During the fall of 2002, the Washington, D.C. metro area was gripped by panic, . The hunt was on for the “Beltway Sniper,” who seemed to be gunning down people at random, at gas stations and supermarkets and simply on sidewalks. TIME’s cover story which went to press before the killings stopped — they would continue for another two weeks, in fact — took a look at the manhunt for the sniper. On Oct. 24, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were arrested for the murder of 10 people and the wounding of three more in the Beltway area. Malvo was just 17 years old at the time of the shootings, which seemed to have no discernible pattern:
The victims were carrying out the banal tasks of everyday life, their last unremarkable moments juxtaposed with the killer’s lightning brutality. Officials speculated thatthis could be a terrorist attack but searched in vain for any overt political message. The victims, if they were lined up side by side, would roughly resemble a random sampling of the Washington metropolitan area. They were white, black, Hispanic, Indian, male, female. There was a government analyst, a landscaper, a housekeeper, a nanny.