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When fear was in season
Clues were few. People were around but didn't see anything. They heard a bang and the victim collapsed. Many reported seeing a white box truck or van in the vicinity, leading police down what would be their longest blind alley. Who knew that Ford had sold over 50,000 Econoline vans in the D.C. area in the previous decade? And no time of the day was considered safe: Kenneth Bridges of Philadelphia was shot dead at the Four-Mile Fork Exxon station on Oct. 11 at 9:30 a.m.
Stories of turf battles between various law-enforcement agencies are legion. This time, federal, state, and local law enforcement formed a cohesive unit. Chief Moose became the leader and the face of the investigation. ATF and the FBI provided invaluable resources and manpower. Most other local law-enforcement officials, including then-Spotsylvania Sheriff Ronald Knight, meshed with the team. In all, over 4,000 officers would be involved.
While citizens waited anxiously for an arrest, they zig-zagged through parking lots, put off buying gas, and hugged their loved ones a bit closer. Teams cancelled sports practices; schools nixed recess. The sniper, like a spider, had paralyzed its victim.
In the end, a tip from Washington State and clues from the sniper's own rambling messages provided the breaks the police needed. John Allen Mohammed and Lee Boyd Malvo were spotted by an alert citizen and arrested in Meyersville, Md., where they were sleeping in their Chevrolet Caprice. The vehicle had been rigged as a mobile sniper station; their .223 Buckmaster rifle was tucked under the back seat.
The terror had ended. The public could relax. And all over the greater Washington area, people began taking note, not of white trucks, but of turning leaves and crisp fall air, of pumpkins and Indian corn, of high-school football and homecomings, and, most of all, of the precious gift of life without fear.
Our Oct. 5 editorial, "Unanimous Decision," mistakenly asserted that 23 million Americans are unemployed. Actually, when we wrote, the official number of jobless Americans was about 13 million, with another 10 million underemployed. Underemployment is often defined as holding a part-time job while seeking full-time work or holding a job well below one's skill level.
In September, the official number of jobless Americans, we happily note, fell to just over 12 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.