Local reaction to the sniper
killings has ranged from cavalier
("there are millions of people here, my chances of getting shot are slim") to terrified
("I'm keeping my whole family locked inside our house until they catch this person"). A number of changes have occurred in everyone's daily lives:
- Schools have been on Code Blue status since the attacks first began. This means that students are not allowed outside for recess, "open lunch" for high school seniors is forbidden, field trips are canceled, student travel to vocational programs and ROTC projects is not permitted, and doors are kept locked wherever possible (excluding overcrowded schools that utilize trailer classrooms). Following a shooting in Richmond, a message from the sniper indicated schoolchildren would be in particular danger; this prompted that jurisdiction to close schools completely.
- Traffic has become a nightmare - and the area already has the third-worst traffic in the nation. Immediately after police are alerted to a shooting, they establish "dragnet" roadblocks throughout the area in an attempt to detain the suspects. These roadblocks often lead to extensive traffic jams, and because their locations cannot be announced for security reasons, area employees have no idea if they should leave home earlier in the morning to get to work on time.
- Local sporting events have been postponed and canceled. Because such events bring together a large number of people in an exposed outdoor place, they have been deemed dangerous. Major games have continued, but the local high school fall sports schedule is nearly destroyed.
- Everyone is a bit more wary as they go about their daily lives. People loading their cars with groceries are clearly thinking about the possibility of becoming the next victim, and many people worry about what will happen the next time their car runs out of gas. Because many of the shootings have taken place at gas stations, they are of particular concern. Most pumps have a lever that allows the handle to be left unattended while filling the tank, and people here are making use of that feature. After setting the lever, individuals crouch behind their cars, climb back into the vehicle, or go into the service station itself. And finally, because many of the incidents have occurred where a major highway was easily accessible, some area residents are using different gas stations and stores for the time being.
- Anyone who owns a white box truck or small van - particularly the Chevy Astro or Ford Econoline models - is likely to be stopped at some point. Because law enforcement does not yet have a clear system for determining which vehicles have been checked out, some drivers are stopped multiple times. As few as three and as many as eight state trooper cars will surround the van after it has pulled over, sometimes blocking a travel lane and always causing rubbernecking. In some cases, FBI agents have participated, "guarding" the innocent driver with large rifles while his or her vehicle is searched.
All of these reactions have been deemed acceptable by most of the area. Most previous serial killer
s have targeted a specific demographic - young dark-haired women
, black children
- but so far investigators have found absolutely no pattern to these murders, making everyone a potential victim. With so many people in this area, the chances are millions-to-one...and yet each person shot had exactly the same odds as the rest of us.
Local news coverage on TV and radio
Personal experience (sitting in traffic, working in a school, buying groceries, pumping gas)