Michael Bouchard of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said at a news conference, ”The weapon seized from the vehicle occupied by [John Allen] Muhammad has been forensically determined to be the murder weapon involved in the shootings.”
Ten people were killed and three others were wounded during the attacks, the first of which came Oct. 2.
The men, identified as 41-year-old Army veteran John Muhammad and 17-year-old John Malvo, were arrested after 3 a.m. Thursday at a highway rest stop some 60 miles northwest of Washington.
Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose said the two are being held on unrelated charges, but said they are now considered suspects in the sniper investigation.
Maryland State Police spokesman Maj. Greg Shipley told reporters early Thursday a motorist had alerted authorities after noticing the two men sleeping in a car that matched the description of a vehicle on a police watch list. The vehicle’s description had been widely reported by the news media.
Muhammad was arraigned in Baltimore later in the day on a federal weapons charge authorities said was unrelated to the sniper case, while Malvo faced a juvenile court hearing. Prosecutors have reportedly set a meeting for Friday to consider charges in the sniper case.
The arrest reportedly followed a call to the sniper task force’s tip line, in which a caller claimed responsibility for a Sept. 21 fatal shooting at a liquor store in Montgomery, Ala — a crime that came 11 days before the Washington-area murders began.
Montgomery Police Chief John Wilson said a composite sketch of the suspect in the Sept. 21 shooting bore “very good similarities” to a photo of Malvo, but said the ammunition used in the Montgomery robbery did not match the bullets used in the sniper attacks.
Meanwhile, The Seattle Times reported that Muhammed served as an Army soldier at Fort Lewis in Washington state until his discharge in the mid-1990s, where he was reportedly trained as an Army machinist. But an Associated Press report quoted a senior defense official as saying Muhammad, a Gulf War veteran who went by the name John Allen Williams, had achieved the highest possible marksmanship rating during his 17 years of service.
According to court documents, Muhammed attempted to equip an assault rifle with a silencer four months ago, and told a friend about the kind of damage such a weapon could cause, the Associated Press reported.