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Charles Moose, the face of the DC sniper investigation, dies at 68

<i>Mario Tama/Getty Images</i><br/>Charles Moose
Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Charles Moose

By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN

Charles Moose, who helmed the Montgomery County Police Department when authorities arrested the DC snipers, has died, according to a department Facebook post.

The 68-year-old passed on Thanksgiving, the department said, citing his wife.

“He was a great leader and led our department through the DC Sniper investigation, one of the most difficult crime sprees in our country’s history. We send condolences to his wife Sandy and all of his family and friends.” Chief Marcus Jones said in a statement.

The New York-born Moose, who was raised in North Carolina, led the department from 1999 to 2003.

Montgomery County State Attorney John McCarthy’s office also sent sympathies to Moose’s family, lauding the former chief’s “service during some of our darkest days. We are forever grateful for his leadership during the 2002 Sniper Crisis,” according to a tweet.

Moose died “while watching football and sitting in his recliner,” Sandy Moose said in a Facebook post published by CNN affiliate WJLA.

“He called my name, and I came running but it was too late. His body was shutting down,” his wife wrote. “It seems so trite to give first notice this way. Right now, I can’t think much beyond I need a plan to celebrate this man: my best friend since 1982. He meant so much to so many, I’m at a loss … Godspeed Charles.”

Killings shook the Beltway

October 2002 was a month of terror for the Beltway as John Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo embarked on a killing spree, randomly targeting people going about their daily lives.

Their first victim was a 55-year-old in a supermarket parking lot in Wheaton, Maryland, on October 2, 2002. By the end of that week, they’d killed a 39-year-old landscaper as he mowed a lawn in Rockville; a part-time cab driver who was pumping gas in Aspen Hill; a 34-year-old woman at a post office in Silver Spring; a 25-year-old woman at a gas station in Kensington; and a 72-year-old man walking down Georgia Avenue in Washington, DC.

When they were arrested, Malvo and Muhammad had killed 10 people and injured three more in sniper-style attacks in and around the nation’s capital. Authorities would later trace their crime spree back several months, linking them to a string of robberies, shootings and killings in the Southwest and Southeast United States.

The killers taunted investigators, leaving tarot cards, a handwritten note and even calling police in one instance.

Montgomery County police led the investigation, which also involved numerous state and federal agencies, and Moose was often the public face of the probe, holding regular news conferences. In one press briefing, hours before Muhammad and Malvo’s arrests, Moose famously relayed a message to the killers.

“You asked us to say — quote — ‘We have caught the sniper like a duck in a noose’ — end quote,” he said. “We understand that hearing us say this is important to you. However, we want you to know how difficult it has been to understand what you want because you have chosen to use only notes, indirect messages and calls to other jurisdictions.”

The manhunt came to a close in the early hours of October 24, 2002, after a Pennsylvania motorist spotted the snipers’ blue Chevrolet Caprice at a rest area in Frederick County, Maryland. Maryland state troopers quietly descended on the area and blocked off the entrance and exit to the rest stop so a SWAT team could arrest the pair, who were sleeping in the sedan.

The men faced charges in several states and were convicted of capital murder and other crimes. Malvo received multiple life sentences and remains incarcerated in Red Onion State Prison in Wise County, Virginia, where he was married last year. Muhammad was executed by lethal injection at Virginia’s Greensville Correctional Center in 2009.

A decorated career

Moose was sworn in as Montgomery County’s 15th police chief August 2, 1999. The police force was 1,000 strong at the time. His wife presented him with his badge.

“I will do my utmost to ensure that this department does more than fight crime,” he said in a news release. “I expect our officers to contribute much more to the improvement of the overall quality of life within our neighborhoods.”

He had retired the previous month as chief of the Portland Police Bureau in Oregon, where he served for about a quarter-century after working his way up from patrol officer. He also taught criminal justice at Portland State University, from which he earned a doctorate degree in urban studies/criminology, and served in the Oregon Air National Guard.

“Moose is credited with advancing community policing initiatives and technology and implementing policies aimed at reducing the use of lethal force, and policies and programs that support officers and their families,” a 1999 Montgomery County police news release said. “Earlier this year, Moose was instrumental in bringing Oregon police chiefs and union officials together to sign a resolution against racial profiling. According to US Department of Justice officials, the cooperative action was a first in the nation.”

In 1998, then-US Attorney General Janet Reno presented Moose with the William French Smith Award for Outstanding Contributions to Cooperative Law Enforcement, honoring his “dynamic leadership in promoting the effectiveness and efficiency of law enforcement through cooperative policing and his efforts to create a true spirit of partnership among law enforcement entities, bridging the gap between those agencies and the communities they serve,” the Justice Department said.

He left his Montgomery County post in 2002, reportedly following a dispute over his desire to pen a book about the DC sniper investigation. He published “Three Weeks in October” the following year.

In 2006, he joined a class of 40 recruits accepted into the Honolulu Police Department, according to the now-defunct Star-Bulletin newspaper. He began working as a patrol officer — something he hadn’t done since he was a sergeant in Portland in 1980 — after completing training at the Honolulu police academy, the paper reported.

Twenty-six-year-old recruit Kawika Hosea spoke highly of Moose, telling the Star-Bulletin Moose “had a lot of insights and gave a lot of words of encouragement in the down moments.”

It is not clear when he left the force in Honolulu, but a community news outlet covering Montgomery County, Maryland, reported in 2010 he was no longer working there.

Moose retired to the Tampa Bay, Florida, area, according to WJLA.

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