Police hunt white van as ninth sniper victim killed

POLICE are searching for a white van seen leaving the Prince William County gas station where a man who may have been the ninth victim of a sniper terrorising the Washington area was fatally shot Wednesday night.

The man died on the scene after he was shot about 8.20 pm on Wednesday night at the Battlefield Sunoco station, about seven miles north of Manassas, Virginia. He was identified as Dean Harold Meyers, 53, of Gaithersburg, and was killed with a single shot to the head, police officials said.

Witnesses reported a white Dodge caravan leaving the gas station at Sudley Road (Route 234) and Balls Ford Road. Police did not know how many people were in the van.

More than 100 local and federal police descended on the scene after last night's shooting, trying to determine if it could be linked to the sniper believed to have carried out eight shootings, six of them fatal, in the Washington area since October 2.

If a link is established, it apparently will be the ninth time a person was struck down by a shot fired from a distance, the eighth shooting in a heavily trafficked shopping area, the third at a gas station and the third within a few hundred yards of a major highway interchange.

A source close to the Prince William investigation said this morning, "All of the pieces are there, we just have to wait for the tests to come back."

Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose said that no definitive link has been made between the Prince William shooting but added "We are certainly working the case with that [a possible link] in mind."

A Maryland witness told police he saw two men in a white truck or van leaving the scene of an earlier shooting outside a post office. Two of the Maryland shootings were at gas stations.

Police Chief Charlie Deane said that Meyers was by himself and had just finished pumping gas and was preparing to get back into his car - a grey Mazda with Maryland licence plates - when he was shot. He died at the scene.

ATF investigators searched the area around the gas station, but as of 2am they didn't have any evidence that they were willing to talk about.

Jeff Roehm, special agent in charge of the ATF's Washington field office said that the crime scene area roped off by police is much larger than the other crime scenes because police have learned from the sniper attacks to be cautious and would rather close off more area than possibly miss some evidence.

The shooting occurred two-and-a-half days after a 13-year-old boy was critically wounded outside his Bowie middle school, the eighth apparent victim in a series of shootings that began October 2 in Wheaton.

Investigators found a spent bullet casing and a handwritten message scrawled on the back of a tarot card that denotes death.

Police sources who have seen the card said that in addition to scrawling an apparent taunt on the card "Mister Policeman, I am God" the sniper also asked that his message not be revealed to the news media.

Sources said some detectives had hoped that if they honoured the request, the sniper might communicate with investigators again.

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