• U.S.


2 minute read
Elaine Shannon

It’s called a varmint cartridge,” says Danny O. Coulson, a former FBI Hostage Rescue Team commander, “because it’s used for killing foxes, coyotes, rabbits and prairie dogs.” Last week someone in the Washington area was using it, with chilling efficacy, to hunt people. After seven sniper-style killings, Montgomery County, Md., police and federal investigators linked five of the murders to the same gun, firing a lightweight .223 round.

Unfortunately, the common .223 could have been used with a long list of rifles or assault weapons. But the bullet offered clues. Because the police did not find casings at most of the crime scenes, they suspect that the killer fired from a vehicle. (The shells fly a long way, and the shooter would have had little time to retrieve them.) And since a long gun was used, there’s a chance that witnesses may turn up. While some officers thought that the style and accuracy of the shootings suggested a marksman, Coulson says modern gun sights make “a shot of 100 meters or so” fairly simple. And the apparently random selection of victims, says former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt, indicated a madman or a killer disguising his real agenda. On this question–Why?–the bullets were silent. –By Elaine Shannon

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