The D.C. Snipers: When Revenge Becomes Terror

In 2002, two snipers brought terror to the suburbs of Washington D.C. when they aimed their guns at random people for no apparent reason. Over three weeks, a series of shootings killed ten people and left three seriously injured.

Police officers drive with both sniper suspects in the back of their cop car.
Photo by Susan Biddle/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Over time, the killings totaled 17 people. The killing spree spawned one of the largest manhunts in American history. John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were finally caught and convicted.

They Wanted the World to Burn

Who were they, and why were they trying to make the world burn? Many assumed that these two men were obviously insane. But both John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were regular guys, at least, so it seemed.

John Allen Muhammad mug shot / Lee Boyd Malvo’s mug shot
Photo by Bureau of Prisons, Getty Images / Kevin Clark, The Washington Post, Getty Images

Muhammad, a former soldier, was caught up in a custody battle with his ex-wife, Mildred. Furious, he threatened to kill her. His warped mind thought that if she died randomly in the street, he would get the kids.

Capture, Finally

Eventually, a woman spotted Muhammad’s car (which he and Malvo used to shoot people on the street) in Frederick County, Maryland, and called the cops. The two terrorists were captured on October 24, 2002.

Newspaper headlines read “Sniper Caught”.
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

They were sleeping in their blue Chevrolet Caprice when the police came. Grenades were thrown into the car, and the two were yanked out. Finally, the nightmare that took over the city was over.

Within Seconds, the Nightmare Was Over

Within seconds, “two of the most heinous killers in American history were on their way to justice,” an officer on duty at the time stated. Malvo was only 17 at the time, but he was still convicted of two murders in Virginia and six in Maryland.

John Allen Muhammad listens to testimony during his murder trial.
Photo by Davis Turner-Pool/Getty Images

Muhammad was given the death sentence (via lethal injection). As for Malvo, he got a life sentence without the possibility of parole.