John Allen Muhammad (né "John Allen Williams"), a 42 year old U.S. Army
veteran, was arrested in connection with a series of sniper serial killings in the Washington D.C and Virginia areas. Dubbed the "Beltway Sniper" or "The DC Sniper
", the case received national attention in the 23 day span of the attacks until police made arrests and the spree ended.
Born John Allen Williams, he changed his last name to Muhammad in October 2001. He is a member of the Nation of Islam. Friends say Muhammad helped provide security for Louis Farrakhan's "Million Man March," but Farrakhan has publically distanced himself and his organization from his actions.
Muhammad is twice divorced, and under a restraining order from his former wife. He was arrested on federal charges of violating the restraining order against him, for having a weapon.
In the Army, Muhammad was trained as a mechanic, truck driver and specialist metalworker. He qualified as an expert with the M-16, the US Army's standard infantry rifle. The rating is the Army's highest of three levels of marksmanship for a typical soldier. To receive an expert badge for the M-16, Muhammad would have had to hit 36 out of 40 targets, ranging from 50 to 300 meters during his yearly qualification on the M-16. The Bushmaster, linked to the shootings, is a civilian version of the M-16. All the sniper victims -- 13 dead, seven wounded, were each hit by a single .223-caliber shot.
The sniper supposedly called police and boasted that they could not catch him. He would leave demands, and threaten to kill more if he wasn't paid millions. He also left notes on the back of tarot cards, widely reported as saying "I am God." (Now what "Muslim" would claim that? CBS News claimed that he was a Muslim, but the New York Times said that he wasn't, saying he was a part of Nation of Islam. The NoI is a minority who is not considered Islam by anyone but themselves.) Ann Coulter has used him (and John Walker Lindh) as an example of how all 7 million+ Arabs and Muslims in the US should be profiled and monitored.
Muhammad was found after police followed a lead in which an anonymous caller (presumably Muhammad) told a priest to tell the police to check out a killing in Montgomery, Alabama. Federal officials were able to connect such a killing to Jamaican immigrant Lee Boyd Malvo's fingerprints, which were on file with the INS. Malvo was known to associate with Muhammad.
Following leads from the sniper attacks, his previous residence in Washington was searched, revealing evidence of sniper rifle use. A warrant was put out for his arrest, and he was taken into custody soon thereafter with 17-year old John Lee Malvo. The gun found in his possession was determined to be the same as the gun used in the sniper attacks.
In October, at the beginning of his trial, Muhammad was granted the right to represent himself in his defense. He dismissed his legal council, and according to experts, gave a poor opening statement. He immediately rehired a legal defense, after advisement from the judge. Muhammad is charged with murder, terrorism, conspiracy and illegal use of a firearm. He faces a possible death sentence if convicted on the murder or terrorism counts. Prosecutors have said the shootings were part of a plot to extort $10 million from local and state governments. The prosecution says that they will make the case for 16 shootings allegedly involving Muhammad. The terrorism charge against Muhammad requires prosecutors to prove he committed at least two shootings in a three-year period. John Lee Malvo is pleading insanity, and many people have tried to speculate on the relationship they have. Tabloids claim that they are gay.
On November 17, 2003, by unanimous verdict of his jury, Muhammed was convicted in Virginia of all four counts in the indictment against him: capital murder for the shooting of Dean H. Meyers; a second charge of capital murder under Virginia's anti-terrorism statute, for homicide committed with an intent to terrorize the government or the public at large; conspiracy to commit murder; and the illegal use of a firearm.
In the penalty phase of the trial, after five hours of deliberation over two days, the jury unanimously recommended the death penalty. On March 9, 2004, a Virginia judge agreed with the jury's recommendation and sentenced John Allen Muhammad to death.
== Related Links ==
http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2002/sniper.legal/ --CNN Special Report: Sniper Attacks, the legal case
http://news.findlaw.com/cnn/docs/sniper/vamhmmd102802pwind.pdf --Indictment Virginia. v. Muhammad
http://news.findlaw.com/cnn/docs/sniper/vamhmd71503vord.pdf --Order changing venue: Virginia v. Muhammad