Officers reflect on good policing that led to DC sniper arrests

BALTIMORE - For 32 years, now retired Baltimore city officer Jim Snyder tried to do the all the little things right, even in the midst of the biggest story of his career.

The DC Sniper killed 10 people, 3 more critically injured and the targets as unsettling as the act; public gas stations, buses and schools.

 The sniper paralyzed life inside and out of two beltways, seemingly putting everyday life and decency on hold.

"You just had to live through it to really appreciate ya know, what you had to go through that day just going to get gas," Snyder says.  

Snyder didn't just live through it, he worked it.

As a patrolman in the Northern District he chased his fair share of white box trucks and misguided leads from the massive multi-jurisdictional manhunt, but it would be in the details where he would find the devil.

A Chevy Caprice parked at a gas station at Sisson and 28th Street blocking the door where he knew the restaurant got its delivery.

The windows were fogged, clothes piled up in the back, even what he thought was a rusted out hole in the trunk.

[So you didn't think much of it?]  "No.  It was just a random stop, he wasn't wanted for anything.  I ran all checks that were humanly possible."  [You had no grounds to check further?]  "No, no...and that was October the 8th."

Muhammad's story made sense that night, and there were no legal grounds to go any further but to ask him to move.

 A simple but recorded stop that ended up in a national database later providing key information that would solve the case.

"This right here was his name and everything," said Snyder as he showed us a copy of his original report, "The car and information why he was stopped and this is what they used to verify.  This was physical evidence that he was here."

The ticket only has a just a couple of lines of information, but it was that single piece of paper that was key to ending all the terror and leading authorities to a single parking spot in a rest stop one hour due west of Baltimore City.

Maryland State Police First Sargent Keith Runk commanded the federal and local SWAT team that approached Muhammad's Caprice.

 The feds developed Muhammad as a suspect and because of Snyder's ticket, knew what car they were looking for.

Early in the morning of October 24th, it was spotted at a rest stop off 70 in Myersville, Maryland.

After 90 minutes of practice, intelligence and shutting down roads, a team of six approached.

"There was no reaction.  They were emotionless.  Dead stares.  Didn't say a word.   Muhammad put his hands up, he was in the back seat.  He was removed from the car.  Malvo was in the front seat and he was removed from the car.  And the whole time we had them in custody there was not one word spoken and no emotion displayed, just a blank stare," said Runk.

That blank stare is what Runk cannot forget to this day

The look of a cold calculated killer who the feds say was poised to carry out shootings in the Baltimore area next.

It was a surprisingly peaceful end to a massive manhunt, one that 10 years later, both local officers say ended with simple police work and precision execution.

"It was all basic good police work and that's what solved the case," said Runk.

"You do the little things and that adds up to big things," added Snyder,  "A lot of people would have maybe get this guy's information, not bother writing it down, yeah you look ok, see you later.  But if you do the right things, there is a reason why you should do the little things and that's why they add up to big things."

...Like the take down of one of the most fearful serial sniper teams in history.

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