Published January 13, 2015
If the shooting at a Ponderosa parking lot is linked to the Washington-area sniper, it's likely the sniper attacked south of his usual killing fields to outwit law enforcement officials as they reveal new techniques to find him, a former FBI profiler said Sunday.
"This guy, these guys or the guy and his girl are interactive terrorists," said Clinton Van Zandt. "I believe they are interacting, they are responding, they are changing, evolving as this goes on. They are interacting with law enforcement via the media."
Authorities were working on the assumption that the single shot which wounded a man Saturday night in Ashland was the work of the Washington sniper, even though the shooting occurred 85 miles south of the nation's capital.
If the new shooting is linked, it would be the first time the sniper has attacked on a weekend, and it would break the longest lull between shootings, about five days. There have been 11 confirmed sniper assaults, nine of them fatal.
Previously, the farthest the sniper had strayed from the Washington area was Virginia's Spotsylvania County, about 50 miles south of Washington.
Van Zandt said he believes the shooter moved to Spotsylvania because law enforcement officials announced they were bringing in geographical profilers.
"As soon as they did that, I think he responded by going south to break the profile," Van Zandt said.
The news last week that military surveillance planes would be used in the hunt probably prompted the sniper to move farther away to Ashland, Van Zandt said.
"I think one could suppose that the aircraft would be circling over the northern Virginia, D.C., Maryland area," he said. The sniper probably thought that moving farther south "would be beyond the flight pattern of the aircraft," Van Zandt said.
The sniper may have spent the five-day lull scouting new target areas, he said.
"He has to find an area where it has a target-rich environment and an area where he is comfortable, where he has access to an escape route," Van Zandt said.
"The guy's bright. He's a good study and he has studied. This guy has done his homework. He practices sniper techniques, practices escape and evasion techniques."
As far as the sniper's first weekend attack, Van Zandt said the message is: "'I want you to be afraid all the time, not just five days a week."'
The possibility that the sniper has moved south caught the attention of officials in Halifax County, N.C., split by I-95 just below the Virginia line. Lt. Mike Casey of the county sheriff's department said deputies are patrolling normally but on the alert for any sniper attacks.