Former trooper pens book, gives talk about capturing Beltway snipers
After recently penning a book about his first hand account of heading the Beltway snipers investigation, David Reichenbaugh stopped at C. Burr Artz Public Library Saturday to recount the crucial moments of the “largest manhunt in American law enforcement history.”
Reichenbaugh released “In Pursuit: The Hunt for the Beltway Snipers” in October. Saturday’s presentation was organized by Curious Iguana in downtown Frederick.
The Beltway snipers were John Allen Muhammad (41 at the time) and Lee Boyd Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the attacks. The two men caused public hysteria and made national news after they carried out a series of shootings throughout Maryland, Washington, D.C and Virginia over a 23-day period in October 2002.
Reichenbaugh was the criminal intelligence operations commander for the Maryland State Police during the investigation and served as commanding officer at the scene when the snipers were captured at a rest area in Myersville.
More than 80 people gathered to hear the author talk about aspects that went wrong in the investigation, the intelligence that was used to further leads and how 23 law enforcement agencies worked together to end the three-week long manhunt.
“This is a story about your trooper,” he said. “Not a story to glorify the killers. It was an honor to serve the Maryland State Police.”
The former trooper also recounted how about 1,000 law enforcement officials came together to stop the snipers, how media outlets helped and hindered the case and why officials wrongly thought, for a majority of the investigation, a white van was being used to execute the shootings.
“People heard the shot,” he said, recalling one of the sniper shootings in Montgomery County. “They looked up, and as luck would have it, there goes a white van very slowly down the street. But if you think about it, you can’t look anywhere where there’s traffic and not see a white van. So that’s how it got started, be on the lookout for a two guys in a white van.”
The talk was slated to last an hour, but lasted almost two after audience members were so compelled with Reichenbaugh’s story they asked inquisitive questions before purchasing the book in the back of the room.
Frederick resident, Christopher Hartman, attended the event to hear the author’s account as he remembers taking extra precautions when traveling through Montgomery County during the sniper shootings.
“I lived through this,” he said. “I was working down in Montgomery County at the time and I actually had one of my friends at work drive me to the train station, I was taking a train from Frederick back and forth, so I wouldn’t be on the streets as a possible target. It really hits me personally.”
He said the most interesting part of the talk was when Reichenbaugh explained how it took up until the very end of the investigation to narrow in on who the snipers were and where they could be captured.
Reichenbaugh wrote the book because he “wanted the story to be accurate.” His favorite part about writing the book, though, was the process.
“It brought back some painful memories while writing it,” he said. “But at the same time it also brought back memories of the men and women that I served with, some of the just the greatest people on earth.
Asked what his most prominent memory of the investigation is, Reichenbaugh said the fear he saw in the faces of every day citizens during those three weeks.
“The fear was genuine from everybody that you ran into,” he said. “I can remember stopping at gas stations and there’d be somebody trying to put gas in their car. I’d stand there and sort of tuck my jacket back so they could see my badge and gun and you could almost see the relief on their face.”
Reichenbaugh is currently working on a second book about a different case, but wouldn’t divulge what it’s about.
The former MSP trooper worked in Frederick County for about 14 years as an undercover narcotics investigator. Today, he serves as a civilian analyst for the United States Capital Police and writes law enforcement articles for Homeland Security Today
Local Author and former Maryland State Police Lieutenant David Reichenbaugh holds a copy of his book during a talk Saturday at C Burr Artz Public Library about the pursuit and capture of the beltway snipers in 2002
staff photo by Bill Green