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W.Va. Residents Fear Possible Sniper

3:56 PM, Aug 17, 2003   |    comments
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CEDAR GROVE, W.Va. (AP) -- Police stopped black pickup trucks in this small town and residents warily went about their errands as authorities investigated three recent shooting deaths that could be the work of a single sniper. "How could it happen here?" asked resident Danny Canterbury as he shopped Saturday for groceries in the Appalachian town of 864 about 20 miles east of Charleston. Police confirmed Friday that three shootings at Charleston-area convenience stores - one Aug. 10 and two Thursday - could be the work of a single sniper. Police stopped black trucks with tinted windows and extended cabs after witnesses described a truck seen near a Cedar Grove store where one of the shootings took place. A black pickup also was seen in the Campbells Creek area, Kanawha County Chief Deputy Sheriff Phil Morris said. Authorities were also scrutinizing video from surveillance cameras. Police have acknowledged that the bullets in all three attacks were fired from the same caliber and class of weapon, all from more than 30 yards away. While authorities stopped short of definitely linking the killings, Morris recommended that residents do their shopping during the day, and he warned that if anyone did have to go to a gas station at night, that they not go alone. All three killings had been after dark. "It makes you think, where's it going to end?" Canterbury said. The only two gas stations in Cedar Grove were all but abandoned in the evening hours Friday, and the few people who headed to the only grocery store hustled back to their cars. At midday Saturday, the grocery lot was busy again. The shootings were an immediate reminder of the attacks that had terrorized two neighboring states over a three-week period last fall. Two men were arrested in the Washington-area sniper killings, but with the similarities between the attacks so strong, the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives joined state and local authorities in the hunt for the West Virginia shooter. Police said they have received more than 200 calls and tips, and after the second and third shootings, both on Thursday, they added six employees to work the telephones. Morris said local police and the sheriff had also added six road patrols in the area, focusing on gas stations. "It's like everyone's life's in danger," said Alicia Campbell, a Cedar Grove resident. The victims were identified as Gary Carrier Jr., 34, shot in the head Sunday night while using a pay telephone outside a gas station on Charleston's west side; Jeanie Patton, 31, shot in the back of the head Thursday night while pumping gas in Campbells Creek, about 10 miles east of Charleston; Okey Meadows, 26, shot in the neck later Thursday outside the Cedar Grove station. Police also are investigating whether a March 20 shooting death outside a Charleston grocery store could be related. Morris said that shooting involved a different caliber of rifle than the other three attacks, but that authorities weren't ruling out a possible connection. Despite the evident fear in town, lifelong Cedar Grove residents Ralph Roark, 73, and Jesse Frazier, 81, swore the shooter wouldn't force them to change their daily routine of relaxing on a park bench and watching the world go by. "It's not like it was when we were kids, and you could leave your door unlocked, come back and everything is still there," Frazier said. "It'll probably get worse before it gets better." "I'm just going through life like always," Roark said. "It's just my way of coping."

Associated Press

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