Question about sniper arrests

Extremely simplified, but as I understand it:

  1. The sniper calls the police, and refers to a killing at a liquor store in Montgomery, AL in September.

  2. Task force swoops down on the liquor store; picks up a fingerprint, runs it through their database, which rings the bell(straight out of CSI) on a suspect–name, address, car.

  3. APB on the car, and within hours they’ve got a suspect in custody.

So my question: if it was that easy, why didn’t the Montgomery police pick up this guy when they were investigating the September killing?

My understanding of it is that the fingerprint in Alabama did not have anything to do with the identification of the car. The car was linked to the driver, who was someone they were already searching for.

From’s “timeline”:

Why they didn’t pick him up for the Sept killing I have no idea. In regards to the sniper, the “Alabama” mention was the key they needed to crack it.

Extremely simplified, it looks like only one possible answer: sloppy police work in Montgomery, Ala. (not to be confused with Montgomery County, Md.).

Scale may have something to do with it. In Alabama, he killed one person, which, while bad, doesn’t inspire a nationwide manhunt with 24-hour CNN coverage. Once that killing was linking to a major national tragedy, it was plastered all over international news coverage. This led to the police getting a tip in Tacoma (?) that led to the apprehension of the killer.

A robbery/murder in Alabama is not going to lead to tipsters in Washington all by itselfm generally.


But I don’t think tipsters would’ve been required. The Montgomery police could have lifted the fingerprint, run it through the computer, and turned up the name John Allen Mohammed.

And about three other fingerprints picked up at the scene would have turned up names from the same database, which the detectives in the Montgomery police department would begin to evaluate. It was a busy place.

When the task force gets tip about a crime in Alabama, together with information only known by the sniper, they check the fingerprint database, and it rings the same bells, but this time the bells are ringing in three places at the same time. Big difference. By the way, I think it was the other guy who left the print, not Mohammed.


Don’t forget that the Alabama liquor store shooting was the 17 year old kid, NOT John Allen.

The fingerprint was from the 17-year-old suspect John Lee Malvo, not John Mohammad.

The news stories I heard first said the prints were from a “gun magazine” and I assumed that meant a contraption that feeds ammunition into the gun. I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t run the fingerprints they found on such a thing. It turns out they meant a magazine (periodical publication) about guns. They many not have known at first that the magazine was related to the crime.

I just read that since the print was from the juvenile his print was not accesible by the Alabama police and that since the feds were involved in the sniper case they were able to gain access to the databases where juvenile and INS prints are stored. The feds apparently have different rules about which databases they can access.

I read this morning in the Times that the info regarding the Montgomery Alabama fingerprint was not available to the Alabama police, but it was available to the FBI, because it had to do with immigration (the print was from the kid).

Here’s the link

and the quote:

[hijack on]
Sorry for the hijack but it relates to this incident.

I heard it took police three hours (or thereabouts) to get Mohammad and his son after the call came in from a citizen identifying the car. They were only some 50 miles from Washington and I would have thought 1,000 police would have descended on the potential perps ASAP.

Why did it take police so long to respond (I gather I’m missing something here but I’ve been out-of-touch lately due to work and have only caught bits and pieces of the story/
[/hijack off…please return to your regularly scheduled thread]

Pretty much answers my question. Thanks.