ROCKVILLE, Md. – When he heard the loud blast, Jeffrey Hopper ducked, thinking the noise and shock wave came from an exploding car nearby in the Ponderosa restaurant parking lot. Then he realized he was clutching his abdomen.
"'I've been shot. Oh my God, I've been shot,"' Hopper testified Thursday in the murder trial of sniper John Allen Muhammad, recalling the moment he became the 12th victim in a three-week string of shootings. "It was hard to believe. It was the worst fear came true."
Hopper and his wife, Stephanie, were returning from Philadelphia to their home in Florida on Oct. 19, 2002. They had stretched their tank of gas to get beyond the Washington region because of the sniper shootings that had occurred there. They finally felt safe to stop for gas and eat in Ashland, Va., just north of Richmond.
Hopper suffered massive internal wounds from the .223-caliber bullet, losing most of his stomach and parts of other organs. He still has bullet fragments inside to give him a "glowing X-ray," he told jurors.
Muhammad, who is acting as his own attorney, did not question Hopper.
Sheriff's officers described finding a note at the scene that demanded $10 million to end the shootings. It ended with the chilling line: "Your children are not safe anywhere at anytime."
Prosecutors have now detailed 12 of the 13 sniper shootings in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., during a three-week period in October 2002. Ten people died, three were wounded.
Already on death row in Virginia for one sniper shooting, Muhammad is only on trial now for the six Montgomery County homicides. But prosecutors have described other shootings to show a pattern.
Those attacks include the Oct. 19, 2002, murder of FBI analyst Linda Franklin at a Home Depot in Fairfax County, Va. Franklin was shot in the head as she and her husband, Ted, loaded supplies into their sport utility vehicle.
Jurors heard the gut-wrenching recording Thursday of a 911 call Ted Franklin made as he crouched over his wife's body. He was speaking so hysterically that the dispatcher thought his raised voice was that of a woman.
"My wife's been shot!" Franklin wailed, crying hysterically. When the operator asked where, he cried, "Shot in the head!"
Franklin, who testified in Muhammad's first trial in Virginia Beach, Va., did not appear at the Maryland trial.
In addition to the Washington-area shootings, Muhammad and accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo are tied to shootings in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Washington state.
Malvo, serving a life term in Virginia, is scheduled to go on trial in the fall for the same six killings, but he may plead guilty and testify in Muhammad's case.