A former federal government official who was involved in the 2002 Beltway Sniper case told TPMMuckraker that it is important for investigators trying to identify the individual behind a string of shootings at empty military buildings to not narrow their focus and filter out alternate motives or suspects.
Michael Bouchard, a former official with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives who was involved in the Beltway sniper case, told TPMMuckraker that it was important not to be blinded to alternative suspect profiles or possible motives.
“Profilers and behavioral scientists are just one tool that investigators use. Oftentimes when profilers do their analysis, there are a lot of unknowns,” Bouchard said. “The investigators just take that information and use it to the best of their ability, but it isn’t an absolute.”
“One thing that people shouldn’t do is, just because people say that’s probably why the person is doing it, you can’t have tunnel vision, because if you have tunnel vision and focus in on one possible motive, you could be missing five or six other motives,” Bouchard said. “Investigators need to have an open mind, and not focus in on who they think it might be.”
Bouchard said the Beltway Sniper was a perfect example of a case in which officials limited their scope and shut out other investigative options. Officials in that string of deadly shootings became convinced that the suspect was driving a white panel van, but it turned out that the men ultimately convicted of the crimes, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, had been driving a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice.
The FBI’s Washington Field Office did not have any updates on the recent spree of shootings targeting military buildings, spokesman Andy Ames told TPMMuckraker on Monday.
Authorities have made a public plea for the culprit to communicate with them. The suspect he is an ex-Marine who had a falling out with the Corps. Authorities had similarly publicly appealed to the Beltway Sniper for him speak with them in the days before he and his accomplice were apprehended.
The shooter “is trying to express some unhappiness, presumably with the military, but has stopped short of harming anyone, and I draw some positive analysis out of that,” Gary Noesner, a former chief of the FBI’s crisis negotiation unit, told the Associated Press. “Hopefully, that will remain the case.”
The Coast Guard had shut down recruiting stations in the D.C. area last week following the shooting. Last Tuesday’s incident at a U.S. Coast Guard recruiting center in was just the latest in a string of incidents which have also twice targeted the National Museum of the Marine Corps, the Pentagon and a U.S. Marine recruiting center.