Department of Justice Seal

Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft
Press Conference
November 7, 2002

     For 23 days in October, our community lived in fear. Killers stalked the national capital area. Ten innocent people lost their lives in brutal, random acts of murder.

     In Fairfax County, Virginia, FBI analyst Linda Franklin was loading packages into her car when she was felled by a single bullet to the head.

     In Prince William County, Vietnam veteran Dean Harold Meyers was murdered as he pumped gas into his car.

     James D. Martin was killed buying groceries for his church.

     Kenneth Bridges stopped for gas and was murdered.

     James "Sonny" Buchanan was struck by a bullet in the chest while mowing the lawn.

     Wife and mother Sarah Ramos was shot while reading peacefully on a bench.

     On his 25th wedding anniversary, Prem Kumar Walekar was shot and killed while filling his car with gas.

     Pascal Charlot's life ended violently on a Washington, DC street.

     Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera's life was taken when she stopped to vacuum her car.

     And Conrad Johnson was shot on the steps of his bus as he prepared for his early morning shift.

     To secure justice for these victims, the Department of Justice has conducted a deliberative, fact-based review of these crimes and the appropriate penalties warranted. This afternoon, after consulting with local law enforcement authorities, I am announcing the jurisdictions that will first prosecute the individuals charged with the Washington-area sniper shootings.

     I have instructed the U.S. Marshals Service to transfer custody of John Allen Muhammad to Prince William County, Virginia, where he has been indicted for capital murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and using a firearm in the commission of murder. If convicted of the crimes with which he is charged, Muhammad could face the death penalty.

     I have also instructed the Marshals Service to transfer custody of a juvenile to Fairfax County, Virginia, where he has been charged with capital murder and using a firearm in the commission of murder. If convicted as an adult, the juvenile could face the death penalty.

     Our decisions are based on a number of considerations. We have worked with all the affected jurisdictions in this case. We believe that the first prosecutions should occur in those jurisdictions that provide the best law, the best facts, and the best range of availability penalties.

     Innocent victims from Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, Alabama and Louisiana have paid the ultimate price. It is appropriate - it is imperative - that the ultimate sanction be available for those convicted of these crimes.

     In addition, the choice of these jurisdictions reflects the Justice Department's trust in the experience, ability, and integrity of the state prosecutors who will try these cases. Commonwealth Attorneys Paul Ebert of Prince William County and Robert Horan of Fairfax County are with me here today. They are tough, seasoned, and highly respected prosecutors with excellent records in prosecutions of violent crime. We have every confidence in their ability to bring about justice that is swift, sure, and commensurate with the atrocities charged in this case.

     Since the arrests of Muhammad and the juvenile two weeks ago, the federal investigation into this shooting spree has continued to expand rapidly. We are moving forward aggressively with a multiple-state investigation that remains active, ongoing and evolving. We will continue to work with federal, state and local officials to gather evidence and follow facts wherever they may lead to determine the full extent of criminal activity.

     I am grateful to all of the individuals responsible for this investigation and prosecution, many of whom are with me here today.

     I thank the members of the Sniper Task Force for their outstanding dedication and hard work. In particular, I thank Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose, FBI Special Agent in Charge Gary Bald, ATF Special Agent in Charge Mike Bouchard and all those who serve with them.

     I thank Virginia law enforcement officials, including Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, Fairfax County Police Chief Thomas Manger and Prince William County Police Chief Charles Dean.

     In addition, we are pleased to have Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan join us today.

     Thanks are due also to Tom DiBiagio, the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland, Paul McNulty, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Roscoe Howard, United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. I commend each of them for exercising impeccable judgement and responsible leadership in this case. I commend also Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson for his wise counsel and leadership. Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff stands with us and I thank him for his guidance and assistance.

     Finally, I extend my appreciation to state and local law enforcement authorities in other parts of the nation for their hard work and cooperation in putting together the pieces of this nationwide investigation.

     Thank you. Now I will be happy to take your questions.