reportedly demanded $10 million.
The police confirmed today that a bus driver killed this week in Maryland was the the gunman’s 10th murder victim. “The shooting in Montgomery County yesterday ... is linked to the other shootings,” Montgomery county police chief Charles Moose told a news briefing.
Schools in the nation’s capital and surrounding suburbs opened on time but with safeguards in place. In the Maryland suburbs where five of the killings occurred, schools planned to keep pupils indoors throughout the day.
Police were still working to determine if the sniper-style gunman was the killer of a commuter bus driver in suburban Silver Spring, Maryland, yesterday. If confirmed, it would be the 10th killing by the gunman since October 2. Three other people have been critically wounded.
Investigators found a multi-page letter near the site of the shooting that renewed demands, made last weekend, for $10 million to be put into a bank account, according to reports.
The first letter, found last weekend, included the threat to the children, said Moose. “It is in the form of a postscript: ‘Your children are not safe anywhere at any time,’” he said.
Most schools in the Washington area have curtailed field trips and after-school activities since the killings began. Volunteer parents help patrol some school grounds. In some cities, police cars have been posted for security outside.
“I have decided my children will attend school today,” a Washington-area mother told ABC’s Good Morning America. Identified only by her first name, Kathy, she said her two sons would be no safer at home unless they stayed indoors. The Washington Post said the sniper left an angry letter tacked to a tree behind an Ashland, Virginia, restaurant where a 37-year-old man was wounded on Saturday, about 140 km south of Washington. The letter berated police as incompetent and listed six calls to the sniper task force that had been “ignored,” the newspaper reported.
The letter reportedly said “five people had to die” because of the mishandled calls and law enforcement officials began complaining of an investigation was hobbled by turf battles and a fear of leaks that prevented investigators from seeing vital information. Officials quoted in The Post and The New York Times described a vast, ever-expanding investigation without coherent organisation.
A dozen federal agencies are aiding thousands of state and local police in two states, seven counties and Washington, DC.
Apparently responding to the letter, Moose came before cameras yesterday evening, saying: “We have researched the options you stated and found that it is not possible electronically to comply in the manner that you requested.”