(CNSNews.com) - The man leading the investigation into five of the seven confirmed shootings by a sniper in a suburban Maryland county near Washington, D.C., said Monday that the investigation has taken a new turn.
"Stepping over the line, shooting a kid? I guess it''s getting to be really, really personal now," said Charles Moose, chief of the Montgomery County Police Department, fighting back tears. "So, if there''s any doubt out there what law enforcement is going to be engaged in, what we''re going to be doing, then you can remove all doubt."
Moose was referring to the shooting of a 13-year-old middle school student Monday morning in neighboring Prince George''s County, Md.
"I was terrified, I mean somebody got shot at our school," said one female student at the Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, Md.
"It was a madhouse, people running around, parents coming in to get their kids," observed a teen boy who attends classes there.
Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan dismissed reports that officials had become frustrated and discouraged by the apparent lack of progress in catching the sniper.
"We are angry and we are outraged that someone would do this to our loved ones and our neighbors," Duncan said Monday evening, "and we are channeling that anger and that outrage into even greater determination and resolve to find out who''s doing this and to bring them to justice."
Duncan said residents of the Washington, D.C. area would see "an unprecedented level of cooperation" between law enforcement agencies to stop the killing spree.
The teenaged victim was listed in critical but stable condition after more than two hours of surgery.
"But the problem we have with any surgical injury like this is this could change over a short period," said Dr. Martin Eichelberger, who lead the surgery team treating the victim at Children''s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
"He''s responsive, in the sense that he''s doing physiologically, his heart, his lungs, his kidneys are all working in a fashion that we would expect. And so he''s doing 50 percent of the work and doing it well right now," Eichelberger said.
Internal bleeding is a major concern, he said, noting that the teen was also on a ventilator Monday evening, not breathing on his own.
"We are actually breathing for him, because it''s safer to do it that way," Eichelberger explained. "He has a significant injury to the lower portion of his left lung."
He said the bullet entered the victim''s lower left abdomen, piercing the lung, spleen, and other internal organs before lodging just below the skin in his armpit.
"The bullet shattered and, when it shatters, it goes in a lot of different directions," Eichelberger added. "We were able to find one [fragment] that was simple to get to and extracted it. We didn''t spend any extra time. All we did was do what was safe and simple."
That bullet fragment helped authorities confirm that this latest shooting in the suburbs just across the line dividing Washington, D.C., from Maryland is linked to six fatalities in seven other shootings since last Wednesday.
Five people died after being shot over two days time in Montgomery County, one additional victim died after being shot just inside the District of Columbia, and a sixth victim was wounded in Spotsylvania County, Va. Chief Moose and his investigators have been working 18-plus hour days since the shootings began last week.
"We have a level of fear that we''re not used to, but today it went down to the children," Chief Moose said. "Someone is so mean-spirited that they shot a child."
Literally hundreds of law enforcement officers from Prince George''s County, neighboring counties, Maryland State Police, and a myriad of federal agencies responded to the report of a child being shot on the grounds of the school. Maryland State Police currently have dedicated more than 120 troopers and investigators to work on the murders, in addition to their communications, aviation and forensic resources.
A number of Washington-area schools announced that they would operate in a "lock-down" condition Tuesday, keeping children inside and keeping teen drivers on campus at lunchtime. Duncan asked parents to volunteer to serve as crossing guards on Tuesday, saying that he would not risk exposing children by having them serve in that capacity.
Authorities had announced a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the sniper. As of Monday evening officials said they had received offers of a least $10,000 in private donations to add to that reward.
E-mail a news tip to Jeff Johnson.
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