HOLLYWOOD, MD (WUSA) -- Sniper victim Paul LaRuffa's nightmares have faded, but he will never forget the muzzle flash and the bang that served as a violent prelude to the sniper killings that shook the Washington region a decade ago.
He was the first Washington area victim in a killing spree that took ten lives and terrorized all of us over three weeks in October, 2002.
Teenage killer Lee Malvo shot the Prince George's pizza joint owner five times and robbed him of the day's proceeds from his restaurant.
Remember how scared we were? Pumping gas, going shopping, dropping our kids at school? LaRuffa felt it one month before the rest of us.
"Just a little shadow by my head, and this window just exploded," he says, sitting in the driver's seat of the Chrysler 300 he still calls "his lucky green car," because he survived..
You can hear LaRuffa pleading for help on the 911 call from September 5, 2002. "Hurry up. I'm bleeding," he cries as his friend talks to the operator.
Malvo and Muhammad made off with $3500 dollars and a laptop computer. Malvo, LaRuffa says, "was wearing a t-shirt that said, 'I only have to be nice to one person today. And today is not your day.'"
Little known fact: Malvo and Muhammad financed their killing spree a month later with the proceeds from the robbery. They used LaRuffa's cash to buy the old Chevy that they used as their sniper's lair. And they used the laptop to map the spots to ambush their victims.
LaRuffa recovered quickly... and was just as scared as the rest of us as the snipers carried out their deadly work. "And the irony is, I was already shot by the people I was scared of and didn't know it."
He was just as amazed when police caught the snipers at a highway rest stop weeks later. "The fact that they caught them and found my computer in their car, your brain just doesn't know how to process that."
LaRuffa skipped Muhammad's execution. "I didn't want him to steal another day of my life."
He's retired now, enjoying the grandkids. He once told then 13 year old sniper victim Irun Brown that the nightmares eventually fade.
Muhammad's dead, Malvo's locked up for life. But there's still evil out there. "I think it could, easily, happen again."
LaRuffa says he still thinks about the snipers, but they no longer haunt his dreams.
Written and Reported by Bruce Leshan
9News Now & wusa9.com