Person of the Week: Charles A. Moose

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Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose fields questions on the sniper shootings

Charles A. Moose is in a bit of a bind. As Montgomery County Police Chief, Moose wants desperately to identify the sniper who has terrorized the Washington D.C. suburbs for the past eight days, most recently killing a man at a Virginia service station. But this strong-willed, inveterate leader wants to do it his way — a tall order when you consider the masses of media, federal police and FBI agents swarming around each new crime scene — and second-guessing every move that's made. For his role as the unofficial spokesman for the sniper investigation, Charles Moose is our person of the week.

The 49-year-old Moose, who has been police chief in this Maryland suburb for three years, is known for his sharp eyes and even sharper tongue — and the latter was in plain view Wednesday when Moose blasted the news media for revealing "too much" information about the search for the killer, most notably details concerning a tarot card located near the middle school where a 13-year-old boy was shot. 'I have not received any message that the citizens…want Channel 9 or The Washington Post or any other media outlet to solve this case,'' Moose said. ''If they do, then let me know. We will go and do other police work, and we will turn this case over to the media, and you can solve it.'' He later softened his tone, adding that it was also the responsibility of the police to usher information to appropriate outlets.

The plight of the 13-year-old bared more than Moose's temper: he was visibly shaken as he told reporters about the snipers' youngest victim. "I guess it's getting to be really, really personal now," Moose said to reporters, tears welling in his eyes. "So if there's any doubt out there what law enforcement is going to be engaged in, what we're going to be doing, then you can remove all doubt."

What they're engaged in is one of the most perplexing cases of serial murder this country has ever seen — and one of the largest media stakeouts since the Chandra Levy case broke. Moose, who served for 27 years (including six as chief) on the Portland, Oregon police force, has some experience with the media, but nothing that could have prepared him for the blunt force of the cameras and microphones that confront him, sometimes four or five times a day, during his 20-hour shifts.

The unwavering media presence has prompted Moose — and the country at large — to ask some tough questions about the role of the press in an investigation like this. Do the media hinder police efforts to locate a perpetrator, as Moose seems to believe? Or, as others attest, can regular media reports actually help flush out a criminal?

Moose, characteristically, leaves the philosophical debates to what he dismissively terms "television talking heads." He's got one thing on his mind: catching a killer.