November 9, 2009
Posted: 07:50 PM ET
He became an almost daily fixture on TV sets around the country during three traumatic weeks in October 2002. Snipers were shooting innocent victims in the Washington, D.C. area. The 14 incidents were random. 16 people were shot, 10 fatally. Area residents were afraid to go to the mall, to school, some to even leave their homes. Then Montgomery County, Maryland Police Chief Charles Moose was the public face of the investigation. His emotional and sometimes contentious briefings made Moose a celebrity. But controversy came along with his public persona.
In advance of Tuesday night's scheduled execution of convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad, we spoke with Chief Moose in an LKL Web Exclusive interview.
LKL Blog: What are your feelings about the execution of John Allen Muhammad?
Chief Moose: We live in a nation of laws. The people of Virginia made their decision based on the evidence. It's good to see the system works, and the people's will is going to be carried out.
LKL Blog: But how do you personally feel about capital punishment?
Moose: I believe in it, because it's the law in Virginia. But if for some reason people decided we wouldn't do that any more, it wouldn't bother me.
LKL Blog: Were you invited to witness the execution?
Moose: I was not, but if I was, I wouldn't be interested. I think I've seen enough death. I don't need to watch someone else die.
LKL Blog: What are your feelings about John Allen Muhammad?
Moose: I'm not sure I have personal feelings about that individual. His crimes were horrible. I'm pleased they were captured, and the crimes and violence stopped (the other sniper was 17-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo). His execution is a reminder, when you do something, you have to pay the price. I hope this execution is a deterrent, and sends the message that this type of behavior is unacceptable.
LKL Blog: Did this ever become personal for you? Muhammad allegedly told a prison guard he killed a teenager just to get to you.
Moose: I felt it was personal when they had the audacity to shoot a child. But in terms of what he's talking about, it wasn't personal for me. It was my job to keep the community safe, and bring them to justice.
LKL Blog: Some reports have said you have "conflicted" feelings because you're African-American, and so were the snipers. Any truth to that?
Moose: No. We worked very hard to keep our investigation color-blind. Their race doesn't have anything to do with it now, and didn't then. The only confusion may be that a number of African-Americans I talked to were disappointed the snipers were African-American; their sense of pride was hurt that African-Americans could do something like this. That's what people have said to me. But race has never been a concern of mine in any crime investigation. Experience has taught me all types of poeple, of all races and genders can do horrible things.
LKL Blog: Looking back on those three weeks, what are your emotions now?
Moose: My initial thought is how proud I am of all the men and women that came together, from all the agencies involved in the investigation. Some people think three weeks was a long time, and 13 (sic) shootings was a lot. But the reality is to solve a crime in three weeks is commendable. My second thought is it was a scary time, and I'm pleased we were able to capture the shooters.
LKL Blog: You assumed a very public role during the investigation, sometimes bringing you a lot of criticism. Do you regret that?
Moose: I learned from my time in the military, maximum disclosure with minimum delay is very important. If it happened today, becasue of the new forms of communication, blogging, tweeting, it would be even more important today to keep the flow of information going. Misinformation can be harmful. If you don't get the information out, people will make things up. So it's important to get the facts out accurately and quickly.
LKL Blog: While this was going on, you told people to be looking out for a white van (it turned out the snipers were in a blue sedan). How did that come about?
Moose: One of the things we did during the investigation was make a commitment not to ignore or downplay information from a witness. We all like to think from shows like CSI, crimes are always solved by forensic evidence, but the key is witnesses. Witnesses said they saw white vans near the shootings. We put that information out, and unfortunately it took on a life of it's own.
LKL Blog: You lost your job as police chief because you decided to write a book about the incident. Any regrets?
Moose: I'm glad I wrote the book, but I do miss the Montgomery County Police Department. Things happen in life, and you walk through different doors. Nothing stayed the same for me after that incident, but I don't regret writing the book.
LKL Blog: What did you learn from the sniper case?
Moose: A number of things. First is, ask for help. This seemed to be a bigger case than we could handle as a county police department. Asking for help was not something I would usually do, so learning that was important. Second, is the importance of life, and living it to its fullest. Going through that experience reinforced this, and that sense is still strong in me. Those victims never did anything to have their lives taken from them. That has stuck with me. Unfortunately I can't help them, but I can try to live a better life because of what happened.
LKL Blog: Is there anything the public can take away from this incident?
Moose: The idea that we can recover from terrible situations if we work together. If you look at the lives of the victims-families, they have suffered, but they've moved forward. They are role models for difficult times. I'm not in touch with them, but I think of them often.
NOTE: Charles Moose will be a guest on LKL Tuesday night, when we will be broadcasting live during the execution of John Allen Muhammad.
From around the web
Go Behind The Scenes
LARRY KING LIVE'S Emmy-winning Senior Executive Producer Wendy Walker knows what it takes to make a great story.
With anecdotes, provocative emails, scandals, show transcripts and insights into Walker's long working relationship with Larry King, her new book PRODUCER issues readers an invitation to listen in on the most intriguing conversations on the planet.