Virginia Shooting Is Ninth 'Beltway Sniper' Murder

July 7, 2008 - 8:20 PM

(Editor's note: At a 9 a.m. Tuesday press briefing, Fairfax County police released the following new information: The sniper's latest confirmed victim is identified as 47-year-old Linda Franklin of Arlington, Va. Police refused to release any information about the suspect, whom several witnesses reportedly saw step from a vehicle and shoot. Police even refused to confirm whether anyone actually saw the shooter. They are looking for a "light-colored" Chevy Astrovan with the left taillight out (not cracked, just "out"). They also said a number of witnesses came forward with partial license tag information. "These investigations take time; they take patience? there was some additional information that we were able to get from last night's case, and I am confident that ultimately that information is going to lead us to an arrest in the case," Fairfax County Police Chief Tom Manger said Tuesday morning.)

Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - Fairfax County, Va., police and members of the multi-jurisdictional sniper task force in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area responded to a shooting Monday night that is now confirmed to be the 12th shooting and the ninth murder committed by the so-called "Beltway Sniper." (Two of the shooter's victims survived; no one was hurt in the first shooting.)

Fairfax County Police Col. Tom Manger said the shooting "has the potential of being related to the sniper shootings," and on Tuesday morning, Manger confirmed that it is the work of the sniper.

At approximately 9:15 p.m. EDT, a woman, later identified as Linda Franklin of Arlington, was killed by a single shot to the upper body outside the Home Depot store in the Seven Corners area of Fairfax County, Va.. Witnesses say the woman "immediately crumpled to the ground," as she and her husband loaded packages into their car. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

One witness who heard the shot told reporters that people in the immediate area where the victim fell fled immediately.

"Most of the people who were in the parking lot ran into surrounding stores," said Ellis, who asked to be identified only by his first name, "but they didn't want to believe there had been another shooting."

Raymond Massas, who was on his way into the store when the shooting happened, described the scene.

"Before we got to the front entrance, we heard one shot," he said. "Just a few seconds later there was panic, there was screaming, yelling, people yelling to run."

He said approximately 50 customers and employees were held inside the store by investigators for some time after the shooting.

Police issued a "BOLO" (Be On the Lookout) for a white or cream-colored Chevrolet Astrovan with the right (police later said it was the left) rear taillight either broken or burned out. (They later clarified that the left taillight was "out," but not cracked or damaged in any way.)

On Tuesday morning, police said several witnesses had come forward with partial license plate numbers. But police refused to comment on reports that several witnesses got a good look at the suspect. Detectives were still interviewing several witnesses hours after the shooting.

Virginia State and Fairfax County Police quickly closed all of the seven major thoroughfares from which the Seven Corners area gets its name. Traffic on roadways in the area was backed up for several miles until well after midnight as police searched for the suspect's vehicle. Roadways were reopened around 12:45 a.m.

Heavily armed police officers searched all vans that even remotely matched the description of the vehicle, ordering drivers and passengers out at gunpoint. Authorities have asked owners and drivers of minivans matching the description of the suspect's vehicle to be patient with officers and to cooperate completely for their own safety. Searches - broadcast by local television stations - lasted three to five minutes, with drivers and passengers being released immediately after police had searched and cleared their van.

The site of the shooting is immediately adjacent to U.S. Route 50, approximately one mile from Interstate 66, and about two and a half miles from the Capital Beltway, which encircles the downtown area and part of the Washington suburbs. Other streets leading away from the area, and bridges leading out of Virginia were being monitored by officers in both marked and unmarked police cars.

Investigators are urging anyone with information about this or any of the other murders to call the toll-free tip line, 888-324-9800.

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