Ten years ago this October, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo terrorized the greater Washington D.C. area by firing a sniper rifle at people who were just going about their daily routines.
One victim, Jeffrey Hopper, took a bullet in the abdomen as he was leaving a restaurant with his wife. His whole story, along with that of some key law enforcement officials on the ground at the time, has never been told until now.
Jeffrey Hopper and his wife, Stephanie, were driving home to Florida on October 19, 2002, after visiting family in Philadelphia. They knew about the shootings, so they decided to drive as far as they could out of the D.C. area before getting dinner and fueling up.
Mrs. Hopper tells the story with the details fresh in her mind. "We were just about empty on gas. It was after dinnertime and we decided to stop at Ashland, Virginia, where there was a Ponderosa Steakhouse. We had a good dinner, and as we were leaving, my husband was shot. We had been walking out of the restaurant hand-in-hand and heard it. A huge noise. And he said 'Oh my God, I think I've been shot.'"
She said the memory of the shooting is still difficult for her husband, so he prefers not to do interviews.
Jeffrey Hopper spent 30 days in the hospital and had five surgeries at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center. Hopper has made a full recovery, and his wife says you wouldn't even know what he's gone through if you saw him walking down the street.
At his 2003 trial, a tape was played of 17-year-old Malvo describing the shot that hit Hopper.
''I planned to shoot him in the head,'' reported the New York Times.
Mrs. Hopper said 75% of her husband's stomach and half of his pancreas had to be removed and his liver, a kidney and his diaphragm were damaged.
Hopper was one of the lucky ones. Only three people survived the D.C. Sniper shootings. Muhammad and Malvo killed 10 people during the course of their rampage. Both men were convicted of murder. Muhammad was executed in November 2009, while Malvo is serving a life sentence in prison without parole.
It took an unprecedented effort by federal, state and local authorities to catch the shooters. Wayne Jerman worked as part of the media response team for the Montgomery County, Maryland, police department, and he says that 10 years later, the terror that gripped the community is still seared into his mind.
"I remember people trying to pump gas, ducking in their cars, bent down behind their gas tanks. And then the service station operators, some had placed tarps over their pump areas to shield the motorists from becoming potential victims," said Jerman.
Jerman is now the assistant chief of police for the Montgomery County Police Department. He said that the sniper shootings taught the law enforcement agencies involved in the case how to work better as a team, a lesson that has made emergency responses and investigations into shootings more nimble and efficient.
"The information exchange was tremendous. The cooperation and really, the support from everybody to each other was really key to working this case and getting it solved and to a successful resolution," said Jerman.
Retired FBI Agent Brad Garrett said, "It was a quick learning curve to pull that many jurisdictions together in fairly short order."
Garrett and another agent led the investigation for the FBI's Washington field office. He said the shootings also taught an important lesson about just how vulnerable people are.
"With very little money and not much effort, you could take a community to its knees. And you're talking about -- my estimate -- an operation that cost well under $1,000. The old Chevrolet Caprice they drove, I think, cost $250. They stole the rifle," Garrett said.
The old car was outfitted as a "killing machine," law enforcement officials said at the time. The car had two holes in the trunk -- one for a scope, the other for a rifle -- that allowed the gunman to mow down unsuspecting targets without opening the trunk.
Former FBI agent: America is still vulnerable
Garrett said this case along with the various mass shootings since the D.C. Sniper attacks show that America is still vulnerable.
"I don't know how you stop it. It's like terrorism or any other crime," Garrett said. "Law enforcement and the intelligence community have to be diligent about what intelligence they have and exploit it as far as they can to see if there is any merit to it."
Stephanie Hopper said she understands just how vulnerable people are, but she believes there are things people can do to make communities safer.
"If you look at the situation and how Malvo and Muhammad got together. There was an awful situation when Malvo couldn't stay with his mom when he was young and impressionable and ended up getting left with Muhammad. Muhammad was able to be a horrible influence on that young man. I think if we had services to keep [that] family intact when they were in financial trouble we would be better off."
Mrs. Hopper volunteers for the organization Hope for Brevard, which helps homeless families in Melbourne, Florida, find housing and become self-sufficient.
She said when she remembers the shooting, she prefers to look at the positives that resulted from the ordeal.
"I have a lasting memory of not how terrible or tragic it was. But, I have a lasting memory of how wonderful the people who reached out to us and supported us were," Hopper said. "The people of Richmond and Mechanicsburg, and the people all over the country who sent us cards and support and the people who sent us care baskets while we were in the hospital. And the people back here in Melbourne who offered to sit with Jeff and watch out for him as I went back to work, and the friends and family. It was just wonderful."