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'Duck in Noose' Reference Explained

The last cryptic message from Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose to the Washington-area sniper referred to a Cherokee Indian story about an arrogant rabbit that was duped by the duck he tried to catch.

"You have indicated that you want us to do and say certain things. You've asked us to say, 'We have caught the sniper like a duck in a noose.' We understand that hearing us say this is important to you," Moose said late Wednesday at a televised news briefing, called so authorities could release information on two people sought for questioning in the 13 sniper shootings.

In the ancient story, passed down orally through generations of Cherokee Indians, a rabbit brags that he can catch a duck. He throws a noose over the neck of a duck, but it flies away with the rabbit hanging on. Eventually the rabbit must let go, landing in a hollow tree stump. The conceited animal has to eat his own fur for food and is embarrassed by his appearance when he finally escapes.

"His boastfulness got him in trouble and eventually destroyed him," said Tera Shows, spokeswoman for the Cherokee Nation, based in Tahlequah, Okla.

Chad Smith, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, said in a statement: "The rabbit is a trickster that always gets himself in trouble by his own devices."

Ultimately, the killer blamed for shooting 13 people, 10 of whom died, around Washington over the last three weeks may be less duck than rabbit, Shows said.

John Allen Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17, were arrested Thursday morning for questioning in the killings.

"It does look like [the sniper] maybe is the rabbit," Shows said.