This Day In History: The Washington Sniper Is Convicted (2003)

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This date in history, an US army veteran John Muhammad, was convicted  of ten murders and other crimes in 2003 in Washington D.C.. In October, 2002, the Washington D.C. area was terrorized by a sniper who indiscriminately killed innocent people, of all ages and races.  Muhammad was charged with his accomplice Lee Malvo for the murder of ten people and for injuring three more. The duo had terrorized the metropolitan Washington D.C. area for three weeks. The trial lasted several weeks but it only took the jury several hours to convict the duo.

The first of the so-called ‘Beltway sniper’ attacks took place in October the previous year. When a man was shot dead while pumping gas in Manassas Virginia.  In the space of 24 hours there was another series of attacks. They were all sniper style shootings, where a gunman shot a person at great distance.  In the space of less than a day five people were gunned down. The Washington D.C. area was in shock and so too was America. Soon people were reluctant to leave their home and go to work. When they did leave their homes they would often crouch behind cars or ran very quickly. Schools did not allow children out-of-doors and sports events were cancelled. The killings were a mystery and the sniper left a series of cryptic clues. On one occasion the sniper even called a police hotline.

There were further attacks throughout October and a further five people were killed. The killings stopped with the arrest of John Muhammed. He was spotted acting suspiciously in a car park in Maryland and the police investigated. They discovered that Muhammad had a snipers rifle and that he had rigged his car in such a way that he could shot from the boot of his car. This explained why no one had caught sight of the sniper. His accomplice, Malvo would then drive Muhammad away after each shooting.

1200px-The_Cairo_Building_in_Washington_DC
Washington D.C.

Muhammad was charged with a series of shooting. He was 41 and a father of four , who had converted to Islam and was reportedly a member of the Nation of Islam. There are also reports that Muhammad was sympathetic to Islamic Fundamentalists groups such as Al Qaeda. However, the killings may also have been an effort to extort money from the authorities. He was an expert marksman and had trained as a sniper in the army. Muhammad had also served in the First Gulf War.

John Muhammad was later sentenced to death and his accomplice John Malvo was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

 

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