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October 9, 2002
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"Dear policeman, I am God" found inscribed on a Tarot card. This latest clue in the Maryland sniper case will no doubt be tested and thoroughly investigated, although it was reported that it could be the work of prankster. If you have read the interesting post below by stevis ("I am who I am") of a Florida man who was legally denied the right to call himself "God", doesn't it make you wonder if the human desire to personify or impersonate God is a manifestation of the desperation for control over others, but not for the better? God, after all, wants you to surrender your life to the almighty. Or (mental illnesses aside) is it much more complex than that?
posted by taratan (69 comments total)

 
First, you're assuming that God exists. Second, what else would a desire to personify or impersonate God be a manifestation of?
posted by UnReality at 11:57 AM on October 9, 2002


is it much more complex than that?

I dunno, let's ask The God Complex.
posted by Stan Chin at 12:02 PM on October 9, 2002


I'd be heartened if it was really planted by the psycho shooter. That'd lend credence to his character as one who craves the attention we've been giving him. But the more he opens his mouth, leaves clues, or tries to play with the police, the more likely he'll get caught quickly.

This is bumping baby Bush's banter about bullying Iraq to bow before us from the headlines. ADD, anyone?
posted by Busithoth at 12:04 PM on October 9, 2002


not just any tarot card. the "death" card.

but does anyone else think that our bullet boy has not read up on his tarot? after all, the death card signifies imminent change, not necessarilly one's demise. for that you turn to the moon, or one of the lower arcana that is currently slipping my mind.

(not that i believe any of it, mind you. but if one is going for symbolism, one should have his iconography straight.)
posted by grabbingsand at 12:08 PM on October 9, 2002


Grabbingsand, I thought the same thing when I heard about this.
posted by dnash at 12:13 PM on October 9, 2002


While it's true that the death card means change, thanks to B horror movies most people still associate the death card in the tarot with, well, death. I had the same thought about his lack of tarot knowledge, but I don't think his calling card would have had the same general impact if he'd left, say, the nine of swords.
posted by jennyb at 12:16 PM on October 9, 2002


I'd have chosen The Tower... if I were a homicidal serial sniper, that is.
posted by furious-d at 12:24 PM on October 9, 2002 [1 favorite]


Some gun rights folks have blamed the shootings on those advocating tighter gun laws. The claim is that it is an evil plot to influence local (State level) elections and bring gun control advocates to power.

Personally, I think the shooter is part of a devious plot to influence the Senate war powers resolution by fostering a climate of fear, but I doubt we'll ever find out anything about that theory. We may yet see caught some twisted charactor who hears voices and talks to God. Lets hope.

Final thought: if this goes on long enough, people may just get desensitized to the threat of sudden death by sniper fire, as they did in Sarajevo. Or maybe people in the Maryland/D.C. area will take to running evasive patterns every time they are in the open?
posted by troutfishing at 12:28 PM on October 9, 2002


The Upper Arcana is too obvious! I'd have gone with the 10 of Swords.
posted by mischief at 12:37 PM on October 9, 2002


troutfishing, i'd say running constant out routes or speed curls whenever you wanted to get somewhere would get highly annoying, although it might help with the fact that some ridiculous amount of the u.s. population is *obese*, note *obese*, not overweight....
posted by djspicerack at 12:39 PM on October 9, 2002


No matter what it symbolizes in the Tarot, it's a DEATH CARD. Doesn't it have a picture of the grim reaper? Of all the things this could symbolize, one of them has got to be death, right?

I think it's interesting that all the news sources are reporting that the police wish that this information hadn't been leaked, that it will hamper the investigation. Why don't they just stop reporting it.
posted by mikrophon at 12:41 PM on October 9, 2002


Scary stuff. I watched Red Dragon last night and these lines stuck:

Police officer: "Why does he continue killing?"
FBI agent: "Because he feels like God. Would you want to give that up?"


Just as the criminal feels all-powerful, we feel helpless. An open and free society has to assume most people are basically good, but this means the criminals have an easier time. Especially those whose motives and selection of victims aren't easily understood.
posted by Triplanetary at 12:44 PM on October 9, 2002


. . . it? Questions end with question marks.
posted by mikrophon at 12:46 PM on October 9, 2002


"The Tarot Killer". Great, now this will be sensationalized even further. I'm already seeing Morgan Freeman investigating and Angelina Jolie as the "quirky" Tarot expert.
posted by monkeyboy_socal at 12:47 PM on October 9, 2002


On the Rider-Waite deck, death looks more like an armored skeleton horseman than the grim reaper.
posted by crunchland at 12:47 PM on October 9, 2002


Or maybe people in the Maryland/D.C. area will take to running evasive patterns every time they are in the open?

serpentine! serpentine!
posted by machaus at 12:54 PM on October 9, 2002


grabbingsand - I thought the same thing.

That card would only be picked by an very amateur user. So many other possibilities present themselves depending on motive. Perhaps the 5 or 10 of swords? On preview mischief is thinking along the same lines, no?
posted by revbrian at 1:02 PM on October 9, 2002


Maybe the shooter does indeed realize the significance of the Death card. Is he trying to say that he is God, and will bring about a great change? Maybe he means that the killings will continue until some sort of transformation occurs - in the government, foreign policy, or the way the bagger at his local grocery store asks, "paper or plastic?"

It could be that he is trying to make a subtle existentialist point, that God is dead, and each of us has the power to make radical change if we do not fear the consequences. Who can tell? They may be crazy, they may not be. They may be some sort of sociopaths with an obscure radical philosophy... The possible plots are endless.

Be sure to tune in next week.
posted by majcher at 1:08 PM on October 9, 2002


Considering where it was found, it sounds an awful lot like a middle school kid's idea of what a sniper would do.
"Dear policeman:" doesn't sound like an adult who has the knowledge and skill to pull this off.
I'm also hoping it's a prank to divert the aforementioned movie deal.
posted by 2sheets at 1:10 PM on October 9, 2002


Well, don't overlook that they also found a shell-casing, too.
posted by crunchland at 1:18 PM on October 9, 2002


Does this remind anyone else of the Ripper letters?
posted by SealWyf at 1:19 PM on October 9, 2002


I'd go with either the Ten of Swords or the Tower myself, but then I'm a) not a serial killer and b) I know a bit about Tarot. Death is generally taken to mean transformation rather than physical death. I confess that I am watching this case with a bit of trepidation as my sister now lives in Alexandria.
posted by tabbycat at 1:23 PM on October 9, 2002


not just any tarot card. the "death" card

At least it wasn't The Happy Squirrel. Reference source is here for those who wondering wtf...

The Zodiac killer thrived on taunting police and the press to find him, which they never quite did, some say.
posted by holycola at 1:30 PM on October 9, 2002


If they ever catch this guy, chances are he'll be handed the Hanged Man. (Looking at it at the same level of symbolism as he displayed with Death, rather than the more nuanced meaning of the card.)
posted by me3dia at 1:43 PM on October 9, 2002


Perhaps it really is God. He has done crazier things according to the Bible. You know... the whole Lot's wife turning into a pillar of salt. And don't forget the whole Tower of Babel thing. I wouldn't put it past that jealous God!
posted by bmxGirl at 1:48 PM on October 9, 2002


Here you go, holycola - The Happy Squirrel
posted by tabbycat at 1:51 PM on October 9, 2002


With this bit of new evidence, and all the speculating we're doing anyway, it seems we should be able to come up with a pretty decent criminal profile here. Go ahead, give a characteristic! I'll start: Male.
posted by Oddly at 2:06 PM on October 9, 2002


Investigators -- about 100 from Montgomery County and 95 from other agencies -- are sifting through 1,600 tips

This sort of thing never ceases to amaze me. It will be about 1,525 calls saying, "My neighbor is very creepy; he pretends to shoot the kids in the neighborhood with his rifle and he drives a white van.

The other 75 tips will be citizens calling in to say that they overheard a man in a bar boasting that he was the Tarot killer.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:08 PM on October 9, 2002


I'll start: Male.

Loner.
posted by WolfDaddy at 2:12 PM on October 9, 2002


His neighbors will say that he seemed like a nice, quiet guy.
posted by crunchland at 2:14 PM on October 9, 2002


In Vietnam, there was a practice among some Marines of leaving a "death card" with the dead body of an enemy soldier.

But the death card was always the ace of spades. Always.

This reinforces my image of the shooter as an unskilled wannabe.
posted by NortonDC at 2:14 PM on October 9, 2002


I'll start: Male.

Loner.

...nice, quiet guy.


White. Between 25-35. Armed forces or police experience, or wannabe.
posted by biscotti at 2:15 PM on October 9, 2002


Well, maybe the Death card was appropriate (in regards to 'change'). I haven't heard much talk yet that this might be some militia nut making an attempt to start a race war. Someone pointed it out to Atrios that the author of The Turner Diaries (bible of the right-wing fringe) had also written a book called 'Hunter' detailing an ex-military vet sniper who shoots various people, including but not limited to minorities, to initiate a race war. In any event the perpetrator is a lunatic, but the question I have is, is the shooter a lunatic with an ulterior motive?

Oh, and there was a story about that Robert Gene Baker III as a guy wanted for questioning (what happened with that?).
posted by hincandenza at 3:03 PM on October 9, 2002


biscotti,
wannabe. Someone trained in law enforcement or having a military background most likely wouldn't leave behind a shell casing at the scene.
posted by jbelshaw at 3:31 PM on October 9, 2002


But the death card was always the ace of spades. Always.

Are you saying that Kilgore did it wrong in Apocalypse Now? I'm pretty sure he opened up a new deck of cards, and just tossed out the cards that were there, ace of spades or not.
posted by crunchland at 3:35 PM on October 9, 2002


Phew. For a little while I thought we were dealing with a brilliant, calculated madman.

But apparently there's Tarot cards involved, so the killer is obviously some flakey quack.
posted by xmutex at 3:57 PM on October 9, 2002


So is this guy picking a person at random, then playing tarots with their future, like drawing the death card and then actually giving them their future in his world. Sick WaKo.

jbelshaw, good point, Someone trained in law enforcement or having a military background most likely wouldn't leave behind a shell casing at the scene.

But the perfect crime is done once, thus the perfection of the crime. Most criminals I have met have said do it once you sure to get away with it. Do it again you will slip and your bound to make a mistake to getting caught.

The anxiety and the sound of the gun would make me forget the shell casing, especially if a crowd began to appear.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:58 PM on October 9, 2002


PS what if this guy was the same guy who wanted his name changed to God several post back.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:59 PM on October 9, 2002


Thanks tabbycat.
That's the one
*shudder*
posted by holycola at 4:20 PM on October 9, 2002


bad news for this guy
posted by Babylonian at 4:54 PM on October 9, 2002


They have made an arrest, which may or may not be related. Hopefully this turns out to be the guy:

"Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose told reporters a suspect had been arrested in relation to another shooting incident in which a man was reported to be firing a gun in an apartment. "
posted by phatboy at 5:15 PM on October 9, 2002


Being a fan of the tv series "Homicide," I can't help feeling it's coincidental and a little eerie recalling that one episode (mid-nineties?) of a sniper in Baltimore, Maryland that was terrorizing the city. They'd find a partially completed game of hang man at the locations the sniper worked from, as he shot people at random from roof tops, clock towers, etc....delivery guys, secretaries on the sidewalk, even a kid on a school bus. And once they nailed the guy (who killed himself), a copy cat sniper started killing people, wanting the attention and the fame. The copy cat was a loser nobody (not that the first one was swell) when they finally caught up with him. The hangman game seemed as juvenile and unlikely as a tarot card taunt, but there you go.

Motivation, agenda, reasons? Who'd have enough energy to type all the permutations of anger, psychosis, sociopathology et al that could be listed?

This morning a friend emailed me that Katie Couric was speaking with someone (Moose?) this morning and they were discussing how this sniper, whomever he/she is, is a "wannabe" amateur, almost like they were goading the sniper into getting angry and making a mistake. Interesting tactic if that's what they are trying to do...

I hope the man they arrested in an unrelated shooting incident is the one but I'm not really hopeful.

Anyone else recall a reward of $430K on a case like this?
posted by Kato at 6:02 PM on October 9, 2002


I'll start: Male.

Loner.

...nice, quiet guy.

White. Between 25-35. Armed forces or police experience, or wannabe.


Watches Oprah.
posted by y2karl at 6:53 PM on October 9, 2002


not just any tarot card. the "death" card.

but does anyone else think that our bullet boy has not read up on his tarot?

---- quoted from above -----

obviously this has been discussed, but did it ever occurred to anyone that the killer isn't referencing death with this card? a rogue sniper moving to state to state trying to drive the country mad might be telling you something with this card. like he intends to create some sort of baptism by fire and push the country where ever it is he thinks it needs to go.

I think, depending on his motives, the death card could be quite appropriate.

off the cuff theory: this card represents the same thing the bullet casing represents. his surrender to himself and probably what he feels are outside forces pushing him toward some assumed destiny. the death card represents transition and to a degree the risk inherit in change. a jump into the abyss so to speak. not knowing what's within and finding yourself on the other side a changed person. the bullet casing is evidence and proof, both symbolically and literally. it's something that says "I'm telling you who I am." who he is now. transformed. the death of his old self the birth of his new self made official. he obviously has a flare for the dramatic and esoteric.

plus, the tarot is archetype. it should in theory, regardless of anyone's conscious interpretation, still hold that same underlying meaning. the point of the tarot isn't to predict the future and it never has been. it's a set of archetypal images that you can use as a filter to look at problems, events, what have you. it helps you to see situations from a different perspective. even if he saw the death card and thought, "hmm, death, that's me" it should be assumed that the symbolic nature of the card impressed him subconsciously as well and it should definitely be assumed that his choice of cards is important.
posted by ex.pr.ni at 7:45 PM on October 9, 2002


Was given Lariam while in the military.
posted by precocious at 7:57 PM on October 9, 2002


I can't help but think of everyone living in that area of the country. And I must admit, I have a guilty feeling of relief and gratitude it's not happening here in Denver.
Imagine being afraid to go to the grocery store, or walk down the street to the post office for fear of being gunned down. We as Americans have never really experienced anything like this before on a large scale. What if we were occupied by foreign forces, and this were the daily status quo? Hope they catch this guy.
posted by littlegirlblue at 7:59 PM on October 9, 2002


Did anyone ever stop to think that this "Death Tarot Card" story has been planted in the media by the law enforcement for a reason. Maybe, just maybe, they have someone in mind, maybe a couple of people, and maybe planting this story is their way to distract the "targeted" individuals to see if the cops can catch them off guard.

What I didn't get was that the chief-of-police was flipping out at the media for this story leak. It seems to me that the real target of his anger should have been the insider with that knowledge, who obviously was another cop or someone in the law enforcement.

But then again, what about the possibility that the killer (s) tipped the media off, posing as law enforcement official?
posted by Rastafari at 8:37 PM on October 9, 2002


I'll start: Male.

Loner.

...nice, quiet guy.

White. Between 25-35. Armed forces or police experience, or wannabe.

Watches Oprah.


Gun owner.
posted by normy at 9:08 PM on October 9, 2002


I was in Sarajevo during the war and we lived in fear of being gunned down, but this situation is quite different. There is no war.
posted by Sasha at 9:31 PM on October 9, 2002


There is no war.

Forever and ever, amen.
posted by precocious at 9:59 PM on October 9, 2002


Didn't anyone actually consider that maybe it is God doing this?

I mean, it's obviously not a professional assassin, or a Terminator style robot from the future, because otherwise everyone shot at would have died.

Therefore, I think it's actually God.
posted by wackybrit at 10:49 PM on October 9, 2002


So, the shooting that didn't get anybody...the intended target was Jacob? A-and God is now wrestling in gun form?

Religion is confusing.
posted by cortex at 11:31 PM on October 9, 2002


Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Could there possibly be any more over analysis on this? The guy (assuming it is a guy - he's meticulous enough to be a she) leaves a tarot card with a picture of Death on it. Do I need to draw you a line?
posted by Neale at 11:51 PM on October 9, 2002


Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Could there possibly be any more over analysis on this?

Thanks, Neale. Honestly, we can all play armchair shrink until the cows come home, but it won't help to get this guy off the streets.

Meanwhile, Chief Moose (that is so funny to type) is fairly well pissed with all of these ex-profilers, ex-cops, ex--military and ex-SWAT guys who are dong their "fifteen minutes of Warhol fame" on every news show from Atlanta to Albuquerque and of course all the 24/7 news channels, offering up really broad speculations on who this guy is and what motivates him.

While I understand the impetus behind the attempts to help people "get" what this is about, I'm with Moose -- if this guy is watching, and getting off on all the attention, and if people are gaining a false sense of security or a false idea of who this might be (which leads to useless calls to the police which they have to take time to investigate) and that helps this guy stay free long enough to kill again, what use has it all been?
posted by Dreama at 2:48 AM on October 10, 2002


Someone trained in law enforcement or having a military background most likely wouldn't leave behind a shell casing at the scene.

Maybe. But this is the only shell casing found, and it was found with the tarot card. My first thought when I heard about the card was "some wankpot prankster". The shell casing means the card can't be dismissed. So perhaps it was left behind on purpose.
posted by robcorr at 4:31 AM on October 10, 2002


If Moose is pissed, he needs to stop the grandstanding he's been doing. When I listen to him, I think he's trying to do a poor imitation of Guliani or something. But maybe that's just me.
posted by crunchland at 5:13 AM on October 10, 2002


The sniper in the Seal Team portrayed in Navy Seals used "God" as his radio handle. That was the character played by Bill Paxton, referenced as "Dane" in the credits.

So, suspect has seen a bad action film and probably owns the DVD. That should narrow down the list...
posted by xiffix at 5:14 AM on October 10, 2002


The symbolism of the death card in Tarot is irrelevant to this guy's purposes. It's the relevance to the general population that is important (to him at least).

You might just as well ask why use the ace of spades? How many games is the ace of spaces a sh*t card?

On the talented/untalented argument, the TV over here in the UK is suggesting he was at least 500 yards from his victims. That's not an easy shot, although it's significantly easier when your target is a static guy pumping petrol and you've got a bipod.

Madman vs calculated killer... I'd be tempted to say that the madman was more worrying because he's going to be more random and take more risks / care less about who he targets. On the flip side, The police said that they are watching where he goes to try and predict his routes. Personally I think I'd find nice high vantage points, shoot one person in a crowd (then if you miss your intended you get someone) and move around a hell of a lot. There's got to be a lot of roof tops in the city that are just perfect for a sniper to use. And that's ignoring the idea of entering warehouses and empty flats to shoot from.

My money is on him either not being caught, or him being caught because of his transport or having someone stumble over him while he's lining up the shot... I'd say the police have just about no chance...
posted by twine42 at 5:27 AM on October 10, 2002


Apparently, our Montgomery County police chief has a colorful past.

And, apparently, the shooter asked that his tarot message be kept out of the media. Even Daniel Shorr is having second thoughts (Real Audio) about the media's right to full disclosure.

I can't help but think of everyone living in that area of the country.

Thanks, littlegirlblue. Yeah. It's not much fun.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 5:53 AM on October 10, 2002


The 'tarot killer' is.... :

31-40 - White - Loner - Narcotics abuser - Middle Class -
Has no previous record - Using a stolen rifle - Is not local - has an accomplice.

I don't think they'll be caught within the week, but will be within the month if the rate of killings carries on. Oh, yeah, and one of the killings attribute will not have been done by them.

I'm incredibly glad I don't live in a country with such absurd gun laws.
posted by boneybaloney at 10:48 AM on October 10, 2002


Imagine being afraid to go to the grocery store, or walk down the street to the post office for fear of being gunned down. We as Americans have never really experienced anything like this before on a large scale. What if we were occupied by foreign forces, and this were the daily status quo? Hope they catch this guy.
posted by littlegirlblue at 7:59 PM PST on October 9

There was an piece in the Baltimore Sun, two days ago about the similarities in this situation and living in any drug infested neighborhood and needing to go to the store, etc.... Yes, America keeps experiencing this on large scale, it simply matters which part of America you are talking about....

Hate to see anyone live in fear..... Pray they find this "person" soon, so this stops.....
posted by divisible at 11:58 AM on October 10, 2002


Or maybe people in the Maryland/D.C. area will take to running evasive patterns every time they are in the open?

I have been doing that since last week, running zig zag patterns from the car and back.

I was hired to M.C. and do sound at the Takoma Park Street Festival (about 1/4 mile from the D.C. shooting) on sunday. Needless to say, I was very nervous the whole time.

I have just heard that the "Sniper" instructed police NOT to release the tarot card to the media. Perhaps that is why Chief Moose was so vexed.
posted by buz46 at 12:19 PM on October 10, 2002


Last night local tv news had an official investigator for these type of crimes. He gave his view which nothing new if you've seen movies or tv programs about this stuff.

But his last words were haunting, " the police will tighten down the city to the point that the killer will have to move. Because he will kill again, and he might even come
left blank intentionally here too, to kill." Again Local tv news but I feel for DC and everyone too.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:23 PM on October 10, 2002


My money is on him either not being caught, or him being caught because of his transport or having someone stumble over him while he's lining up the shot... I'd say the police have just about no chance...

Seeing someone walking along with a giant sniper rifle hidden in their trousers may also arouse some suspicion :-)
posted by wackybrit at 6:25 PM on October 10, 2002


Imagine being afraid to go to the grocery store, or walk down the street to the post office for fear of being gunned down. We as Americans have never really experienced anything like this before on a large scale.

Clearly you're not a black person living in Alabama!
posted by wackybrit at 7:21 PM on October 10, 2002


Yahoo has solved the case
posted by ronsens at 1:17 PM on October 11, 2002


Seeing someone walking along with a giant sniper rifle hidden in their trousers may also arouse some suspicion

No need to be seen with the rifle in public with the use of a van for concealment that has been seen in the area. As with the van you have a perfect cover, it’s like a hunter’s blind on wheels. The only view of the sniper you would have would be from the victims’ line of sight to the rifle. Now with a van your concealed during the day even by a shadow effect created inside the van for darkness. From a distance it would be even harder to see the sniper aiming at you from within the van using the darkness as cover.

How is the sniper able to get out of the area so quick without being seen with the rifle in his hand? The rifle never makes a visible appearance thus never revealing the shooter. Also by never leaving the vehicle allows more time for the get away and time is not wasted because the van catches the shell casing(s), conceals the weapon, muffles the sound and not only is your hiding spot but also your getaway vehicle. It makes everything together that much more for your time to use in getting away.

So the sniper is maybe aiming out the back of the van, using the bed of the van to lie on for a good sniper aiming position and concealment in its darkness. Shoots without fully leaving the front seat of the van, sits up and drives off for the clean getaway.

It would also cut the theory down that more than one person is involved by helping the sniper in getting away.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:07 PM on October 15, 2002


Wow, the sniper was in the trunk of a car, then the car was able to fit in the back of the white truck................didn't think that part into my theory and two people involved so far.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:52 PM on October 25, 2002


wackybrit, now that they have the sniper your comment reads similar to the link in Alabama with the sniper.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:04 PM on October 25, 2002


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