Police recalled the D.C. sniper shootings that terrorized the region for more than three weeks in October 2002 in discussing the arrest of a suspect in a series of shots fired incidents that started last week, but they credited strong police work for making a quick arrest after Tuesday's incidents on the Intercounty Connector and near the NSA at Fort Meade.
“As soon as we learned the possibility these might be linked, we kicked into overdrive,” Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare said Wednesday afternoon.
Hong Young, 35, of Beltsville, Maryland, is charged with attempted first-degree murder and other charges in the shootings in Anne Arundel, Prince George's and Howard counties. From 2012 until his resignation in May 2014, Young worked as a correctional officer at a Jessup facility, according to Maryland Secretary of Public Safety Stephen Moyer. Nothing significant was found in his file, Moyer said.
Young has no terror-related ties, a federal official told NBC Justice Correspondent Pete Williams. The suspect suffers from mental health issues, Williams reported. He is hospitalized in police custody and is cooperating with detectives, Anne Arundel County Police spokesman Lt. T.J. Smith said.
Investigators spent hours searching Young's home Wednesday, where they recovered 10 weapons, including a pistol, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Police said Young owned all of the weapons legally.
In the earliest shooting, a man was grazed by a bullet outside a shopping center in Hanover, Maryland, Feb. 24. The 61-year-old victim stopped at the Costco at Arundel Mills to get gas about 7:30 a.m. when a man drove up next to him and began firing shots, hitting the victim's vehicle several times.
In the wake of the shooting, Anne Arundel County Police released surveillance video of a Lincoln Town Car as a possible suspect vehicle.
Two shootings were reported Monday. At 2:50 a.m., officers went to the parking lot of a Walmart in Laurel for a report of several shots heard, but no injuries or damages were discovered. Two hours later, Howard County Police contacted Anne Arundel County detectives about shots fired at the movie theater at the Columbia Mall. Investigators found bullet holes in the front glass and shell casings. No one was injured.
Then Tuesday about 3 p.m., a tree service truck with two men inside was struck by bullets on the Maryland Intercounty Connector (ICC) near Interstate 95. The shots were likely fired from nearby woods. One man was injured by shattered glass. He was taken to a hospital and has since been released. The other man found a bullet fragment in his clothes but was not hurt.
“We have two folks who were put in mortal fear of their lives,” Altomare said.
About 6 p.m., shots were fired, striking a building near the headquarters of the National Security Association at Fort Meade. U.S. Park Police investigated a report of shots fired near the headquarters of the National Security Agency.
A police spokesperson said the NSA was investigating damage to one of its buildings that appeared to be from gunshots. No one was injured. U.S. Park Police closed down sections of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway for their investigation Tuesday evening.
After the ICC shooting, all investigating police agencies decided all forensics would go to Prince George's County Police, Prince George's Police Chief Mark Magaw said. Police linked the cases at Costco, Columbia Mall, ICC and NSA.
"My investigators worked all night to link these cases forensically," Magaw said.
They believe the Walmart incident is related.
About 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, two Anne Arundel County Police officers on supplemental patrol in response to the shots fired incidents saw a car that fit the description of the suspect vehicle from Feb. 24. They stopped it near the Costco on Arundel Mills Circle, near the site of the original shooting. Officers found .380-caliber shell casings and a .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun in the car and took Young, the lone occupant of the car, into custody. The handgun was registered to Young.
Young is also charged with first- and second-degree assault, use of a firearm in a violent felony crime, handgun in vehicle, and reckless endangerment.
The FBI and U.S. Park Police also investigated the shootings.
"Most of us here were probably aware of events 15 years ago, give or take, with the D.C. sniper case," Altomare said.
In October 2002, 10 people were killed and three were wounded in shootings in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. Lee Boyd Malvo was sentenced to life without parole. His accomplice, John Allen Muhammad was executed by Virginia in 2009.