Rumors abound, as facts surrounding park shooting remain sparse

A Warren County, VA Sheriff's Department official motions near a bullet-ridden van following a pursuit on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. The driver was shot at the park's northern entrance in Front Royal, VA. Behind the van (from left) Warren County Sheriff's Department Major Norman Shiflett talks with Front Royal Police Sgt. Robbie Seal and Cpl. Thomas McIntyre. The incident is under investigation by FBI, Va. State Police and the National Park Service according to Shenandoah National Park spokesperson Karen Beck Herzog. Photo by Dan McDermott, Warren County Report Newspaper.

Analysis by Roger Bianchini
Managing Editor
Warren County Report Newspaper

SKYLINE DRIVE, FRONT ROYAL, VIRGINIA–While the federal government may rush to judgment on such things as presidential assassinations, wars against former Middle Eastern allies, or trillion dollar bailouts of the financial sector most responsible for our current economic predicament, never let it be said the Federal Bureau of Investigation jumped to conclusions about the identity of a man gunned down on federal park property within an eighth of a mile of Skyline Drive’s intersection with Route 340 at Front Royal, Virginia, around noon on Sunday, March 8.

Federal authorities have taken the lead on the both the investigation and dissemination of information about the fatal shooting that occurred at the north entrance to Shenandoah National Park. On Monday afternoon at 3:30 p.m., more than 27 hours after the shooting, FBI spokesperson Dennette Rybiski said details, including the identification of the suspect killed and what he was suspected of, might not be forthcoming for several more days.

Rybiski did appear to confirm the fed’s involvement stemmed from the location of the incident on federal property, rather than other factors like interstate flight or previous federal warrants on the suspect.

Unconfirmed reports from sources at the scene indicate the suspect lowered a rifle or shotgun toward state and local police after running over roadblock tire-flattening spikes, colliding with a pickup truck and rolling to a stop on the shoulder of the inbound lanes to Shenandoah National Park. The vehicle had been outbound as a chase ensued within the park.

According to a statement from Virginia State Police Spokesman F. L. Tyler several hours after the incident, National Park Service authorities requested assistance from state and local police in stopping a vehicle traveling north on Skyline Drive at approximately 11 am., March 8, 2009. A BOL (Be on the Lookout) alert had been issued for the vehicle. While an officer on the scene said the victim was a suspect in a homicide, that information could not immeidately be confirmed.

One local government official said the driver had acted in a suspicious manner at a scenic overlook on Skyline Drive and when the park ranger called in the Virginia license plate the owner was listed as wanted in an area “down south.”

A body lay shroud covered on the ground outside the driver’s door of the suspect’s dark-colored van. The driver’s side headlight was shattered and the passenger side front and middle windows appeared to have been shattered by gunfire.

But if federal authorities are proceeding with extreme caution in announcing more details about the man’s identity or suspected criminal history, the rumor mill in Front Royal has been quick to fill in the missing factual gaps.

“I heard he killed his girlfriend in Texas and was on the run,” one grocery store patron told us.

“I heard they chased him all the way down the drive from Gordonsville, wherever that is,” another offered.

“He was a big guy, wasn’t he?” one familiar face asked me.

I don’t know, he was under a sheet when I got there – but he only had one shoe on, but I couldn’t tell what size it was,” I replied, offering little assistance on this one.

“And I heard he had his face painted like a character from Batman,” the most intriguing suggestion came … Hmm, you don’t think Ledger faked his, nah … do you … maybe…

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