11 November 2009

The DC Sniper

I WOKE UP this morning to read that John Allan Muhammad was executed by the state of Virgina last night. Here's how the Washington Post opened their story today:

JARRATT, Va. -- John Allen Muhammad, the sniper who kept the Washington region paralyzed by fear for three weeks as he and a young accomplice gunned down people at random, was executed Tuesday night by lethal injection.

Muhammad, a man who directed what many law enforcement officials consider one of the worst outbursts of crime in the nation's history, died in Virginia's death chamber while relatives of his victims looked on.

Unlike his victims, Muhammad knew when and how he was going to die. He and Jamaican immigrant Lee Boyd Malvo, then 17, killed 10 people in the Washington area during a terrifying rampage in October 2002; they also have been linked to shootings in several other states.

We were living in Silver Spring, Maryland at the time and four of the shootings took place in Silver Spring -- the first ended the life of a member of our church, a cab driver who was gunned down while putting gas into his taxicab. What made the rampage so frightening to DC area residents was that Muhammad and Malvo struck when people were doing their mundane, ordinary activities: mowing their lawn, shopping, filling their cars with gas, walking to school, or going to a restaurant. To give you an idea of how fearful we were, when Kerri or I would get gas we would put the pump into the tank then get into the car an lean the seat back as far as possible and wait there until the fueling was complete. Some gas stations even erected massive canvass tarps to shield their stations from view. Crazy. Read more about the storyhere.

I haven't thought about those three weeks in 2002 in quite a while, but I sure was reminded when I read the news this morning. I'm a fairly strong opponent of the death penalty so I wasn't happy to read that Muhammad had been executed -- seems to me his death does little more than provide a sense of retribution or revenge.

But maybe I'm wrong.
CJS

15 comments :

Dianne is for Paris said...

Wow. I have a vague memory of hearing about this. What a nightmare to live through.

stephan said...

We watched every night from our home in Oregon. You are right, it was a huge, huge story. Every day we were wondering if the Sniper would strike again. One of the victims was a member of your church? How awful.

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember 4 of the shootings taking place at gas stations -- one on Rockville Pike, one in Aspen Hill, one in Virginia, and I can't remember the other one. To be honest, if there ever a case where I'm in favor of the death penalty, this would be it.

Anonymous said...

I remember very clearly -- We had just moved to the D.C. area three days earlier when the shooting started.

I'm not sure if I'm a "strong" opponent of capital punishment, but I'm absolutely horrified at the idea of having so much hatred and anger toward someone that you would willingly witness that person being excuted. Wonder if that brings peace? Why kill someone to show that killing is wrong?

French for a While said...

Yeah, that really rubbed me the wrong way too. The idea that family members of the victims watched the execution is a bit difficult for me to comprehend. But then again, I've never experienced what they have.

angus said...

What about his accomplice Malvo?

I would hope he recieved several life terms (I haven't checked into it). If so, is there any chance he will walk the streets again?

I certainly hope not.

Anne said...

Thanks for this post. I'd been wanting to write something but not sure what, remembering the terror of those days when kids had "indoor recess" for days on end, far worse really than the 9/11aftermath for them. But like you, while I felt no empathy for the sniper, I remain opposed to the death penalty. Thanks for sharing.

Akinoluna - a female Marine said...

I'm not a fan of the death penalty either but when it's something like this that actually affected your own life, it does make you think...

Harold of Scaggsville said...

I was contemplating writing on this too. I remember being scared to get gas and hiding behind the car scrunched down to avoid being a target.

I also had the speeding Chevrolet with NJ tags fly by me on I-95 about 100 mph one night while we were all looking for a white box truck.

Just like everyone else has mentioned, I'm no big fan of the dealth penalty because I've seen inequities in how our system and courts have applied it, but I didn't lose any sleep on this one. See ya.

Anonymous said...

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Guess who just responded with the above comment?

Kevin said...

I don't support the death penalty either, except when I think that it is deserving (name the famous politician who essentially stated this).

Jennifer said...

Difficult fro me to visit Maryland with my then 6yr old. Arriving into an empty Dulles from France, we sunk low in the taxi seats. That night, awake with jetlag, heard helicopters searching up I-270 before catching him. The car dealer lawnman was murdered outside my brother's office.

Dave Ashton said...

I think the net point is that it's far more tragic that he killed innocent people and terrorized an entire metropolitan area for weeks, than it is that he was executed. There may be some who focus on the tragedy that is his execution (if you view it that way), but I think that takes attention away from the social and emotional costs he inflicted seven years ago.

Whether we like it or not, the death penalty is probably the most severe punishment that can be meted out. And there are some crimes for which no punishment can be severe enough. This was clearly one of them.

Amandine said...

My daughter lives in northern Virginia and I can't tell you how worried I was about her and our grandchildren during those 3 weeks. I'm sure it was much more difficult to be in the DC area, but for this grandmother, being a continent away in Lille didn't make me any less worried.

Vic Heaney said...

The death penalty is supposed to be a deterrent.

It doesn't work.