Published November 02, 2002
ST. JOHN'S, Antigua – Sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad once suggested kidnapping Antigua and Barbuda's prime minister for a ransom, investigators said Saturday that a witness had told them.
John Fuller, chairman of a task force investigating Muhammad's activities in the Caribbean country, said the unidentified witness told investigators the proposal was made by Muhammad nearly two years ago.
"The witness was still in a state of considerable anxiety a year and 10 months after the suggestion was made," Fuller said. There was no indication Muhammad acted on the alleged threat.
Prime Minister Lester Bird said he was "deeply troubled" by the government task force's report, portions of which were released Saturday.
"I have been informed that my own safety may have been at risk," he said. "These matters, I understand, will be addressed in the task force's final report," due to be released in six weeks.
James Wyda, a federal public defender representing Muhammad, declined to comment when reached by telephone.
The four-member task force also determined that Muhammad -- who arrived in Antigua in 2000 -- illegally acquired an Antiguan passport and that officials were negligent in approving the U.S. citizen's application.
The task force found that he used a falsified Louisiana birth certificate to acquire a passport in Antigua and Barbuda, Attorney General Gertel Thom said.
"There is no evidence of any criminal collusion with anyone in the passport office," the report said, blaming it on "negligence."
To get his Antiguan passport in 2000, Muhammad presented a falsified birth certificate from New Orleans, claiming his mother was Eva Ferris of Antigua, officials said. Eva Ferris' family said she was not related to Muhammad.
Muhammad, a 41-year-old U.S. Army veteran, lived in the Caribbean country with his three children starting in 2000 and met the other sniper suspect, 17-year-old John Lee Malvo, there in 2001, Thom said.
The two face multiple charges in the string of shootings that left 12 dead in Alabama, Louisiana and the Washington, D.C., area.
Muhammad's name before he converted to Islam was John Allen Williams.
The attorney general's office said police have seized two computers they believe Muhammad used while in Antigua. It wasn't immediately clear from where the computers were taken.
Thom confirmed that Malvo, a Jamaican, and his mother, Una James, arrived in Antigua separately in 1999. There was no record when they left, she said.