The Washington Sniper: Sociopath, Psycho, Oxford Cloth Killer? Motivations, Profile?

Is this person a wacko nutjob or are they sane, operating with ruthless efficiency? Do you think the sniper is crazy like Son Of Sam, a delusionaly shut-in who is recieving messages from God through his dog? Or is he sane, like Charlie Whitman, the sane but brutal sniper on the University Of Texas Tower? Do any of his actions point towards one or the other?

I very recently read this, which says that the killer left a tarot card (Death) with the words “Dear Policemen: I am God.” on it. That seems to rule out religious motivation in the sense that God was telling him to do it. He may be delusional and think that he is in fact God and is smiting sinners. It could be a red herring though.

What would the profile look like? I am guessing it to be a male in the late 20s who may read or watch fantasy themed entertainment. Probably a social maladroit. Someone on another board noted that he is probably not a military sniper, because then he would know to not leave shell casings like he did in the linked article. The rifle is a .223, and I don’t know if the military uses such a caliber. It may be that the weapon is store-bought and not finely tuned.

What is your take on the killer?
Also, note on pronouns. I used ‘he’ in this post for continuity, but the killer may be female.

My opinion is that it isn’t mere coincidence that this is happening the same week that Hannibal Part 3 opened.

Somebody’s been planning this for a long time. :frowning:

Also wanna point out that the authorities are cautioning that they don’t have a clear link between the Tarot card and the shooter.
http://www.cnn.com/2002/US/South/10/09/shootings.maryland/index.html

Funny I would think millitary snipers would be less inclined to worry about ejected casings since they worry more about escape than tracing the weapon in question.

FYI .223 or 5.56mm is the caliber used in M-16 and AR-15, it is a very common millitary caliber. .223 rifles for hunting are also widely available.

As far as the “not highly tuned” bit…uh most guns are capable of more accuracy than the average shooter right out of the box. Tuned would be for consistently placing small groupings of shots at probably 600+yards.

I dont know how far away this guy is shooting from but rifle shots over 300 yards even with a scope are a challenge for anyone without serious formal training or a helluva lot of talent not to mention icewater for blood.

It’s curious to me that we’re not calling this an act of terrorism.

Whoever this freak is, they have everybody scared, they attack from the shadows, and we’re all talking about it.

Sounds like a successful terrorist to me. Probably not the kind we’ve been obsessed with for the last year, but a terrorist all the same.

It’s just interesting to me how we seem to have effortlessly made a distinction here: This is just a MURDERER - that’s not the same thing…

Terrorism is usually considered to have some kind of political overtones. Suicide bombers, for example, are not just killing people in cafes for no reason other than their own satisfaction. They believe, in their own way, that their actions will change a state’s policies.

Bad guy killing people may equal terror in the community, but it is not terrorism.*

There are several other threads on this topic, one in MPSIMS on profiles, one in GQ on the .223 and rifles.

  • If we find out later that this guy is doing this for political reasons then we might consider it to be terrorism.

I was thinking about posting an amateur profiler thread. Instead, I’ll just post my guesses here.

White male. Huge ego masking low self-esteem. Somewhat crazy but functional. A MD / VA local who really knows the area. Must be a damn good shot or good at camouflage and eluding. A .223 rifle is not small - and they are loud. The smallest one I can think of is a Thompson Contender (target pistol) - still damn large. Sneaking around with an AR-15 would be difficult.

Now the hard part, useful information. I would wager that it is a cop wannabe. Massive WAG: someone who applied to the police dept. and was turned down or someone who was fired. Or, I’m way off base.

I heard a guy on TV today saying that Vietnam special forces sometimes left death cards, FWIW. I somehow doubt that a vet. waited this long to snap.

Is it said to be two people, a shooter and a driver. That’s what’s getting me, I’m thinking inadaquate perfectionist type. But where’d he get a friend?

Tarot cards (in the US at least) are generally lower middle class and under class toys. Poor, psychotic, unemployed white male with gun fetish and “issues.” Someone (probably his mother if alive) knows he is responsible.

ahem

Astro, Tarot cards are also used by a large number of neo-Pagans and are not considered toys by them.

If the shooter did leave the Death card from the major arcana of a tarot deck, he either knows absolutely nothing about the symbolism or he knows a whole lot and it could be a clue for law enforcement.

The Death card in tarot does not mean literal death. It is a metaphor for transformation - the abrupt change from one state into another. So . . .

a) he’s an ignorant nutjob who thought a Death card looked cool and wanted to taunt the police.

b) he knows something about tarot and understands that Death =! death and is making some sort of psychological statement that the cops may or may not guess. (If they’ve got a criminal psychologist on board, I’m sure they’ll have picked up on this.)

And as a collary of b), if the guy knows tarot, then a lot can be inferred from the particular deck he chose. Was it the Rider-Waite deck? Aleister Crowley’s? The Aquarian? There are at least a hundred distinctly different kinds of decks, and each of them have their own stylized sense of symbolism.

My hope is that it’s option A To me, laying down a tarot card without really understanding what it means speaks of someone with an over developed sense of ego. It means that he may get sloppy, which means he’ll make mistakes, which means the police stand a chance of catching him sooner.

If it’s option B, then law enforcement will have to work a heck of a lot harder to get into this guy’s head. The metaphor of transformation implies that the shooter isn’t doing this from the same motivation as a run-of-the-mill serial killer. He may have a specific mission and view himself as being a transforming force (“I am God”). He might even see himself as setting his victims free or transforming them into something other than ordinary human beings.

I’ve got to stop typing. I’m creeping myself out. :shiver:

Sounds to me like a guy who reads a lot of Soldier of Fortune and is picking up the trappings of a special forces sniper in order to make himself look like a big man. The death card thing can be found in every Vietnam novel out there.

The AR-15 is not a particularly good choice for a sniper weapon, nor is the .223 a particularly good cartridge for it. If this guy is using an AR-15, it’s because he like being the kind of guy who snipes with an AR-15.

So, is there more or less a consensus that this psycho is a homegrown American? When I heard about the first few shootings the first thing that came to mind was that this was a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from elsewhere, perhaps from some act of terrorism currently being organized. I thought that because the shootings are obviously planned and carried out carefully, yet there seems to be no motive or agenda other than wanton random killing. So either someone has snapped and is using method in his madness, or someone is making as much trouble as he can to focus the attention of the authorities on attempts to locate him.

The whole tarot card thing (if it is not a prank or a joke) is quite juvenile. I am ignorant of their use in the military, but right away it does suggest the demographic groups that would normally be concerned with Tarot, i.e. as was pointed out earlier, lower-middle class and below. I think a Pagan would leave behind something more appropriate to his credo if he wanted to leave behind anything.

So, is there more or less a consensus that this psycho is a homegrown American? When I heard about the first few shootings the first thing that came to mind was that this was a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from elsewhere, perhaps from some act of terrorism currently being organized. I thought that because the shootings are obviously planned and carried out carefully, yet there seems to be no motive or agenda other than wanton random killing. So either someone has snapped and is using method in his madness, or someone is making as much trouble as he can to focus the attention of the authorities on attempts to locate him.

The whole tarot card thing (if it is not a prank or a joke) is quite juvenile. I am ignorant of their use in the military, but right away it does suggest the demographic groups that would normally be concerned with Tarot, i.e. as was pointed out earlier, lower-middle class and below. I think a Pagan would leave behind something more appropriate to his credo if he wanted to leave behind anything.

So, is there more or less a consensus that this psycho is a homegrown American? When I heard about the first few shootings the first thing that came to mind was that this was a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from elsewhere, perhaps from some act of terrorism currently being organized. I thought that because the shootings are obviously planned and carried out carefully, yet there seems to be no motive or agenda other than wanton random killing. So either someone has snapped and is using method in his madness, or someone is making as much trouble as he can to focus the attention of the authorities on attempts to locate him.

The whole tarot card thing (if it is not a prank or a joke) is quite juvenile. I am ignorant of their use in the military, but right away it does suggest the demographic groups that would normally be concerned with Tarot, i.e. as was pointed out earlier, lower-middle class and below. I think a Pagan would leave behind something more appropriate to his credo if he wanted to leave behind anything.

I’ve been considering the theory both might be to throw the cops off.

There is the possibility, due to the fact he has been very good about not leaving evidence so far and not being seen, for that matter, that perhaps he is somewhat intelligent. The Death Card and catridge could be intentionatly left there as a way to taunt and throw the cops off, make them think he’s some kind of nutjob(Okay, he is a nutjob, but I’m thinking hannible lector vs. something more obvious). It’s not particulary hard to prevent any cartridges from being dropped(don’t cycle another round if non-semi-auto, or brass catcher if semi-auto), so the fact he left it means he doesn’t care, is a complete idiot(unlikely in light of what we’ve seen), or put it there to make the cops look for a .223(when he could be using a .222 or something).

I’m not saying this is what is happening, but throwing it out as a theory.

If it is true, it makes me think less of his intelligence. I wouldn’t be leaving any kind of evidence around that would help someone find/convict me, if I could help it. I definatly wouldn’t be providing a sample of my handwriting.

When I heard about the Tarot card, I thought they had some hard evidence linking it to the killer. But now I hear they just found it in the area a couple of days later? Is that correct? If so, I’d say it’s better than 50/50 that some prankster dropped it there.

In which case, all bets are off as to who’s doing it.

Apricot wrote:

Where did you read this one? I’d like to see it. If it is more than one person, it seems to me that it would be an implication of terrorism, no? I mean, your typical homegrown All-American psycho-killer (cue Talking Heads - sorry :rolleyes: ), historically speaking, tends to be a loner. But a joint effort would point more toward organization of some sort. Just because this isn’t typical terrorism doesn’t mean that it isn’t.

Just speculation on my part (obviously)…YMMV

The leaking of the Tarot card was very stupid, and the investigators are rightly pissed at whomever leaked it, be it a legitimate lead or not. The way the media is playing the card up is sort of sickening in and of itself.

One interesting pattern: many of the shootings shared a proximity to “Michaels crafts stores.” What the heck does that mean?

The interesting thing is that, unless the police are keeping it secret, we’ve had no contact from this guy, outside of the possible Tarot card. That’s particularly weird given that he had a big clump of shootings in the beggining and is now working only sporadicaly. You’d think that after making a big entrance, he’d take his spree somewhere other than more here-and-there shootings. Even if the Tarot card is real, it just doesn’t seem quite right: especially if it’s two guys (as the latest shooting tonight seems to confirm).

Finally, anyone read this TIME story? That last paragraph kind of weirded me out…
http://www.cnn.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,362637,00.html?cnn=yes
“We don’t know anything for sure about the killer’s state of mind, but chances are he’s enjoying himself enormously.”

Uh… good for him. At least SOMEONE is getting something good out of all this…

For the two man thing, check the CNN on the latest attack (the one at the gas station). If these are the guys, someone is driving, someone is shooting. Mobile command post. Makes sense. And yes, it does up the possibility of terrorism.

I would say that the fact that the killer/killers have slowed down their attack frequency also speaks to them not being run of the mill crazies. It could just be good strategy: when the police are alerted to your MO, you’d best cut down on your attacks to make them harder to predict, if not stop them entirely for a bit. Worse, that they’ve done this means that these guys don’t really fit the general spree or serial model consistently: neither cooling off to savor kills, nor pulling off lots at once.

It certainly would be a good terrorist methodology. You can’t build a really big bomb easily: getting the material has become too hard: too conspicuous. Suicide bombings often have unpredictable levels of kills, and besides: why kill yourself when you can live to kill another day. Using rifles in the U.S. is basically a weapon of opportunity: they are both really really common but also rarely used in crimes compared to handguns, and so have gotten far less scrutiny and tracking data. The only really dumb thing is using the same car more than once, if the previous sighting was related.

If this latest killing is connected, it’ll be the third at a gas station.

I’ve really tried to avoid this issue over the last 10 days. I’ve seen people second-guessing this sniper since day one; I’ve seen the media buying into this media trip all the way along the line.

FWIW, this is happening in real time and criminology happens to be my major.

There is NOTHING, but nothing, magical about how we put together a profile.

I also don’t give a shit about what you’ve read or heard, we are NOT mind readers.

My “gut instinct” a couple of days after this started happening was that this person would eventually make contact with either the police or the media. There is nothing “magical” whatsoever about my drawing that conclusion.

You’d better believe that he is taunting you, but there are certain things about his MO which reveal probabilities about him (and I do not use the term “him” lightly - if the perpertrator of these crimes is a woman, then I’ll abandon criminology as a career).

Very arrogant. Not just military, but either a member of one of the “elite” branches of the military or a member of one of the very highly trained branches of the civilian militia.

I’m inclined to think NOT “elite military” because I have some idea of just how closely “ex-members” of elite military corps are watched.

The killings to date have been formulaic. The sniper has relied on the confusion at the crime scene. He’s probably extremely good looking and - more importantly - extremely well dressed.

He is not acting alone in this. I don’t mean that a group of people are taking random shots at innocent people with the same gun. I mean that what he has done is known within his own “community”.

He probably does not present as “poor” or “uneducated” - he displays a certain kind of methodical thinking which narrows the field in respect of his military history.

I really don’t blame the police who are working this case for getting the shits with everyone.

This guy is always gonna play mind games with those who seek to capture him, but unless the police are totally stupid or are attempting to with-hold more than half of the evidence, the Tarot card as reported in the media isn’t “it”. He’s more subtle than that. He want you to KNOW how intellectually superior he is, and a Tarot card doesn’t fit with his perception of “sophistication”.

The profile I’ve formed over the last week would not come down to a “simple” Tarot card; and most certainly NOT the Death card (which has little to do with literal death, but mostly to do with rebirth).

This game is about intellectual superiority. This person WILL leave more and more clues - because he wants his “cleverness” acknowledged", but they won’t be the “right” clues.

There’s a heck of a lot more I want to say about this person. Not because I’m psychic but because one of the first things they teach us in criminology is that in the absence of total insanity there is ALWAYS an explanation for the evidence people leave behind.

I’ve drawn my own conclusions about this person by the very fact that cartridges have been found at some of the crime scenes.

Some of the stuff the media are saying right now scares the shit out of me because if the profile I’ve put together for this person is even 50% right, those kinds of news reports will only encourage his self-gratification fantasies. And this is ALL about ego and control.

Here’s a humble little opinion on one aspect of the case.

I think this guy is getting way too much credit as some kind of highly trained assassin. Marine infantrymen can pick off targets at 500 yards with a high rate of accuracy, with a .223 and no scope. Most deer hunters who spend some time at the range can make a 100 yard killing shot with no problem. I shot “expert” in the Navy, hitting 40 of 40 at ranges up to 300 meters with .223 and two days practice. It wasn’t like I was a SEAL or something.

This guy seems to be shooting targets of opportunity. Set up the gun, wait for something to walk into your target path, and shoot. Or, park the car, open the door and shoot at close range. If that’s what he’s doing.

Equating him to an elite military sniper, is probably what this friggin twisted screw has been wanting people to do his whole life. I certainly won’t give him that kind of credit. After all, he did miss once, and thankfully two of his victims survived.

My vote goes for militia nut, or military drop-out.