In an interview with Dave Lucas with WJLA, Producer Mary-Jane Mitchell shares the documentary behind the horrific three-week tragedy of the Sniper Attack, killing 10 people and leaving two wounded. The events happened from October 2, 2002 – Oct. 24, 2002, but for one survivor, it happened much sooner.
“For me I was shot September 5th, the others shooting didn’t start through another month. So I lived those three weeks in October the same like everybody else. I didn’t know who shot me and certainly nobody thought it was connected with Lee Boyd Malvo and John Muhammad. So I went through the same thing wondering everyday and watching the news, and being afraid to pump gas at the gas station,” said Paul Laruffa, survivor of the sniper attack.
Laruffa was just leaving work around 10:30 p.m. with two other co-workers when he was shot in his car.
“As soon as I got in my car, the window next to me just exploded with the first shot so the glass showered over me and there were four more shots, a total of five shots and they all hit me, so with a matter of seconds I was shot five times and I was obviously bleeding a lot and luckily there were two people that left with me. I never lost consciousness and I got out of the car and saw that one of the people that left with me was dialing on his cell phone 911. The emergency team got to me in time and got me to the hospital where they operated for seven hours and saved my life,” said Laruffa.
The two snipers were father, John Allen Muhammad, and son, Lee Boyd Malvo, at the time was only 17 years old. Muhammad died November 10, 2009, but his son is still serving behind bars. Mitchell was the only one successful to get an interview with Malvo to tell his side of the story as to why he and his father decided to start the deadly shootings.
“I think he felt it was something he was ready to do. He absolutely feels and has said many times he would be able to speak to anyone who wanted to talk to him. Any of the families who wanted to talk to him. I think he acknowledges that sorry clearly isn’t enough and is trying to find some kind of purpose and meaning for his life. But I think he sees this as an opportunity not for exoneration obviously, but examination and hopefully to help foster a little more understanding,” said Mitchell.
Malvo shares with Mitchell his understanding of the drive behind Muhammad’s motives as to why he went on the killing spree and how Muhammad influence him to join in on his plan. However, Malvo could only share his point of view.
“He talks a lot about his relationship with Mohammad and his understanding of what Mohammad’s feelings were and what had happened to Mohammad, but remember this was all second hand to him and he is looking back on it now as an adult trying to understand what he was told as a teenager and kind of unpick truth from fiction. So I think a lot of it is still confusing to him, but he certainly is able to kind of explain as best as he understood it what the motivations were for John Mohammad.
Laruffa, on the other hand, had no idea he was the first victim behind the scheme until the killers were finally caught and arrested.
“There were people who mentioned it to me, but I always thought that it was far-fetched to say it was related to that because it didn’t risible the other random shootings. I mean it was random and basically, they took my money and brought that car, then went around shooting people. So it did make sense, but then when they were caught. It made a lot of sense because they found my laptop computer in their car or computer that was the same brand as mine laptop and same model and then it became WOW, maybe this is all tied together and obviously it was,” said Laruffa.
Although Malvo can tell his side of the story, the one person who can really tell the people as to the reasons ‘Why’, is no longer here, but Malvo is understanding his part in all of this.
“There’s no one thing that you can point to. He talks a lot about John Muhammad’s childhood, his experience in the military, the feelings he had when his children were moved from his custody, his belief in black Islam, and these kinds of all combined, I think as Malvo understood it to kind of put him on this path of violence. It’s still isn’t clear and I think the only person that can tell us that story is John Mohammad and he’s no longer with us. But I think that Lee Malvo does as good a job as he can in trying to explain it as he understood it,” said Mitchell.
Laruffa was able to watch the film ahead of time. He calls it incredible, powerful, incredibly sad, but well done. He is left with no regret and has moved on from the pain Malvo and his father caused.
“I say I’m doing well and I am. What happened to me doesn’t haunt me. It hasn’t ruined my life. I try not to let it ruin a day in my life other than the day it happened. My feeling, I don’t have the same anger towards Malvo as I did obviously when it happened because I believe the definition of forgiveness is to give up the anger towards someone who has done you harm and I’ve done that because I didn’t want to spend the last 19 years being as angry as I was when it happened. And so I have feelings towards him, I feel sorry for him, but I don’t have a hatred that I had then because if I did I would be miserable and I don’t choose to be miserable at all,” said Laruffa.
After speaking with Malvo, Mitchell now has an understanding of Malvo’s life and see’s the life-changing effect this crime had on him. Now that Malvo is older, he has accepted the role he played in the plan, and now people are able to see what was in the minds of these two men, from the viewpoint of one surviving sniper, behind this devastating plan.
“I think I come away with a better understanding of his life and his experience and what led him to commit those crimes. I think it was a genuine attempt on his part to really examine the harm that he had caused and try to understand it better. And so I think it was a very very difficult conversation for him and for me for many different reasons, but I think it really does help us to understand better why would this crime happened and who these people were,” said Mitchell.
Today, you can watch the eight-episode documentary, I, Sniper, on the Vice Channel on cable and Vice Hulu at 10:00 P.M. EST and PST.