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Student tips off FBI on sniper
Junior Lauren Egan was between classes when she randomly decided to pick up The New York Times. The D.C. area sniper was still at large and the country was in a state of alarm over where and when he would hit next. The article said there were no patterns connected with the sniper shootings, next to a small map of the spots where the previous 12 had taken place. Intrigued, Egan closely observed the map.
“So I just picked up a pen and started tracing on the map, I do things like that all the time when I’m bored,” Egan said.
As if playing “connect the dots,” Egan linked together all of the sites where the sniper had struck. The lines made the formation of a cross with a human figure next to it. But the top was incomplete, according to Egan. To complete the figure, another connecting dot would have to be added, or in this case, another shooting would have to take place.
Egan’s Catholic upbringing influenced her to expand on the theory. She attributed the exactly 12 shootings with Jesus’ 12 apostles. She remembered that there had originally been a thirteenth apostle, Judas, who betrayed Jesus, according to Christian theology. This gave support to the map drawing, but Egan continued to churn out more ideas.
Egan remembered hearing on the news about a tarot card left by the sniper that read, “Dear Policeman, I am God.” She even found significance in the names of the states where the victims had been shot: Virginia and Maryland.
“If you look at the state names you can see the words virgin and Mary,” Egan concluded.
Once all of her hypotheses were linked together, she predicted that a thirteenth shooting would take place north of Washington, D.C.
Egan confided this information to senior Mark Federico, who woke up the next day to find Egan’s prediction had come true.
“I couldn’t believe it the next day when I found out the sniper had hit again, right where she said he would,” Federico said.
On Oct. 18, a man in Ashland, Va., was shot walking across the parking lot of a Ponderosa Restaurant. The area was just north of D.C., exactly where Egan had said the next shooting would take place.
Egan decided to speak with mass communications Professor Russell Barclay about her findings. He immediately suggested she should share her findings with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and he helped her contact a tip line where she was directed to speak with an FBI special agent in New Haven.
“You just don’t see many people that will look at the physical world and actually manipulate it and interact with it,” Barclay said. “That’s the secret of what good intelligence truly is.”
The FBI agent thanked Egan for her help in the investigation. He also told her that the FBI had been following similar leads.
Two days after victim thirteen was shot, police arrested John Allen Muhammed, 41, and teenager John Lee Malvo in connection with the sniper attacks.
“I thought [the sniper] would be done after that. He wouldn’t have been sleeping at a rest stop if he didn’t want to get caught,” Egan said.
Egan is glad that her observations were able to help the FBI, but she remains modest about her intelligence.
“I have never done anything like this before, and I might not ever again,” she said. “The fact that I did made me realize something about myself.”
Egan is a broadcast journalism major with a minor in marketing. When questioned on the possibility of a career in criminal investigation she laughed and said, “No, but at least I know I might be able to fall back on it, now.”