ROCKVILLE, Md. — Police linked a sixth death to the sniper killings of five Maryland residents and said Friday the same high-powered rifle was used to kill at least four of the victims.
Police were searching for two men — a shooter and a driver — in the slayings and investigating whether a seventh shooting outside a Virginia store was part of the same terrifying crime spree.
“We implore him to surrender, stop this madness,” Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose said.
The sixth victim, a 72-year-old Washington, D.C., pedestrian, was killed by the same weapon used to kill at least three of the Maryland victims, said Special Agent Michael Bouchard of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Forensic testing was still under way in the two other Maryland shootings.
Bouchard also said ATF agents would examine evidence collected from the scene of a Friday afternoon shooting outside a crafts store in Fredericksburg, Va., 55 miles south of Rockville. A 43-year-old woman was shot in the back and in serious condition.
Police were looking for two men in a white van with dark lettering, a description that came from a witness to one of the killings. Police pulled over white vans Friday and plastered orange stickers on the back to show the vehicles had been checked. Moose said investigators were chasing more than 500 leads.
Each Maryland victim was felled by a single bullet, apparently from a high-powered rifle or handgun. Police said evidence indicated the killer was some distance away and used .223-caliber bullets.
The search Friday went on amid a mix of fear and defiance among residents of the economically and culturally diverse slice of the suburban Washington county where most of the shootings occurred.
All over Montgomery County, people did what they usually do on a Friday, but they moved slowly and quietly, glancing at trees, bushes and rooftops. Many said they were afraid but wouldn’t stop getting groceries, going to work or leaving their children with a baby sitter.
“I had to shop. I need to eat. I can’t stay at home all day,” said Kira Leonova, who works at a bookstore near one of the slaying scenes. “I have to work and I have a family.”
Dexter Evans, 20, scanned the traffic as he waited for a bus to Rockville, and he took a second look at every white truck. “You can’t even walk down the street without looking over your shoulder,” he said.
Schools opened with extra police patrols and calls poured into 911 dispatchers about suspicious noises.
The five Maryland victims died within five miles of one another during a 16-hour span Wednesday evening and Thursday morning. All were gunned down in broad daylight in very public places: two at gas stations, one outside a grocery, another outside a post office and the fifth as he mowed the grass at an auto dealership.