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Published: Friday, 3/19/2004

Relief, at last, in Columbus

EVERYONE commuting on Columbus area interstates, those with kids in nearby schools, and some who had bullets pierce their homes, can finally exhale now that Charles McCoy, Jr., is in custody.

Mr. McCoy, a suspect in two dozen sniper shootings between May and February, including one in which a woman was killed,

was arrested in Las Vegas. Police named him a suspect after his father gave them a 9mm Beretta, and perhaps another gun, he

took from his son after a Feb. 14 shooting.

The Beretta was found to have been used in nine shootings, among them the one in November that killed 62-year-old Gail Knisley

of Washington Court House.

It remains to be seen if Mr. McCoy had legal access to the weapon. His mother said he is mentally ill, with paranoid schizophrenia.

Federal and state law ban gun ownership by those adjudicated incompetent or dangerous by virtue of mental illness.

But not everyone with a mental illness is so adjudicated because not everyone is incompetent or dangerous.

Even had he been a prohibited buyer, his name would not have been in the federal system because Ohio has no data base of adjudications and doesn t turn them in, Ohio anti-gun proponents say.

Las Vegas police arrested the 28-year-old, who had been long unemployed, after a man who offered him pizza recognized him

from a newspaper photograph. At the time Mr. McCoy was reading a USA Today story about himself that included the picture the man who turned him in had seen.

Television crime shows like CSI and Law and Order obviously inform citizens. When Mr. McCoy left his table, the man, 60-yearold

Conrad Malsom, gathered Mr. McCoy s glass, matchbooks, racing bet stubs, and a sheet of paper he d left behind, and gave

them to the FBI. He also notifi ed police in Ohio and Nevada. His work and his eagle eye should net him the $60,000 reward.

The sniper attacks that plagued Columbus were not as destructive as those perpetrated by John Lee Malvo and John Allen Muhammad in and around Washington, D.C. But they were no less terrorizing.

The alleged perpetrator deserves a fair trial, but it appears central Ohio s long ordeal is over.

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