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Ballistics Tests Show Dead Man Ninth Killed by Fugitive Sniper

By Stephen Braun

Ballistics tests confirmed Thursday that a Maryland man slain by a distant gunshot at a Virginia gas station was the ninth victim of the armed serial killer circling the Washington Beltway, police officials said.

Northern Virginia police investigators said Dean Harold Meyers, 53, a civil engineer, was shot dead Wednesday night at a service station in the town of Manassas as he stood near his gray Mazda. Prince William County police and federal firearms agents said Meyers was killed by a single burst of gunfire -- identical to .223-caliber rounds that have killed six others and wounded two over the past week in suburban Maryland and Virginia, and in Washington, D.C.

Even before an autopsy yielded bullet fragments connecting Meyers’ slaying with the other victims, police concluded that the rifle-wielding assailant had struck again. The pattern was strikingly similar to two service station killings committed by the sniper last week during a 16-hour shooting spree in suburban Maryland -- a solitary shot fired from hundreds of yards away with near-pinpoint accuracy.

“The fact this happened at a service station, the individual being shot just before gassing the vehicle, the circumstances speak for themselves,” said Prince William Police Chief Charlie Deane.

The latest slaying was a taunting reminder of the sniper’s ability to roam the Washington region’s highways at will, leaving residents vulnerable and confounding officials struggling to return schools and commerce to normal routines.

“This is clearly urban terrorism,” said Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler, whose prosecutors are part of a law enforcement task force hunting the killer. “This guy has injected fear into this community down to the marrow.”

Public officials across the Washington region continued to take precautions, limiting outdoor activities at schools, sending police to patrol campuses and urging residents to remain vigilant.