By Heather Coppley and David M. Pittman
WASHINGTON – Business has been slow this year at Gene’s Costumes in Kensington, a situation that store owner Ginger Ager hopes will turn around now that police have arrested two suspects in connection with the sniper case.
But Ager, whose store is in the middle of the area where the first killings occurred, knows that life won’t really get back to normal “unless they say 100 percent, without a doubt the sniper has been caught.”
While Maryland businesses and residents expressed relief at the break in the case Thursday, most agreed that they will not be at ease until the case is closed.
Residents of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties were cautiously resuming daily activities like pumping gas and shopping Thursday, which for the past month have gripped many with fear.
After living the past 22 days in the sniper’s shadow, shop owners saw hopeful signs Thursday.
At the Michael’s craft store where the first shooting occurred, an employee who would not give her name said, “I can say that the parking lot today is a lot fuller today than it has been in a couple of weeks.”
At the Home Depot in Silver Spring, Columbia resident Jackie Huffman said she is more comfortable now at her job in the store’s nursery department and “a lot more relieved” that there seems to be an end to the sniper case.
“I would not stay out front at all,” before the arrests, she said, pointing to the fenced-in nursery area of the store in an office park near U.S. Route 29.
Home Depot customer Jim Pinto of Silver Spring said he has not changed his daily habits as a result of the sniper shootings — but was happy to see progress in the case.
“I’m not going to stop doing what I am doing. This is what he wants us to do,” Pinto said.
Others were more skeptical. Carlos Gardenas wondered what happened to the white van or box truck that had been the focus of police searches for weeks. The suspects were in a blue passenger car when they were caught Thursday.
“I don’t know if this guy is the right one,” Gardenas said at Shell gas station on University Boulevard near Adelphi.
He said he will continue to move around while outside and worry about his uncle, a landscaper in Montgomery County.
Claire Smith looked skittish Thursday as she pumped gas at the Shell. She said that her family usually goes to get groceries on Wednesday but did not last night out of fear, and that her skepticism about the arrests would keep her in Thursday night as well.
“They say it’s him, but I don’t know for sure if it is him or not,” Smith said.