The man known as the "Beltway Sniper," John Allen Muhammad, is set to be put to death tonight by lethal injection in a Virginia prison. I remember when all that happened because he shot two people in Fredericksburg, VA where I was attending college at the time. One woman was shot leaving a Michael's and she survived. The other was Dean Harold Meyers, a Vietnam veteran who was pumping gas. He did not survive. Meyer's death is what ultimately got Muhammad the death penalty. Though he terrorized my community and the communities of my friends and my family, I can't say I agree with putting him to death.
I remember it being all so surreal. Since Fredericksburg was built-up around I-95, Muhammad just hopped off the interstate, set up and started shooting. That was what was so strange and unnerving- there was no rhyme or reason to whom or where he shot. Before the police realized how he chose his locations, being on a college campus created some unease. Some students were afraid he would get on a roof and start taking us out. We bobbed and weaved on campus, in parking lots and on the street. Unnecessary, yes. But it was the only levity we could bring to the situation. It was literally too close to home for comfort.
There is some evidence that Muhammad suffered brain damage and PTSD from his time in the Gulf War. But so what? His actions were reprehensible and unfathomable. He cold-heartedly killed people. Regardless of how ill he may be, he is guilty. He deserves to be in jail- in solitary confinement- for the rest of his life. But the death penalty? In a nation where we have the death penalty as the ultimate punishment- yes give him the death penalty. But the threat of the death penalty didn't stop him from shooting those people. And it doesn't stop other people from committing horrible, terrible crimes. Is killing the killer going to bring peace to those families? I really hope it does. Otherwise he's just another pointless death. Like all the others.