ASHLAND, Va. (WRIC) — October 19, 2002, is a day many in Central Virginia may never forget. 37-year-old Jeffry Hopper was walking out of the Ponderosa Restaurant in Ashland when a bullet struck him.
Fear gripped the area, as questions mounted about whether Hopper had become the most recent victim of the DC Snipers.
The shooting happened on a Saturday, but 8News’ main anchor staff rushed in to deliver the news.
“Within hours of the shooting, at least nine local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are looking for a link between the Ashland victim and the serial sniper,” said then anchor John Reid.
8News Anchor Juan Conde reported the latest updates from the Ponderosa restaurant along England Street as officials worked to put the pieces together. He said the first mission was “finding a 223 caliber slug that matches other sniper attacks,” explaining it was the most consistent physical evidence in the serial sniper attacks.
For three weeks, the snipers terrorized Maryland, DC and parts of Virginia, targeting people doing everyday activities like pumping gas and going to the store.
Mass hysteria spread across the region, as people feared where the next gunshot would come from.
“There’s no way to estimate or guess where this person might hit. All we can do is try to execute caution,” said then anchor Gwen Williams to Central Virginia viewers.
Five days after the Ashland shooting, John Allen Muhammed, then 41, and Lee Boyd Malvo, then 17, were found asleep in their car in Maryland. It was discovered that the pair had been shooting through a hole near the rear license plate of a 1990 blue Chevrolet Caprice.
The pair shot and killed 10 people and wounded three others over a three-week span in October 2002. Several other victims were shot and killed across the country in the prior months as the duo made their way to the nation’s capital region from Washington state.
Muhammed was executed in 2009.
Malvo was convicted of capital murder in Virginia and sentenced to life in prison without parole. But a series of Supreme Court rulings and a change in Virginia law gave Malvo the opportunity to seek parole after serving nearly 20 years in custody.
The Virginia Parole Board rejected his request on Aug. 30 of this year, finding that Malvo remains a risk to the community and should serve more of his sentence before being released on parole, state records of Parole Board decisions show.