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Message from Sniper Prompts Police Request for Phone Call

By Carol Morello and R.H. Melton
THE WASHINGTON POST -- Authorities believe that the sniper who has killed nine people in the region over the past 19 days left a message at Saturday night’s shooting at an Ashland, Va., restaurant, sources said Sunday, and police made an appeal Sunday night asking that he call them.

News of the message came from Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose, who made a surprise appearance before reporters last night in Rockville, Md.

“To the person who left us a message at the Ponderosa (Saturday) night, you gave us a telephone number,” Moose said. “We do want to talk to you. Call us at the number you provided.”

Although Moose didn’t elaborate on who left the message, several sources said the chief’s statement came in response to a message left by the sniper.

Moose urged the media to carry his message clearly and often.

He took no questions from reporters, so it was unclear whether the message contained anything other than a telephone number. He did not say where investigators found the message or what form the message took.

After Moose made his statement, Officer Joyce Utter, a spokeswoman for Montgomery County police, said Moose meant what he said and it would be intelligible to the person he was addressing.

“To the person who left the message at the Ponderosa last night, this message should make sense,” she said.

If the message came from the sniper, it would mark his second possible communication with police since the string of shootings began Oct. 2. Prince George’s County, Md., police found a tarot card with the message “Mister Policeman, I am God,” near the scene of an Oct. 7 shooting at Benjamin Trasker Middle School in Bowie, Md. That shooting critically injured a 13-year-old boy.

Moose, who is heading the task force investigating the sniper shootings that have killed nine and injured at least two, said the message was found at the scene of Saturday’s attack.

In that shooting, a 37-year-old man was critically wounded as he and his wife walked to their car outside a Ponderosa steakhouse in Ashland, Va., about 90 miles south of Washington and 15 miles north of Richmond. Although authorities did not have the ballistics evidence Sunday night to definitively link the shooting to the Washington area sniper, a senior law enforcement official said “we all think it’s the same person.” The official said evidence found at the scene helps provide the linkage.