Saturday, November 02, 2002

The most important piece of evidence in a shooting case is the gun. If you can connect the gun to the victims through ballistics, and the gun to the shooter through fingerprints, possession, or some kind of documentary evidence, then you have excellent evidence to convict your suspect of the crime. This type of evidence is critical when you lack witnesses and lack a confession, as we do in the case of John Muhammad and John Lee Malvo. When these two suspects were apprehended, a search of the car revealed a number of pieces of evidence, including a gun. This gun was then linked ballistically to almost all of the shootings (due to the damage to some of the bullets, the tests were inconclusive in two of the murders). Case closed, right? Well, maybe not. Here's how the issue was reported by CBS News in an article dated October 25, 2002:

"Law enforcement officials tell CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart they recovered a .223 caliber Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle from the suspects' car. Police also found a scope and a bipod in the vehicle."


"The gun recovered from the trunk was a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle, .223 caliber, model A-35, XM15."

This was the gun that was apparently ballistically linked to the shootings. The oddity is that another version of the same story exists in a number of places on the internet (see here and here and here and here and here), with an interesting change to the sentence I quoted above, which reads as follows (with the changed words in italics):

"Sources tell CBS News that the gun recovered from the trunk was a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle, .223 caliber, model A-35, xm15-e2s, serial number l-166036."

Apparently, someone at CBS has seen fit to slightly change the article to remove reference to the serial number (this type of change to articles on the internet is called 'scrubbing'). The really interesting thing about this serial number is that we know it ties the gun conclusively to John Muhammad. A State of Washington Firearm Transfer form, referred to in court documentation concerning the restraining order issued against Muhammad (which court documentation is itself referred to in what appears to be an October 2002 Complaint and affidavit by a BATF Agent), "reflects that on or about May 23, 2000, JOHN ALLEN MUHAMMAD transferred a Bushmaster rifle, semi-automatic .223 caliber, model A-35, XM15-E2S, serial number L166036." L166036. This seems to conclusively prove the John Muhammad owned the gun found in the car, and should be perfect evidence against him. Actually, it may be conclusive evidence to show he was framed. There are a whole lot of problems with this gun:

  1. Notice that the form is a State of Washington Firearm Transfer form. Muhammad was selling the gun to the gun shop from whence he had bought it.

  2. Muhammad had bought the gun from the gun shop before he was in trouble with the law over violence against his wife, and therefore had no original difficulty in buying the gun. If he had wanted to buy it back, however, a computer check should have shown the gun shop that it was illegal for Muhammad to buy the gun due to the restraining order that was outstanding against him, and they should not have sold it to him. How, then, did he get it back?

  3. He may have stolen it from the gun shop, but according to the people who work there, their procedures make that highly unlikely. The gun shop itself appears to have no records of its sale (although they have the box it came in), and did not report it stolen, as is required by law.

  4. An additional huge problem with the gun is the records of the manufactuter, Bushmaster. Whatever serial number was supplied to Bushmaster by the authorities described a gun that was shipped to a distributor in Washington state in June 2002. How could this gun be the same gun that Muhammad owned in May 2000?

When the authorities went in to examine the Texas School Book Depository in November 1963, they originally removed a rifle, the supposed weapon used by Lee Harvey Oswald, which police detectives skilled in firearms identified as a 'Mauser'. Soon, this weapon was identified as the now-famous 'Mannlicher-Carcano'. Why the change? There was documentary evidence tying Oswald into the purchase by mail (as if an assassin would purchase his weapon in a traceable manner!) of a Mannlicher-Carcano. It thus appears that the gun that was found, a Mauser, was replaced with a gun that could be tied to Oswald. In the Muhammad case, it appears very likely that the gun which could be tied to Muhammad, the gun with the serial number 'l-166036', was used to commit the shootings and was planted in his car to tie him to the shootings (it needn't be the exact same gun, but just a gun of the same type whose serial number was changed to the number that gun records showed had belonged to Muhammad). This was a fairly sophisticated operation, as the same gun was apparently used in a shooting in Baton Rouge, and in Montgomery, Alabama. It is important to note that Muhammad and Malvo were only seen with a handgun at the Montgomery shooting, meaning that someone else used the magic gun to leave ballistic evidence at the site (how can we be sure that it was Muhammad who phoned the police to tie him and Malvo to the Montgomery crime, a connection which eventually solved the whole case?). Someone had obtained a gun which could be tied to Muhammad (or a similar gun with an altered serial number), used it to murder people in Baton Rouge and Montgomery and used it in the Maryland/Virginia shootings (perhaps driving a white van), and then given it to the authorities, who then planted it in Muhammad's car or at least claim they found it there. Some overeager 'source' then described the gun to CBS News, foolishly including the serial number, a serial number which CBS dutifully reported. Some higher officials probably read the report and realized to their horror that the serial number was way too much information, allowing someone to put the pieces together and realize that Muhammad must have been framed. Thus, the serial number was scrubbed from the report on the CBS website, but lives on in the various other places it was reprinted before it was edited (the story was so convoluted that some press reports were completely mixed up, an example of which is here). The only possible more innocent explanation is that the 'source' assumed that the serial number on the gun found must be that of the gun which Muhammad last owned in May 2000, but since Muhammad sold the gun it is difficult to see why the 'source' would make that assumption unless he also knew that Muhammad had been framed with the gun but didn't realize the danger in making the connection too explicit, and it doesn't begin to explain how the ballistics matches with the Alabama shooting if Muhammad and Malvo only used a handgun. It is much more likely that the perpetrators outsmarted themselves by using a gun which could be tied to Muhammad, not realizing that the connection to Muhammad also tends to make it look like he was framed. 'Lee Harvey' Muhammad and 'James Earl' Molvo were patsies, and their patsy-fication follows the same guide that has been used to establish U. S. patsies to hide political crimes for at least 40 years. Their extremely wide-ranging travels without any obvious source of funds reminds me of the travels of both James Earl Ray and Arthur Bremmer (the man who shot George Wallace). The general method seems to be to send the patsy on a 'mission' for his country (like Oswald or McVeigh, these people tend to be very patriotic, which is also why, like Muhammad, they tend to have a lot of military service), a mission which establishes guilt and leaves them in a compromised situation at the time that the political crime is committed.