The wife of an expert on Russian intelligence who was shot last week challenged reports Monday that her husband had been robbed, but said she didn't know if the incident was a brazen street crime or the result of his criticism of the Kremlin.
In a brief interview at the couple's suburban Washington home, Elizabeth Joyal said reports that Paul Joyal's wallet and briefcase were taken were false. She didn't know of any possible motive for Thursday's shooting outside their home in what she said was a normally safe area.
"We really have no idea what the reason was," said Elizabeth Joyal, but added that "it could easily have been a random act of violence."
A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said the wallet was later found in Paul Joyal's car and that the briefcase has been accounted for but did not provide details. The official requested anonymity because the probe is ongoing.
Paul Joyal, 53, was shot and wounded just days after he appeared on a nationally televised news show to allege that the Russian government was involved in the fatal poisoning of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko last year — an allegation that has been made by others. He told "Dateline NBC" that the Russian security services were trying to silence critics of the Kremlin.
"A message has been communicated to anyone who wants to speak out against the Kremlin: If you do, no matter who you are, where you are, we will find you, and we will silence you — in the most horrible way possible," he said.
The timing of the shooting raised speculation that Joyal may have been targeted himself, and the FBI joined the Prince George's County police investigation because of the circumstances.
Authorities have provided few on-the-record details except to say they had a vague initial description of two black male suspects.
Law enforcement officials speaking on the condition of anonymity had told several media outlets, including The Associated Press, that the crime appeared to be a robbery gone bad. And on Monday, The Washington Post cited two unidentified law enforcement officials as saying Joyal's briefcase and wallet were taken during the incident, and that the shooting could have been part of a planned carjacking.
Elizabeth Joyal said little about the specifics of the case but said she wanted to correct reports that her husband was robbed. She did not say what happened to the wallet and briefcase or how she knew they weren't taken. She also countered information that her husband was shot in the groin, saying a bullet had struck his abdomen instead.
The prognosis for Joyal's recovery was good, his wife said. Prince George's County police spokesman Cpl. Stephen Pacheco said it was difficult to learn more about the case because Joyal is still under sedation and authorities have not interviewed him.
"We know that we have a shooting, but we don't know anything else," Pacheco said.
Joyal works for the Washington-based National Strategies Inc., a firm that consults on local and state government issues. But before he came to that job a year ago, he was editor of the Daily Report on Russia, an intelligence newsletter. He also lobbied for the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.
His wife and Al Gordon, president and CEO of National Strategies, said Joyal never expressed any concern for his safety despite his strong statements about the Kremlin.
"He never said anything like that," Gordon said.