DC Sniper Overview

The DC sniper attacks were a large series of shootings or attacks carried out by two gunmen. These attacks occurred in October 2002 in the DC metropolitan area hence the nickname they were given. The lives of locals in the area were changed drastically during this month, this was a big issue they faced that impacted their lives. The shooters sparked terror in the area because nobody knew who or where they would strike next because of their tactic. The shooters would drive around the area looking for unsuspecting victims going about their everyday lives in their Blue 1990 Chevy Caprice and snipe them from a hole in the trunk with their .223-caliber rifle. (FBI “Beltway Snipers”)

Source: “Beltway Snipers” – FBI

People reported being too scared of walking outside their homes. Schools were locked down (TWP “How the Attacks Unfolded”). At gas stations, it was common to see people hiding behind gas pumps, or their car doors to avoid being shot at as gas stations were one of the main targets. To combat this, Gas stations started to put tarps over their pumps so people could feel safer pumping gas and deter the shooters. Even this wasn’t enough for some locals, instead of pumping gas in the area, they would drive miles out on purpose just to get gas. This event in the area made “a story that was told all over the globe” (Genser, Jack “On the Trail of the DC Sniper” pg. 11)

Despite these events, their reign of terror wasn’t only tied to the DC metropolitan area. Before they arrived there, the shooters would commit crimes across the country in “Preliminary Shootings” (Beltway Snipers). These preliminary shootings occurred in several states including, Washington, Arizona, Louisiana, Georgia, and Alabama. They began in February 2002.

The Shooters

There were two shooters that coordinated and carried out these attacks. The first was a Seventeen-year-old named Lee Boyd Malvo and the other was a Forty-one-year-old named John Allen Muhammad. Muhammad was from New Orleans, Louisiana. After being divorced from his wife, he fled the country and moved the island of Antigua with his children. There, he met Malvo, his partner in the attacks. (Deutschmann, Jennifer “The Disturbing relationship between DC Sniper John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo”)

After a brief stay there, Muhammad moved back to the United States, specifically to Bellingham, Washington. After police discovered this, they took his children from him. It is thought that this is the event that changed him into the evil man he turned into. After this, he became closer to Malvo. Muhammad helped Malvo get into the United States and lived with him in a Homeless shelter. Eventually, Muhammad started to teach Malvo about guns. Soon they started committing crimes. This is what is thought of as the birth of the DC snipers. (Deutschmann, Jennifer “The Disturbing relationship between DC Sniper John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo”)


After the snipers committed another shooting at a liquor store in Montgomery, Alabama, authorities were able to obtain fingerprints of Malvo off of a bullet magazine left at the scene. This eventually led the authorities to Muhammad as he was tied to Malvo after the events that happened on Antigua Island and living with him in a homeless shelter. The authorities then found out that Muhammad owned a registered Blue 1990 Chevy Caprice with a New Jersey License plate through the database. This was all the authorities needed to capture the two suspects. When they had everything needed, the authorities released the information to all the top news networks and media.

(“Beltway Snipers” – FBI)


(Left, 41-year-old, Muhammad) (Right, 17-year-old Malvo)

On October 24, 2002, after a long manhunt the snipers were found at a rest stop in Myersville, Maryland off of I-70. They were found after the authorities received a call about a car matching the description and license plate tied to Muhammad. The arrest was easy as there was a massive force of law enforcement at the scene. In the car, they found the .223-caliber-rifle that the two had been using in their crimes.

(Source: “Beltway Snipers”)

Muhammad was sentenced to death; he was executed in 2009.

Malvo was sentenced to life without Parole. He is still alive in Prison to this day.

These two took many innocent lives not only in the DC metropolitan area but, across the country as well. Please navigate to the “Victims” tab to see how many lives were affected forever.