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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sniper Suspects Connected to 2 West Coast Shootings

TACOMA, Washington -- Long before a series of sniper attacks terrorized the suburbs of Washington, police say the suspected gunmen may have begun their reign of terror on the West Coast with the slaying of a Tacoma woman and a shooting at a synagogue.

Authorities said they have linked John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo to the February shooting death of a 21-year-old woman whose aunt once worked for Muhammad's auto repair business. Police also identified them as suspects in a May shooting at a Tacoma synagogue in which no one was injured.

The connection to Muhammad and Malvo is based on information from a Tacoma man who told authorities last week that he loaned the pair his guns. Ballistics tests matched the weapons to slugs found at both shooting scenes.

Malvo, 17, and Muhammad, 41, currently face murder charges in both Virginia and Maryland in the three-week series of attacks that killed 10 people and wounded three. Alabama has charged them in a killing outside a liquor store in Montgomery.

Tacoma Police Chief David Brame said a man contacted the FBI last week and told authorities he had allowed Muhammad and Malvo to borrow his weapons, including a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun, while the pair were staying with him earlier this year.

"As a result, we now consider John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo as suspects in the Keenya Cook homicide," Brame said. Authorities said there were no plans to charge the man who came forward.

Cook was shot Feb. 16 when she opened the door to the house where she lived with Cook's aunt, Isa Nichols. Nichols was friends with Muhammad and his then-wife Mildred, and sided with Mildred during that couple's bitter divorce and child-custody dispute. Members of Cook's family said Isa Nichols may have been the intended target and Cook could have been shot by mistake when she opened the door.