The Burke school was in the DC sniper’s ‘cross’, but the connection is unclear, Contee says

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DC Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said the sniper, who sprayed bullets over the Van Ness neighborhood in northwest Washington on Friday, had his view of a nearby private school where he fired more than 200 bullets out of his apartment window with about 800 unused shots in his window. place of residence.

“School was certainly in his crosshairs,” Contee said, referring to the shooter as a “lone wolf sniper.”

Raymond Spencer had six firearms in the apartment on Van Ness Street, including three fully automatic rifles, said the boss at a news conference Monday. He said police found thousands more ammunition in another residence in Fairfax County, Va., And parts to assemble three additional firearms.

Authorities said they still had not heard of any connection Spencer had to Edmund Burke School or a motive for the shooting that injured four people – including a 12-year-old, two women in vehicles and a school security guard who is a retired DC. police officer.

Two of the victims remained hospitalized in critical condition Monday.

Contee and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) gave a terrifying update to Friday afternoon’s attack that terrorized a stretch of busy Connecticut Avenue from Van Ness to Woodley Park and threw homes and schools along with Edmund Burke in blockade for hours.

Authorities also revealed that Spencer had set up a camera in the hallway outside his apartment door on AVA Van Ness, apparently to see if police were coming. Spencer, 23, also had bought two frozen dinners at a nearby Giant Food five hours before the rampage.

Police described his fifth-floor apartment as a “sniper’s nest” overlooking a glass-enclosed bridge connecting two school buildings at Edmund Burke and where parents line up in cars to pick up children upon dismissal. He had turned the apartment’s bathroom into a temporary command center with a laptop, a cell phone and a rifle and a pillow in the tub.

Suspected of shooting that wounded 4 found dead, officials say

Police also said they learned new details about Spencer, who they said shot himself dead in that bathroom when police broke open his door about 5½ hours after he opened fire around 6 p.m. 15.20. He had attended Wheaton High School in Montgomery County, had been a lifeguard and had briefly served in the U.S. Coast Guard in 2017, said police.

But other parts of Spencer’s life remain a worrying mystery for law enforcement, including how he paid for the apartments he rented in the district from January and in the Fair Lakes area of ​​Fairfax County from February 2021, and how he procured his expensive arsenal.

But even more critically, police said they do not know why he apparently randomly fired at the school.

“Everyone wants to know,” Contee said, adding, “And we want to be able to provide those answers.”

Bowser presented Monday’s news conference as a discussion on public safety in the district, announcing the creation of a new violent crime enforcement team, where local authorities will work with federal law enforcement agencies to target violence in specific areas where shootings are most prevalent.

Contee noted that police on Friday and Saturday responded to a total of 10 shooting episodes with 15 victims, including a shot at a man in a wheelchair and shots of three people in Brightwood Park. Both attacks took place as police were tracking down the sniper, evacuating buildings and securing the area around Van Ness.

Also during the 48-hour period, a construction worker directing the traffic was shot by a person on a public bicycle who was sorry for the delays, and a man was fatally shot and stabbed during an altercation at a birthday party.

On Monday, as the mayor’s briefing was nearing completion, a person was killed shot in northeast Washington. Police said they have seized 969 illegal weapons in the district this year, a 50 percent increase from that point in 2021.

Contee has often said that people respond differently to crime depending on their “proximity to the pain.” About the crime experienced over the past three days, the boss said, “This should be painful for all of us.”

Murders, which have been rising in the district for the past four years, have dropped by 10 percent from year to date. But violent crime has risen by 26 percent, driven by an increase in robbery and car capsules. A recent poll by The Washington Post showed that 3 out of 10 residents in the district do not feel safe in their neighborhood.

Crime concerns come as Bowser seeks re-election for a third term and as a June 21 primary election approaches. Public safety and the Van Ness shooting were key topics in debate the day after the sniper attack on a candidate forum, where Bowser came under criticism from opponents.

On Monday, the mayor said gun violence affects not only victims but also “people living in communities where they are scared, where they are witnessing crimes, where they hear shots, or where they can not enjoy the peace and quiet of their Own home .”

Officials at the press conference also showed piles of firearms that police had recently seized in the district, where Bowser said she would “show some of the firepower that the MPD is up against on our streets.” Some of those weapons were from Spencer’s apartment.

The hours of a terrible shutdown at Edmund Burke school

Authorities said they were carefully collecting and documenting evidence, and as of Monday, they were still in Spencer’s apartment, processing the crime scene. Meanwhile, police have begun building a rough timeline of events surrounding the shooting.

Contee said Spencer moved into the AVA Van Ness apartment in January and filled out his lease online. The chief said investigators were trying to determine how the young man could afford two homes and “how he pays his bills and keeps the lights on.”

Other tenants have said they rarely encountered Spencer. In the days leading up to the shooting, police officials said they believe Spencer had searched Wikipedia pages about the recent attack on the New York City subway and a school shooting in Florida.

The night before the attack, Contee said, surveillance video shows Spencer driving a suitcase into the building, and officials have previously described his apartment as sparsely furnished with a mattress on the floor.

Law enforcement officials with knowledge of the investigation have said authorities are investigating Internet posts that may be of Spencer, especially on the 4chan platform, where a user who walks past “Raymond Spencer” wrote “Dear God please forgive me” at 3:24 p.m. , shortly after the shooting began.

The user sent another message at 15:30, as Contee said, appeared to be targeting police: “They’re in the wrong part of the building right now, looking for XD.”

A final message was sent on 4chan at. 15.36: “Waiting for the police to catch up with me.”

Separately, the Edmund Burke School Wikipedia page was revised online Friday to read: “A basic man shot at school on April 22, 2022. The suspect is still at large,” according to the Wikipedia page’s history, which showed a change briefly after 4 pm made by a user of “Raymond Spencer”. Shortly after, the user replaced “basedman” with “gunman” and added “(Hope they catch him soon!)” Next to the edit, according to the history of the Wikipedia page.

It was unclear how Spencer either got three fully automatic rifles or modified the rifles to fire continuously with a single push of the trigger. Contee said Spencer’s firearms were not equipped with a so-called “giggle switch” or “auto sear”, components that were used to convert some weapons into fully automatic weapons. They are illegal but available on the internet and relatively easy to install.

So far, law enforcement officials have been frustrated in their efforts to establish a motive for the shooting. Contee said investigators are talking to Spencer’s family, who have not spoken publicly about the case, and he urged anyone who has interacted with Spencer to contact authorities.

Police have noticed that Spencer did not appear to be trying to hide his digital footprint and used his real name on many of his posts. But it also appears that he left few traces of his motive.

“We’re really trying to put the pieces together,” Contee said.

Emily Davies, Alice Crites, Razzan Nakhlawi and Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.

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