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Unity of Task Force Faltering In New Phase of Sniper Probe

By Sari Horwitz and Dan Eggen
THE WASHINGTON POST -- As the investigation into a string of sniper killings enters a new phase this week, multiple law enforcement agencies have broken away from the regionwide sniper task force and are focusing solely on their own cases, spurring new tensions over access to information, law enforcement sources say.

There is frustration, for example, that the results of any questioning of the two suspects, John A. Muhammad, 41, and John L. Malvo, 17, has not been shared with each local jurisdiction involved in the case.

“Everyone is keeping stuff to themselves,” one investigator said.

“A couple of agencies have not had the opportunity to interrogate, nor have they been privy to what’s going on,” said another law enforcement official. “They need a lot more information than they’re getting in order to go forward on prosecutions.”

As part of their investigation, officials are trying to determine whether Malvo pulled the trigger in one or more of the killings. One law enforcement source said investigators have identified latent fingerprints from both Muhammad and Malvo on the Bushmaster assault rifle.

Some of those involved in the case believe Malvo may have written, or helped to write, one or both of the notes left at two crime scenes.

“We’re trying to determine who did what and who is responsible for what,” a law enforcement source said. “Some of the evidence is leading people to speculate that both were shooters, but we still have to see how it shakes out.”

Despite some problems with cooperation before the arrests, the various jurisdictions shared a common goal: to find the sniper. But now, they are working independently to compile sufficient evidence to prosecute shootings in their own jurisdictions.

District of Columbia Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said that while he had about 40 detectives, officials and forensics officers assigned to the task force during the past three weeks, that team is now zeroing in on the one shooting that took place in the District.