Sniper affects D.C. area

Dana Molyneaux used to go shopping whenever she wanted. But since a sniper started a Washington-area killing spree, the 20-year-old Howard University student and resident of Suitland, Md., avoids going out at certain times of the day.

Molyneaux tries to avoid being outside during the sniper’s choice times – rush hour.

“Anything I need to get done I do during the day. Like I needed to go to the grocery store, so I went during the day,” Molyneaux said. “I needed gas, so I went before evening or after the morning.”

Others, like Marcus Brown, 26, a Bowie State University graduate, acknowledge the gravity of the situation, but realize they can’t stop their personal clocks.

“I’m doing the same things (I normally do) but at the same time, I have to think about what times am I usually stepping out of my car and what times am I walking and those times are rare,” Brown said. “But when I do step out of my car, I’m more aware.”

After eight shootings in the Washington metropolitan area left six people dead and two seriously injured, Montgomery County (Md.) police asked people to look out for a white box truck seen speeding away from one of the crime scenes.

Additional shootings Oct. 9, Oct. 11 and Oct. 14 have raised the total to 11 shootings, with nine dead.

Students, like others in the area, are wary, but many are heeding advice not to let the events disrupt their lives.

“I’m just trying to be more aware of everything that’s going on around me,” said Grace Boone, 19, a sophomore business student at American University. ” I’ve been trying to not be outside if not necessary, especially if I’m alone. Because it seems that everyone was in a public place, but alone.”

Mercedes Aigbogun, 19, a junior at the University of Maryland-College Park, is concerned that the victims were from many different demographic groups.

“When there is a pattern, you can always psyche yourself out and say, ‘Well, I’m not in that group so I am O.K.’ With the randomness, it makes you feel a lot more vulnerable and ill at ease,” he said.

Parents of some college students have been making frantic phone calls.

“I know that my mom (in Indiana) is freaked out about it,” Boone said. “She doesn’t want me to leave my room, much less campus. I went downtown yesterday and I think she called five times trying to make sure I was still alive during the six hours I was gone.”

But other parents are not as worried. “My mom called and asked how I was doing,” Aigbogun said. “She was a little concerned with the latest shooting in Bowie (Md.), on Oct. 7], since that is closer to where I stay, but she didn’t have any advice except to stay aware.”

Because no one has seen the perpetrator, the sniper will be more difficult to catch. Harley questions how long it will take for police to catch the phantom killer. “I don’t know what the chances are because all they have to go on is some bullet casings,” he said. “They need to have some hard evidence like a witness or somebody to give them some more insight into the case.”

“If this guy is shooting people from a wooded area somewhere, what can you do?” Brown asked.

Boone makes another observation. “We are not going to catch him if he never strikes again, which will only happen if people live like normal. That’s a horrible thing to say, but it’s true,” she said. “We have to wait for him to strike and someone to be a witness or for him to make a mistake.”

Area law enforcement officials are telling residents to be cautious and report any suspicious activity right away. However, they encourage everyone to keep up their normal routines.

“I don’t think it is healthy for [people] to live in fear and retreat from life,” Aigbogun said. “Sometimes we just have to stay strong and move on in life, no matter what the consequence.”

Lorinda Bullock and Jennae Wallace are students at Howard University and write for The District Chronicles.