The End of the Sniper Nightmare?

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John Allen Muhammad

Has the Washington sniper's gun finally been silenced? Early Thursday morning, acting on a tip from a motorist, members of the sniper task force descended on a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice parked at a rest stop near Myersville, Maryland and arrested two men sleeping inside. John Allen Muhammad, formerly John Allen Williams, a 42-year-old Gulf War veteran with combat support experience, and John Lee Malvo, 17, are now in police custody. Neither have yet been charged in the shootings; Muhammad is being held on an unrelated weapons charge, Malvo as a material witness. Still, investigators say they believe they have found the snipers responsible for killing 10 people and wounding 3 others during a three-week rampage.

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The precise chain of events leading up to the arrest remains vague, but apparently someone called the sniper tip line Wednesday night claiming responsibility for the sniper attacks and urged police to "check out Montgomery." An investigator thought to look beyond Montgomery County, Maryland, where many of the shootings occurred, to Montgomery, Alabama, where police are still looking into a fatal robbery that took place on September 21st.

Using fingerprints taken from a magazine about guns found the Alabama crime scene, authorities traced Malvo to a house in Tacoma, Washington, which was already under surveillance in connection with the sniper shootings, after a neighbor called police to report what he called "repeated gunshots" from the vicinity of the house. The home is also close to Ft. Lewis, where Muhammad was based during his military service. After surrounding the house and plotting out search grids in the backyard, police there removed a tree stump from the property, which they say appears to have been used in target practice.

A search of the pair's car yielded a Bushmaster .223 rifle, a tripod and a viewfinder; Montgomery county police say ballistic tests confirm this is the weapon used in at least 11 of the 14 shootings. While Muhammad didn't have sniper training during his stint in the army, Military officials say he qualified as "expert" with the M-16 rifle. Prosecutors will discuss sniper charges at a meeting today