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Sniper Strikes in Fairfax County

Seven Corners shooting brings to nine the number of fatalities.

The Fairfax County neighborhood of Seven Corners in Falls Church became the scene of the latest sniper attack Monday evening, Oct. 14.

At around 9:15 p.m., a woman was shot while going to her car in the parking lot of the Home Depot store on Route 50, bringing to nine the number of people killed in what appears to be a series of sniper attacks in the area.

The woman was later identified as Linda Franklin, 47, of Arlington. On Tuesday morning, Fairfax County Police Chief Col. Thomas Manger confirmed that ballistic evidence linked the Seven Corners shooting to the others in the area.

Manger also said that Fairfax County police officers were working with their counterparts in a regional task force set up to catch the killer.

"We had been a part of the task force assisting in the investigation prior to this case last night," he said. "Obviously we're still part of this task force investigation."

OFFICERS WERE also quick to ring the area adjacent to the Home Depot with yellow crime scene tape, blocking off several parking lots and stores. Guards stood several yards apart, surveying the scene, while groups of officers from Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria, state and federal police departments huddled nearby.

On the other side of the tape, Abu Rumi stood still, as camera crews, reporters and onlookers swarmed around him. He was carrying two plastic bags stamped with the Home Depot logo containing bathroom fixtures.

He said he was in the checkout line of the store when the shooting occurred.

"I was inside," he said. "Somebody started shouting, 'Go inside! Go inside!"

He stayed inside the store for about half an hour, he said, being interviewed by police officers before he was allowed to leave. But he could not go far because his car was parked behind the police tape.

"They said they were going to give it to us tomorrow," he said. He did not know how he was going to get back to his home on 8th Street in Arlington, he added.

"WE WERE INSIDE, we were about to pay and we saw the crowd and we went to look and there she was, lying on the floor," said Zuhari Massoud, a witness. "Her body was already covered."

Jose Peralta was eating with a friend at the Peruvian Chicken restaurant across the street when the shooting occurred. They left the restaurant around 10 p.m., Peralta said.

"When we came out that's when we saw," said Peralta, who lives along Wilson Boulevard. "I'm scared for my mom and my brother because they hang around here," he said.

"I was even thinking about going to Home Depot today."

Seven Corners sits on the border between Arlington County, Fairfax County and the City of Falls Church. It is a heavily developed retail center which draws shoppers from throughout the area.

Yellow crime scene tape still surrounded the shopping area the following morning. A contingent of the New Black Panther Party looked on.

"We're unifying this community to take it as their responsibility," said leader Malik Zulu Shabazz. He and several others were decked out in black berets, combat boots and bullet proof vests.

"We're hunting this murderous sniper," Shabazz said.

NORTHERN VIRGINIA traffic ground to a halt Monday night as police officers from around the region set up roadblocks in an attempt to catch the killer. The roadblocks were similar to the ones that had been used Oct. 11 on I-95 and the Beltway as police reacted to a shooting at a Fredericksburg gas station.

"They were all set up throughout different strategic points in all jurisdictions," said Officer John Carney, a police spokesman on Tuesday morning. "They've all since been broken down."

On Tuesday, police were still interviewing witnesses and responding to calls to the police tip line.

"We're looking out for any suspicious vehicles," Fairfax County Police Chief Col. Thomas Manger told reporters around 11 p.m. Monday. Manger added that the police were especially interested in finding a "cream colored Astro van with the left rear tail light out."

Joan Morris, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said that the department's traffic center which monitors the interstates in the area saw road blocks on all the major corridors. She said the Beltway was backed up for two to three miles at the Maryland line at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, the northbound lanes on the 14th Street Bridge were blocked as were the eastbound lanes of I-66 at the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. Only one lane was getting by on westbound I-66 at Nutley Street. Also, one lane was blocked on southbound I-395 at Edsall Road and a roadblock on the northbound lanes of I-395 at Seminary Road resulted in a two-mile backup. As a result of all the roadblocks, VDOT engineers reported a seven mile backup from Springfield to Dale City on I-95. There were also roadblocks on arterial roads Route 50 and Route 7.

The agency's orange trucks which patrol the area 24 hours a day also assisted police efforts by bringing out message boards alerting drivers that Route 50 was closed and by helping state troopers seal off exit ramps on I-66 and I-395.

MANGER WOULD NOT speculate on the route the killer might have taken to approach or leave the area. But J. J. Tabernia, who lives just down Route 50 from the Home Depot said that the killer could easily have taken roads to the north of Route 50.

"There's all kinds of small roads back there," he said.

Tabernia was watching the roadblocks with his friends Jessica Juriga and Thomas Ryan.

"We live just up the road," said Juriga. "We saw it on CNN 10 minutes ago."

Tabernia noted that an abandoned parking lot and a soccer field across the street from the store might have provided cover for the gunman. The area is also close to major highways, he added.

"It's maybe one and a half miles to I-66, and two to three miles to I-495," he said.

On Tuesday morning, area resident Deidre Breslin watched the investigations from the other side of the crime scene tape.

"They didn't block off Route 50 fast enough. I thought he would hit here but I don't know why," she said.