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Posted at 1:45 PM ET, 11/ 2/2010

Former FBI agent Brad Garrett: Tips crucial to cracking case of mysterious shootings

By Jeff Stein

Brad Garrett, the former FBI agent who interrogated D.C. area sniper Lee Boyd Malvo and who is credited with solving many high-profile local homicide cases, says the mystery of whoever is shooting at local military targets will probably only be solved by a tip, not by ballistics or other forensic clues.

A Coast Guard recruiting office in Woodbridge, Va., appears to have become the latest military installation targeted in a string of attacks that began with shots fired on the Pentagon last month. No one has been injured.

The pattern of middle-of-the night attacks on exclusively military installations, including the Marine Corps Museum in Triangle, doesn’t help investigators much, said Garrett, who also worked on the Chandra Levy case, among other high-profile investigations over a 21-year career.

“Having exclusively military installations [as targets] helps you little, because you have hundreds of recruiting stations and other military things,” said Garrett, who also has a PhD in criminology.

“I mean, the Washington area is military target-rich. So that doesn’t help you a whole lot in narrowing it down. This largely boils down to someone coming forward and giving law enforcement a piece of information that leads to the shooter before this escalates, if in fact it does. It may not.”

“They call you and say, ‘I’m concerned about the guy who lives next door, my uncle,’ or whomever it might be. You follow up and find out who the guy is,” Garrett said.

Military detectives are probably scouring their files for reports of anyone acting strangely, he said, adding that law enforcement agencies worried about an attack on last weekend's Marine Corps Marathon.

Getting “lucky with unique ballistics ... [is] a real long shot,” said Garrett, who was lead investigator into the murder of CIA employees waiting in traffic outside the agency's front gate in 1993.

“They can probably tell, based on the type of round used, the approximate distance he or she was shooting from. But I don’t think they have any shell cases, so all they have is the impact. They probably have calibers in mind, and probably the different kind of weapons in mind just because of distance, damage to the windows, the size hole it made, and so on. You can pretty much figure out what shot it, at least down to the category -- but only a category, which may or may not be helpful, depending on what other intelligence law enforcement has,” said Garrett. In the current case, copycats are always a possibility, he said.

But ”the shooter or the shooters clearly want to draw attention to the military installations,” which poses the question of whether it’s “a bereaved person who lost someone in the current conflicts, or is an angry serviceperson who had difficulties in the military, got hurt in the military or is it someone who couldn’t get into the military. It could be any of those.”

“Clearly they don’t want to hurt anybody, they just want to draw attention,” he added. “You always worry about escalation, and there was some concern during the military marathon that they appear in a more nefarious format.”

With each attack, he said, detectives learn more about the perpetrator.

“The advantage of repetitive behavior in criminals is that each time…law enforcement learns a little bit more, more people know about it and then you increase your odds of people calling and telling you, ‘I’ve got a neighbor who’s been acting strange, he lost his son in the war’ -- whatever it might be, and you follow up and you end up finding this person.”

By Jeff Stein  | November 2, 2010; 1:45 PM ET
Categories:  Homeland Security, Intelligence, Lawandcourts  
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Where are the surveillance tapes? Every military base should have cameras watching the perimeter in these days of random terrorism. So did the tapes catch anything around the times of these shootings?
Also I have yet to read what the authorities believe to be the nature of this shooter. Is he a sniper, firing from a distance? Or is this a drive-by? Both are problematical in the case of the Pentagon shootings, because there are few places to hide and shoot without being seen by some driver on nearby highways or the GW Parkway.

Posted by: edwardallen54 | November 2, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

DHS has handed out billions and there are tens of thousands of investigators and law enforcment that could cover targets for their "availability pay" and the FBI expects the public to solve the case? Even the smallest police force in the areas covered by the shootings have millions in technological gear like "shot tracking" equipment; however, again, the public is supposed to break the case? Order everyone and anyone out into the woods and alleys until he or she fires again then they will be caught. That's how the Atlanta killer was caught, surveillance picked up this guy after he dropped a body. This case is a no brainer, drop your mouse, lock your office and go find these idiots, no excuses.

Posted by: eGREGie | November 3, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

The DC/Metro area is kind of a target rich environment for people acting strangely too... Nothing makes this case easy.

Posted by: Nymous | November 3, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Potomac Mills and Woodbridge are outside the loop.

Posted by: eGREGie | November 4, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

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