WASHINGTON – As the region begins to mark the 10th anniversary of the D.C.-area sniper shootings, some may remember the terror, while those touched by the violence remember the pain.
Paul LaRuffa, a Prince George’s County pizza shop owner now retired and living in St. Mary’s County, Md., was shot by Lee Boyd Malvo on Sept. 5, 2002, four weeks before the sniper siege began.
“The window exploded and five bullets came shooting in and every one of them hit me. It was horrendous,” LaRuffa says.
Malvo and John Allen Muhammad stole LaRuffa’s money and his laptop. Police say the money was used to buy the 1990 Chevrolet Caprice that Muhammad and Malvo turned into what prosecutors eventually called a “killing machine.”
Police didn’t link LaRuffa’s shooting to the snipers until Muhammad and Malvo were arrested and LaRuffa’s laptop was found in the sniper car. By then, 10 people in the Washington-area were dead, including Dean Meyers who was shot to death while pumping gas near Manassas.
“Ten years doesn’t change much, there’s still a big hole,” says Bob Meyers of Perkiomenville, Pa., remembering his brother Dean.
“My brother was an integral part of the family and is greatly missed.”
For those who lived through the sniper attacks in October 2002, waiting at a bus stop, pumping gas or walking to school were all frightening moments in a terror-filled three-week span.
Muhammad and Malvo were captured on Oct. 24, 2002 at a U.S. 70 rest stop, west of Frederick, Md.
At his Virginia trial, Muhammad received the death penalty and was executed in 2009. Malvo is spending life in prison.
Ten years later, survivors and family members move on with their lives.
LaRuffa refuses to be haunted by the ordeal.
“I celebrate Sept. 5 with my family and with my grandkids, we celebrate living,” LaRuffa says.
“We’ve turned the situation over to God and forgiven the people that did the deed,” says Meyers.
Police say in total the snipers killed 15 people in seven states and D.C.