Snipers and Their Activity The Writer Focuses Term Paper

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snipers and their activity. The writer focuses on the most recent sniper attacks that have been occurring in the Virginia area but uses past cases to elaborate on sniper activity and profiles in general. There were five sources used to complete this paper.


It is one of the scariest things the nation has ever experienced. Nobody is safe. A shot rings out and someone drops. They die. The news screams that the Maryland/Virginia sniper has struck again. He does not seem to have a chosen type to target. A child, shoppers, a bus driver and several others have had their lives ended or forever altered while performing everyday mundane tasks, such as pumping gas, or reading a book. While the attacks are gaining international attention he is not the first sniper that America has ever had. He is perhaps the most threatening because of the way he is handling his need to kill. He is leaving clues and the police are scrambling to cooperate enough to stroke his ego while tightening the net around his eventual capture. Snipers of this magnitude are a new breed. There seems to be no rhyme or reason. It is not a single shooting frenzy, but rather a cold calculated and carefully plotted assault on the very psyche of America.

The dictionary definition of a sniper is " to shoot at exposed individuals (as of an enemy's forces) from a usually concealed point of vantage." There have been several snipers in history throughout the years. Usually there is a type of person they shoot at however. This new sniper is something that the nation has not experienced.

This sniper is a new kind of monster. Unlike other murderers, he has no attachment to his prey, shooting them from afar through the crosshairs of a rifle. His victims are selected at random: male, female, old, young, black, white, Hispanic. They have been shot or killed in rapid succession: 11 victims in 13 days (Killer,2002). "

When the authorities are dealing with a sniper one of the most important tasks that they have is to try and pinpoint the traits that the sniper is displaying. This helps in the eventual capture because it allows the authorities to begin predicting his next targets. The current sniper has eluded police while keeping the Maryland/Virginia area in a panic but even he has developed some discernable traits that are unique to his attacks (Killer,2002). Some of them include:

The killer is mobile, driving what many witnesses describe as a van or truck. He could be using more than one vehicle (Killer,2002).

Police are working with a psychological profile, but won't discuss it. Experts say the shooter is likely in his 20s or 30s and may have grown up with guns. The task force would not discuss reports it asked the U.S. military to review their records for recently discharged snipers (Killer,2002).

A man questioned in the sniper shooting Friday said police showed him a surveillance photo of a white, medium-built man. The photo has not been made public (Killer,2002).

The sniper took the two weekends off from his killing spree. Some residents speculate that he is a divorced father who gets his children on weekends (Killer,2002).

He uses a high-powered rifle that fires.233-calibre bullets, possibly a Colt AR-15 or Ruger Mini-14.

The tarot card and its message of "Mister Policeman: I am God, " found near last week's school shooting, suggests a contempt for authority, experts say (Killer,2002).

More recently the sniper has left a letter for the police and allegedly made a phone call to the authorities. The authorities are using the media to contact him and ask him to call back because they could not get a clear signal. While this sniper is capturing international attention for his cold actions and his ability to evade arrest there have been other snipers in the past.

Several years ago an army paratrooper was sentenced to die. His crime? A sniper attack on his own unit during morning exercise class. "Sgt. William Kreutzer Jr., 27, was convicted at a court-martial of premeditated murder and attempted murder for killing an officer and wounding 18 other soldiers as they lined up for a four- mile jog in the dark (Army, 1996)." The sniper in this case used tracer bullets and was an excellent shot. This sniper was more similar to other sniper attacks in that it was a one time killing spree. This current sniper is defying history with his actions but he is not one of a kind. One only has to think back to San Francisco during the 1970's to research the Son of Sam who killed six innocent victims with gunshots at different times. He claimed he did it because his neighbor's dog instructed him to. Snipers have many reasons for their actions. Some of them are so mentally ill that they have a break with reality and believe they are carrying out a divine plan assigned only to them. Others are angry over the break up of a relationship or the fact that they were fired from their jobs. This latest sniper is a puzzle for the authorities (Army, 1996). He seems to be held together well enough mentally to plan and execute these shootings. He has not at this point made public what his motivation is though he is leaving clues, such as the tarot card with "Dear Policeman, I am God" written on it. The sniper is also giving no warning of his planned attacks. Often times snipers give clues or signals that they are about to commit the acts. In the case of the paratrooper the sniper warned peers the night before that he was going to mow everyone down (May, 1996)."The last thing he told me was he had to go, he was loading magazines." Said one of this colleagues who brushed off the comments but got worried when Kreutzer wasn't in his barracks at 5 a.m. Mays said he told platoon and company leaders, but his concerns were dismissed (May, 1996)."

The latest 2002 sniper has garnered the full time attention of over 300 FBI agents as well as the local police personnel in the towns that he strikes. While he is unique in several aspects he too has developed a pattern that is becoming recognizable. The pattern is that he choose random targets that are in public places (Smalley, 2002). He uses the same type of rifle to kill his victims and he seems to be taunting the public with his ability to get in and out. He always chooses areas that are near highways which gives him a fast getaway route and he has shot from heavily wooded areas in the past (Smalley, 2002). All of these traits are indicative of the sniper but none of them help the police figure out how to capture him. Snipers often commit their deeds because they want to be heard. They feel that someone somewhere was not listening or that their concerns have been brushes aside. The commit these violent acts to gain attention and then the opportunity to present their grievances. Whether their grievance involves an entire organization or just one person it causes the sniper to seek this action in an effort to be heard. Mot people have the values and morals place not to attack other humans as a way to be heard, but someone with a mental illness, or a sociopathic personality would think nothing of killing to make their point.

The media often becomes a double-edged sword when it comes to sniper attacks. While the media can be useful in getting messages to the sniper from the police it can also serve as a sort of drug to the sniper. Many snipers feel they have been ignored or slighted in some way. When they can command the attention of the entire nation through the media by their actions they can derive a feeling of power that is feeding their need to be heard. This may prompt them to continue killing so that they will continue to remain in the spotlight. The authorities are often at a crossroad as to whether or not to use the media in their quest to capture the sniper. In the latest sniper attacks the police chief involved initially blasted the media for broadcasting information but later used the media to send messages ot the sniper. In addition to the decision in how much to allow the media to play into the problem there is an issue of what to say. A sniper who has begun killing people does not think like the average person thinks. It can become dangerous to second guess his motives or to try and decide what to say to him (Smalley, 2002). "How can we stop this guy?" one participant wondered aloud. Another lawman suggested using the media to secretly send a message to the sniper that would "de-escalate" the situation. What would we say,…

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