Moose signs book deal to tell his story

Chief to address sniper manhunt

January 30, 2003|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose, the reluctant celebrity who led the chase for the serial snipers and calmed a nation of jittery TV viewers, will tell his story in a book to be released in the fall and has agreed to consult for a television movie, his agent announced yesterday.

The book is tentatively titled Three Weeks in October: The Manhunt for the D.C. Sniper and will be published by Dutton. Two TV production companies bought the rights to Moose's life story, but there is no guarantee the movie will be made.

Moose, who earns $160,000 as police chief, would not say yesterday how much the deals will pay him. But he admitted to some reservations about turning a profit on the October sniper shootings that left 10 people dead and three more wounded in the Washington region.

"I've struggled with that," Moose said, "and I just have to remember that I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't cause the people to be hurt. I'm just trying to work through it and do it professionally, but I'm sure there will be those who find it distasteful."

The chief said that when he realized books on the shootings would be written with or without him, he wanted to make sure at least one account was accurate - as well as tell his own story.

"The books are going to get written anyway," Moose said. "Maybe, with this book, there will be one that is accurate from a law enforcement perspective. ... It is more than just a sniper book. There are some things about my life story that hopefully people will find interesting and that maybe will influence young people."

The product of segregated schools in North Carolina, Moose graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in U.S. history and later earned a doctorate in urban studies from Portland State University in Oregon.

He wanted to be a civil rights lawyer, so he took the test for the Portland Police Bureau to get some background. He thought he'd be a cop for a few years. It has turned into 27.

Moose, 49, was a fairly anonymous suburban police chief until the sniper shootings began Oct. 2 and he became the public face of an intense manhunt, standing before dozens of TV cameras daily to deliver cryptic messages to the suspects and blunt admonitions to the press.

He cried on national television when a boy was shot outside a middle school.

"He became a celebrity through no fault or intent of his own," sad Jon Shorr, a University of Baltimore professor of communications. "When people were crying out for information, he came across as very sincere, very human, very frustrated, very earnest."

Shorr and other media experts agreed interest will be high in Moose's book. But before it can be published, the chief must clear some ethical hurdles. Montgomery County's ethics law bars public employees from using "the prestige of office for private gain," and the county's Ethics Commission has ruled officials cannot be paid for making speeches related to their jobs.

And any employment outside of county work - such as writing a book - must be approved by the commission. Moose said he will seek the advice of the county attorney on how to deal with these issues.

Moose already has some heavy hitters on his side. The county executive and several members of the County Council said yesterday that an exception should be made for the chief. "I don't see an inherent problem in him having a book or movie deal, as long as he's careful to do this on his own time and not to use county resources," said Councilman Phil Andrews, who added that he'd like to read the chief's book himself.

"Who better to tell it?" Andrews asked.

Moose's book, which will be written with former Newsweek and Vanity Fair reporter Charles Fleming, will not be the only one on the sniper shootings. Random House has signed several reporters at The Washington Post to a deal for a sniper book, also due out next fall. Others are expected as soon as this spring.

Moose's TV project is less sure. The rights to his life story were bought by Cotes/Daly Productions and Westport Productions. Moose said he would act as a consultant if a movie ever is made, and that it would focus heavily on the investigation.

And as for the big question - who will play the chief - Moose says it's out of his hands: "They were real clear I don't have anything to do with that."

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