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Mark Steyn: The psychological profilers haven't hit the sniper yet
The Sunday Telegraph (U.K.) ^ | 10/20/2002 | Mark Steyn

Posted on 10/19/2002 5:45:46 PM PDT by Pokey78

The sniper? "It's possible he's alienated, hateful and acting against society," said Dr Michael Welner on CNN on Friday. Well, it's possible, but let's not go out on a limb there, Doc.

Dr Welner is a forensic psychologist and the inventor of the "Depravity Index", which measures whether a crime is "vile" or merely "heinous" or maybe "heinously vile". Unlike all the other criminologists on CNN that day, Dr Welner's analysis does at least have the merit of being probably correct: it seems likely that in killing nine people the sniper is acting against society.

But let's try to put together a more detailed psychological profile: it's clear we're dealing with someone who craves publicity, who derives some kind of sick thrill out of what he's doing, whose sense of superiority is fed by the kick he gets being one step ahead of the cops, whose need to express his fantasies leads him to repeat the act again and again, until eventually his arrogance causes him to slip up, he gets careless and sloppy. But enough about the psychological profilers, what about the killer?

Well, he could be a "troubled loner". Except they're now saying there might be two of them. Maybe they're two troubled loners, and they're troubled because they're loners and aren't used to working as a pair.

That's the trouble with this approach. Everything that seems to point in one direction could also point in the opposite. The tarot card left at one murder scene appears to suggest the sniper isn't an Islamic terrorist. On the other hand, "Dear policeman, I am God" doesn't sound like someone whose first language is English. "Policeman" is not a word in common currency in suburban Maryland. Perhaps the killer's British. Perhaps he's a Gilbert and Sullivan fan. Perhaps he's a troubled loner trying to sound like an Islamic terrorist. Or perhaps he's an Islamic terrorist trying to sound like a troubled loner.

Likewise, the fact that he hasn't killed since Monday may be due to those aerial surveillance "drones" the Pentagon's loaned the local cops. Or because having killed nine people in 11 days - 9/11, geddit? - his mission is complete. Or maybe he's visiting his aunt in Buffalo. As one expert analyst apparently said on BBC's Newsnight the other night in response to his fellow experts' analysis, "It's all sheeyut."

Very true. In times like these, I prefer talk radio to talk TV. On the TV talkshows, it's non-stop psychological speculation. On the radio phone-in shows, the talk is all of bullets and angles and which semi-automatic is chambered for which calibre. Being blessedly free of professional full-time performing experts, the radio shows have only thousands of gun-nut listeners to rely on, and, in their area of expertise, they at least know what they're talking about.

America's diversity-conscious pantywaist newsrooms must have some of the lowest rates of gun ownership in the country, and when something like this comes along it shows. The vague references to "assault-type weapons" are just plain lazy: given that just about the only thing we know is that it's a .223-calibre bullet, the guy could be using a l'il ol' varmint gun for taking out pesky squirrels in the backyard. Nor does he have to be a "trained marksman" with a military background: I'm not a particularly good shot, but I reckon I could kill a guy at 75-200 yards.

According to police, the trickiest hit was the one from 150 yards that sailed down a narrow corridor between two petrol-pump islands and killed Dean Myers. But the murderer wasn't trying to murder Mr Myers. In essence, he just lined up the shot and waited for someone - anyone - to walk into it and, given that a guy pumping petrol is standing still for several minutes, he's basically a stationary target. It requires a lot less finesse than, say, turkey hunting.

When the expert commentators get so much of the easily verifiable stuff wrong, it's hard to see why their airier fancies should command respect. Is the sniper linked to al-Qaeda? "Most unlikely," says professor of anthropology Elliott Leyton. "Such groups, religious or political, generally find their murderous pleasures in bombs, aeroplanes and gas, not rifles."

In fairness to the Islamofascists, when it comes to their "murderous pleasures" variety is the spice of death. They disdain a consistent modus operandi. Much of what they do is unprecedented: September 11, the shoe bomber, the Afghan resistance leader they assassinated by posing as interviewers and killing him with a disguised camera. Before I rule out the Islamists, I'd want a better reason than Prof Leyton's.

But, if we're getting into what the Prof regards as pretty wacky territory, it may be because this story isn't proceeding as your run-of-the-mill killing spree does. A few days ago, I caught the tail end of a news bulletin on how the police had at last put together a "composite". I was impressed.

But it turned out to be a composite not of the suspect but of his vehicle, a Chevy Astro van. Why do you need a composite of a van? Any old Chevrolet dealer can give you a full-colour picture. Did the van have a prominent mole on its passenger-side door? A cleft windscreen? Did do they do a computer projection of what the Astro would be like if it grew a beard? As it turned out, when the "composite" was eventually released, it was a perfectly ordinary Astro.

But the bigger a deal the cops made of the suspect's vehicle the more you noticed how little they had to say about the suspect. The only detail - the description of him by certain witnesses as "olive-skinned" - was leaked, and Charles Moose, Chief of Police of Montgomery County, was none too happy about it.

We do know one thing, though: whether or not it's Islamic terrorism, it's terrorism. As The New York Times reported: "He seems to be killing to create public fear rather than to settle a grudge or inflict pain on his victims.

'I've just never seen a serial killer whose motivation seems to be to create terror in the community rather than to see his individual victims suffer,' said James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston who has written books on serial killers." The reason Prof Fox has never seen a serial killer do that is because that's not what serial killers do; it's what terrorists do.

If TV's round-the-clock psychological profiling by the experts on troubled loners seems weirdly irrelevant, it's because it's like bringing in the tennis commentators to do Test Match Special.

Oh, well. Perhaps it'll just be another one of those odd things that seems to happen for a bit and then fade away, like the anthrax attacks a year ago, which remain, officially, unrelated to September 11. Meanwhile, the police have advised area residents that they can make themselves safer by walking briskly in a zig-zag pattern.

Anyone wanting a good demonstration of how to do this should rent the video of Brigadoon (1954) and study the scene where Gene Kelly runs diagonally through the heather to Cyd Charisse while singing the verse of Almost Like Being in Love. What works for a couple of lovebirds in Hollywood's Scottish Highlands may be a little more chaotic when practised by thousands of people on a crowded pavement, but I'm sure Chief Moose knows what he's doing.

And in its own way it's the perfect visual representation of the in-depth media analysis - zigging here, zagging there, all over the map.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; News/Current Events; US: District of Columbia; US: Maryland; US: Virginia
KEYWORDS: marksteynlist; steyn
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1 posted on 10/19/2002 5:45:47 PM PDT by Pokey78
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To: Howlin; riley1992; Miss Marple; deport; Dane; sinkspur; steve; kattracks; JohnHuang2; ...

2 posted on 10/19/2002 5:46:50 PM PDT by Pokey78
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To: Pokey78
Most of these profilers are pretty pathetic.
3 posted on 10/19/2002 5:47:03 PM PDT by ItisaReligionofPeace
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To: scholar; Bullish
Ping
4 posted on 10/19/2002 5:48:37 PM PDT by knighthawk
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To: Pokey78
I like your new ping image......
5 posted on 10/19/2002 5:49:05 PM PDT by MeekOneGOP
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To: MeeknMing
I HAD to do something after seeing your's. Plain text just won't cut it. hehe
6 posted on 10/19/2002 5:51:46 PM PDT by Pokey78
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To: Pokey78
I did suggest the sniper might be humanoid...
7 posted on 10/19/2002 5:55:23 PM PDT by ofMagog
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To: Pokey78
The profilers make Jonathan Edwards seem credible.
8 posted on 10/19/2002 5:57:48 PM PDT by dasboot
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To: ofMagog
I did suggest the sniper might be humanoid...

Don't rule out a bear with a grudge.

a.cricket

9 posted on 10/19/2002 6:01:27 PM PDT by another cricket
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To: Pokey78
Good on ya mate...

They have an expended cartridge near the scene of the tarot card at the school where the boy was shot

They have bullet fragments

They dont have a match on the bullet fragments with the expended cartridge

They arent even sure what exact caliber the bullet fragments are

They do know the expended cartridge is 223- but they dont know what weapon it was fired from

They now have another expended cartridge & it could have been fired from the same weapon as the other cartridge , but they dont know what kind of weapon that one was fired from

Both cartridges could have been taken from a firing range where many people shoot and just leave their expended cartridges because they are inexpensive and these people dont bother to reload them ..it isnt cost effective...These could very well have an innocents persons prints on them

The press has to fill the air 24/7 and compete with the other press at delivering an audiance to the advertiser (which is what Mr Silverman once said is the medias only moral responsibility the schmucks get to watch the programming for free anyway)...

In order to garner their market share get ratings and keep their jobs or better yet get to work in the big house...inside...they have to come up with an angle a hook ...

What the hell a lie is just as good as the truth even better if it gets you want you want...

Hey I guess thats why they are called media whores and not good samaritans
10 posted on 10/19/2002 6:02:50 PM PDT by joesnuffy
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To: Pokey78
Well, I think I could be a pretty good profiler myself. Let's see...yep, I've come to the conclusion that Islamic terrorists had nothing to do with the WTC atrocity - after all, running airplanes into buildings isn't "their style," and they've never done that before. No, we should be looking for the guilty parties among groups known to have flown airplanes into buildings before.

My conclusion is that the WTC attack was done by a lost civilian pilot or the U.S. Air Force.

What do you mean "don't give up the day job, Bill?"

11 posted on 10/19/2002 6:05:18 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: Pokey78
When you assess the "cable heads" babble and opine, it helps to remember that there may be agendas at work. They aren't necessarily any more honest than the Moose ilk. When they aren't tring to tell us how to "be safe", they can be taken as a divertissement. Low cost, and probably worth it.
12 posted on 10/19/2002 6:06:21 PM PDT by 185JHP
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To: Pokey78
Great article! Thanks for posting this one.
13 posted on 10/19/2002 6:07:08 PM PDT by bluesagewoman
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To: Pokey78
On the radio phone-in shows, the talk is all of bullets and angles and which semi-automatic is chambered for which calibre.

Sounds like some threads on FR. ;o)

With all due respect to my fellow Freepers who really, truly, know their stuff.

14 posted on 10/19/2002 6:08:29 PM PDT by pettifogger
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To: Pokey78
Likewise, the fact that he hasn't killed since Monday may be due to those aerial surveillance "drones" the Pentagon's loaned the local cops. Or because having killed nine people in 11 days - 9/11, geddit?

Hmmm? .....

15 posted on 10/19/2002 6:09:46 PM PDT by MeekOneGOP
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To: Pokey78
Ping for a rational thinker! Love the image, I hope Steyn lurks here sometimes.
16 posted on 10/19/2002 6:13:43 PM PDT by maica
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To: Pokey78
Did the van have a prominent mole on its passenger-side door? A cleft windscreen? Did do they do a computer projection of what the Astro would be like if it grew a beard?   ROTFLMAO...   Steyn RULES!
17 posted on 10/19/2002 6:16:20 PM PDT by GirlShortstop
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To: Pokey78
Steyn nails it.

The American media and the LEO's in the area, in a nutshell.
18 posted on 10/19/2002 6:20:19 PM PDT by terilyn
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To: GirlShortstop
What's Steyn's bio?
19 posted on 10/19/2002 6:22:07 PM PDT by fatguy
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To: Pokey78
'I've just never seen a serial killer whose motivation seems to be to create terror in the community rather than to see his individual victims suffer,' said James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston who has written books on serial killers." The reason Prof Fox has never seen a serial killer do that is because that's not what serial killers do; it's what terrorists do.
20 posted on 10/19/2002 6:25:33 PM PDT by MeekOneGOP
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To: Pokey78
These commentators demand/deserve the respect I give a slug in my garden.
21 posted on 10/19/2002 6:27:47 PM PDT by leadhead
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To: Pokey78
(Re serpentine) Anyone wanting a good demonstration of how to do this should rent the video of Brigadoon (1954) and study the scene where Gene Kelly runs diagonally through the heather to Cyd Charisse while singing the verse of Almost Like Being in Love.

Personally I prefer the scene from The In-Laws with Peter Falk and Alan Arkin - "Serpentine! Serpentine!"

22 posted on 10/19/2002 6:28:17 PM PDT by Spyder
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To: Gunslingr3; FLdeputy
Well, he could be a "troubled loner". Except they're now saying there might be two of them. Maybe they're two troubled loners, and they're troubled because they're loners and aren't used to working as a pair.

Steyn set us up the bomb. No, wait, I mean Steyn IS the bomb. Satirical analysis doesn't get any better than this.

23 posted on 10/19/2002 6:30:06 PM PDT by Jonathon Spectre
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To: Pokey78
"As one expert analyst apparently said on BBC's Newsnight the other night in response to his fellow experts' analysis, "It's all sheeyut.""


Why is the British news media so much more entertaining than our own?
24 posted on 10/19/2002 6:34:21 PM PDT by briant
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To: Pokey78
WOW! Is Mark Steyn really as stud-muffinish as your new ping-shot would suggest? I've never seen him in real life. I almost don't WANT to know what he looks like, because in my mind's eye, he's PERFECTION! (But he's really kinda sorta cute in that picture, isn't he?)
25 posted on 10/19/2002 6:38:26 PM PDT by leilani
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To: Pokey78
The only comment that Mark did not make was that the pathetic TV analysts fail to drawn a portrait of anyone remotely connected to the crime.
26 posted on 10/19/2002 6:40:56 PM PDT by STD
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To: dasboot
You mean the current Jonathan Edwards who's responsible for people communing with dead spirits through a medium. Not the famous evangelist who sparked the "Great Awakinging" in 1826. Does anyone here feel that our God has an awesome sense of humor.
27 posted on 10/19/2002 6:44:58 PM PDT by STD
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To: leilani


28 posted on 10/19/2002 6:45:34 PM PDT by MeekOneGOP
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To: Pokey78
heh heh ! Good job !
29 posted on 10/19/2002 6:49:22 PM PDT by MeekOneGOP
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To: Pokey78
Well, he could be a "troubled loner". Except they're now saying there might be two of them. Maybe they're two troubled loners, and they're troubled because they're loners and aren't used to working as a pair.

This is the wittiest Mark Steyn in a while, and that's saying something.

30 posted on 10/19/2002 6:54:29 PM PDT by The Great Satan
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To: STD
Yes, and yes.
31 posted on 10/19/2002 6:56:51 PM PDT by dasboot
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To: joesnuffy
Both cartridges could have been taken from a firing range where many people shoot and just leave their expended cartridges because they are inexpensive and these people dont bother to reload them ..it isnt cost effective...These could very well have an innocents persons prints on them

Yep. That'll be my bet.

He/she is using a bolt-action and after fire, doesn't work the bolt for another shot. No need, the terror is the bullet out of nowhere.
No movement to attract attention, brass stays with the weapon. Whatever the law found was "salt" to throw off them off ...

32 posted on 10/19/2002 7:01:28 PM PDT by dread78645
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To: Pokey78; Howlin
Steyn Hall of Fame! This is a good one!
33 posted on 10/19/2002 7:06:45 PM PDT by Amelia
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To: Pokey78
In times like these, I prefer talk radio to talk TV. On the TV talkshows, it's non-stop psychological speculation. On the radio phone-in shows, the talk is all of bullets and angles and which semi-automatic is chambered for which calibre.
34 posted on 10/19/2002 7:13:15 PM PDT by Cicero
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To: MeeknMing
Likewise, the fact that he hasn't killed since Monday may be due to those aerial surveillance "drones" the Pentagon's loaned the local cops. Or because having killed nine people in 11 days - 9/11, geddit?

I think that the symbolism may be relevant but was not intended. When the numbers reached that point the shooter9s0 may have said hmmm... good place to stop.

35 posted on 10/19/2002 8:00:56 PM PDT by arthurus
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To: arthurus
Yeah. Especially now that there has been a 12th victim now in Ashland, Virginia......
36 posted on 10/19/2002 8:08:39 PM PDT by MeekOneGOP
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To: MeeknMing
maybe. Actually these guys are not likely to be conforming to any patterns that people who read lots of whodunnits are used to.
37 posted on 10/19/2002 8:22:43 PM PDT by arthurus
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To: Pokey78
Mark Steyn is my favourite writer ever since the untimely passing of Edward Zehr (may he rest in God's peace).
38 posted on 10/19/2002 9:16:20 PM PDT by Joan912
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To: dasboot
Where is Miss Cleo when her country needs her?
39 posted on 10/19/2002 9:16:22 PM PDT by Agent Smith
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To: Pokey78
Compare this excellent piece to anything Maureen Dowd has written in the past year or so. Never mind the ideological differences. The real difference is that Steyn can actually write. There's no original reporting here, but there is a genuine engagement with the facts of the story. Steyn has read a ton about this issue, and his analysis of the data results in some fresh insights, and some truly clever jests. Maybe we should send copies of Steyn's columns to Mo Dowd...
40 posted on 10/19/2002 9:46:38 PM PDT by ArcLight
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To: Pokey78
Very true. In times like these, I prefer talk radio to talk TV. On the TV talkshows, it's non-stop psychological speculation. On the radio phone-in shows, the talk is all of bullets and angles and which semi-automatic is chambered for which calibre. Being blessedly free of professional full-time performing experts, the radio shows have only thousands of gun-nut listeners to rely on, and, in their area of expertise, they at least know what they're talking about.

Sounds just like FR, LOL. Thanks for the ping!

41 posted on 10/19/2002 9:59:26 PM PDT by mrustow
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To: Agent Smith
Has anybody heard any talking heads say it might be a tree hugging PETA wacko? The shootings started about the time bow hunting started. Maybe a PETA terrorist showing humans what it fells like to be hunted.

That's my opinion and I'm stickin to it!

42 posted on 10/19/2002 10:14:35 PM PDT by chuckles
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To: Agent Smith
When he has his best stuff, Steyn is vastly entertaining as a satirist, as he is in this column, but Mark seems a mite reserved about evaluating the possible aims of the Washington area sniper. I thought he might have dared to speculate further when he said:

In fairness to the Islamofascists, when it comes to their "murderous pleasures" variety is the spice of death. They disdain a consistent modus operandi. Much of what they do is unprecedented: September 11, the shoe bomber, the Afghan resistance leader they assassinated by posing as interviewers and killing him with a disguised camera. Before I rule out the Islamists, I'd want a better reason than Prof Leyton's.

Indeed. Whatever else is common to Islamic terrorism, it is uniformly directed to damaging the U.S. economy, which has been sorely damaged by the unprecedented decision to transfer Middle East conflicts to the continental U.S. The effects of the WTC plane hijackings and bombings on the nation's largest industry, tourism, have been devastating, and if this sniper activity is viewed as a possible extension of the same strategy, the effect of what is happening in and around the D.C. area, especially in and about gas stations, is likely to have a profound impact on local tourism.

Pending the number of such sleeper cells there might be throughout the U.S. -- be they Islamists, or homegrown Arabists who passionately oppose U.S. Middle East policies in particular, or government policies in general -- the D.C. area sniping could be a paradigm for what might happen in different regions of the country. It is not difficult to imagine how such activity, if randomly staggered, geographically and temporally, could paralyze the domestic tourism and travel industries. As Steyn says, Before I rule out the Islamists, I'd want a better reason than Prof Leyton's.

43 posted on 10/19/2002 10:17:03 PM PDT by I. M. Trenchant
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To: Pokey78
Mark Steyn rules!!

Red

44 posted on 10/19/2002 10:43:43 PM PDT by Conservative4Ever
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To: I. M. Trenchant
"and if this sniper activity is viewed as a possible extension of the same strategy, the effect of what is happening in and around the D.C. area, especially in and about gas stations, is likely to have a profound impact on local tourism"

Possibly. The DC area has no real economy though. It is mostly just a parasite to the rest of the nation. If it causes the hemorraging of money, caused by gov't waste, to slow even a little, it will make the rest of the US economy healthier.

45 posted on 10/20/2002 12:17:24 AM PDT by monday
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To: MeeknMing
'I've just never seen a serial killer whose motivation seems to be to create terror in the community rather than to see his individual victims suffer,' said James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston who has written books on serial killers."
The reason Prof Fox has never seen a serial killer do that is because that's not what serial killers do; it's what terrorists do.

No sher, s**tlock... (ref. to "Prof." Fox here...*) Sure took him both braincells to figure that one out.

I keep coming back to a small detail in the snipers' behavior: One shot, even when they miss.

A real psychopath gets his kicks from watching people die, from reading about their deaths... but whoever is doing *these* shootings has enough fire discipline to only shoot once, even when he misses

Methinks that someone with a deep-rooted hatred of humans at large would not be able to resist firing again, if they failed to connect. Remember, they've spent hours setting up the scenario and waiting for the right target and the right circumsatances. Nevertheless, when he/she/it misses, there is *still* no second shot.

Whoever this is, is a professional...

46 posted on 10/20/2002 12:52:15 AM PDT by fire_eye
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To: monday
No doubt you're right about the immediate effects of the D.C. area killings on the economy, but if the same activity were generalized, and were to have the same effect (social paralysis) in other areas that it is having in the D.C. area, the effects could be significant out of all proportion to the loss of life involved. Additionally, the discomfort of the wealthy mandarins who live in the Virgina area is likely to have political effect out of all proportion to their numbers.
47 posted on 10/20/2002 1:24:54 AM PDT by I. M. Trenchant
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To: fire_eye
Professional indeed. These are not random killings. Well planned and executed after a great deal of ground / map work. The actual peeps killed are random.

Compare and contrast the efforts of the LEO's. 2 weeks on and we have FA in evidence, identity, motive, where they work / live / eat / keep their vehicles / weapon(s) used.

Shirley LEO's can be duplicating the snipers homework, identifying likely spots, (near IS routes, overlooking woods, whayever and ruling out least likely and concentrating resource on most likely ) One thing is certain, the guy(s) (team girl(s) knows where they are going next.

I say bring in the Boy Scouts of America - at least we know there will be no faggots on the job.
48 posted on 10/20/2002 2:04:42 AM PDT by unending thunder
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To: another cricket
Don't rule out a bear with a grudge.

I knew this would happen eventually thanks to that "right to keep and arm bears" amendment.

49 posted on 10/20/2002 4:00:13 AM PDT by Dan Day
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To: fire_eye
.....Whoever this is, is a professional...

And also there have been reports/witnesses that there are more than one in the vehicle. It's an well-organized, well executed plan. And the fact that it is carried out in the close proximity to Washington, D.C. lends credibility to the terrorist slant.

50 posted on 10/20/2002 6:47:26 AM PDT by MeekOneGOP
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