“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 59

Butch Malone, supervisor of the eight to four shift, had just come on duty. He checked in JWM Serializationwith the traffic cops to make sure only the inbound lanes were being used this morning. Rush hour traffic was backed up for a least a mile coming down Chain Bridge Road, but moving orderly. His crew all had their instructions and he could see he was on schedule. He had a good crew and was proud of their can-do attitude. Many of the workers he had known for at least a couple of years. Butch was checking the Virginia end of the bridge when he saw the head of the cop directing traffic in the center lane explode. Butch had spent some time in the second Gulf War and knew a heavy caliber rifle sound. He dove behind a dump truck. The second shot boomed and the officer, who ran to the aid of the downed traffic cop, went down. She was hit in the chest. A large area of her back was gone. Blood was pooling in a low spot in the center of the bridge.

Butch used his radio to call for help. He yelled to his number to get the workers under cover now. With his cell he called 911 and told the dispatcher, “Gunshots on Chain Bridge. Two officers down. Send help. We are still under fire. Hurry.”

Three more shots had been fired. Three cars moving on the bridge rolled to an out-of-control stop. Cars close to the bridge that could see the growing confusion and damage, sped up to get across the bridge to safety. Before they reached the center point, three cars were hit in their passenger windows and crashed into bridge repair equipment. Others turned right from Chain Bridge Road and raced up Glebe Road, jamming it. The next two shots killed workers on the bridge who hadn’t found a protective place. Two minutes of no firing and people began to stir. Rescue and police vehicles couldn’t get through the jumbled traffic on the Virginia side. The Maryland end was clear and help was soon on the scene. Two of Butch’s workers were dead from head shots. In addition to the two police officers killed, four people in cars were dead and several other commuters were wounded, two severely.

Frank called Jack’s cell and told him to get up on the bridge and look around, find the sniper’s nest and see what we can learn for the next time. He said he would call the right people and for Jack to show his Pittsburgh police badge as an identifier. Jack yelled to Lou to pack up. He ran back to the car and slid to a stop near where he guessed Lou would emerge from the brush loaded with their gear. Lou dumped the weapons into the truck and Jack roared off to the bridge. A Maryland State Police officer was stopping traffic. Jack showed his badge and the officer waved him through. Parking in the first open area he found, they jumped out of the car and ran across the bridge to the Virginia side. Jack introduced himself to the lieutenant in charge. The lieutenant said, “I just got a call about you, telling me to give you anything you want.”

Jack said, “The sniper fired from somewhere downriver. Probably less than halfway down the ridge and no more than five or six hundred yards from where we are standing. I want to see if I can tell the angle of his shots. Then my partner and I will climb the ridge and see if we can find the sniper’s nest. One more thing, please tell your guys not to shoot at two guys in camouflage suits poking around on the ridge up there.”

Turning to Lou, Jack said, “If I remember correctly a trail runs down to the river from this end of the bridge.”

Lou said, “Yeah, I’ve been fishing along here and there is a way down.”

Jack said, “You check this end of the bridge for anything that’ll give us an angle of the trajectory. I’ll check the wreckage in the middle of the bridge. Yell if you find anything. Wait a minute, maybe we have the trajectory data right here. Lieutenant, where was the officer standing when he was hit when the shooting started?”

“Right over there at the nearest blood puddle. He should have been standing with his back to the shooter and facing oncoming traffic. I see what you’re thinking. He was about 5’11” or six feet tall.”

“Lou, stand over here. This is about one yard from the blood marker and you’re about the same height.”

Using his spotter scope, Jack plotted the trajectory to a general area and marked a prominent tree as a location point 425 yards from where the officer was standing. It took them 25 minutes to climb the steep ridge to the tree. Once there, Jack said, “This is an ideal spot. Good cover, a distance that Hasani could easily manage on a routine basis, and a path back up the slope to a Parkway pick up site. Now let’s find the exact shooting spot. He nearly always shoots from a tripod. The tripod marks will have been swept, but he will have left some mark. No one is good enough to clean up everything without leaving some track.”

Moving in ever-widening circles around the marker tree, Lou found a skid mark where it looked like a boot had slipped going up the slope. Using the skid mark, Jack asked Lou to hold his position while he looked for a tripod site that would give line of sight to the Virginia end of the bridge. The shooting site would have to provide space for a prone shooter and firm tripod site or a sandbag. Jack thought it more likely Hasani kept to his M.O. of using a tripod. It only took him ten more minutes to find the site. There were signs of the cleanup attempt and disturbed leaves where the shooter and his spotter had set up. No brass was found.

Marking the location with his iPhone App, Jack called Frank, gave him the GPS data and asked him to check cell phone traffic from the area starting at 8:06 AM. Hasani needed the cell call to set up an exact pickup time. The shooting started at 8:00 and was over within one minute. He estimated Hasani took five minutes to clean up and would need another ten minutes to climb the slope and to cross the Parkway to the westbound lanes, because going that way provided better escape routes than going farther toward the city on the Eastbound lanes. Traffic cameras may show the getaway vehicle, probably a pickup truck. The .50 caliber rifle Hasani used weighed 27 pounds. The spotter probably had a weapon also but not a heavy caliber. They probably carried the weapons concealed some way, maybe disguised as fishing gear. Frank said, “Good work. We’ll get right on it.” Then hung up.

Jack said, “We’re done here. Let’s get back to the house and get ready for the next attack.”

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