Sample Block

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

FY 06-04

Contacts: Sheree L. Mixell/Donna J. Sellers


For Immediate Release

March 24, 2006



Lab Was Instrumental in Solving the 2002 D.C. Sniper Case

WASHINGTON -- The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Forensic Science Laboratory, which was instrumental in helping solve the 2002 Metropolitan D.C. Sniper case, has been accredited through September 2010 by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB).

In a Feb. 24 letter, the ASCLD/LAB board notified ATF that the application of its Forensic Science Laboratory – Washington had met the standards for re-accreditation. The lab was accredited in the disciplines of trace evidence, biology (serology only), questioned documents, firearms/toolmarks and latent prints.

The updated accreditation was granted after a thorough evaluation of the laboratory’s management practices, personnel qualifications, technical procedures, quality assurance program and facilities, according to the ASCLD/LAB.

“Successful re-accreditation makes a statement to prosecutors, law enforcement and other professionals that our laboratory continues to meet the very highest of standards,” said ATF Director Carl J. Truscott.

“I’m very proud of the world-class work that is performed by our examiners,” said Michael W. Ethridge, ATF director of laboratory services.

“This re-accreditation by ASCLD/LAB is just another example of the expertise and dedication of our examiners, and the commitment by management to a vigorous quality assurance system,” said Greg P. Czarnopys, chief of the Forensic Science Laboratory – Washington. “The ATF laboratories were first accredited by ASCLD/LAB in 1984 and have been re-accredited every five years since.”

Forensic work done by a firearm and toolmark examiner at the laboratory provided the link to the rifle used by the two men arrested and since convicted in Virginia in the serial Sniper case.

In addition to the facility in suburban Maryland, ATF maintains forensic laboratories in Atlanta and San Francisco. The ATF labs were one of the pioneers in the creation of a national program for the accreditation of forensic laboratories, and later become the first federal laboratories to achieve accreditation by ASCLD/LAB in 1984.

To maintain their accreditation, the ATF laboratories undergo a rigorous on-site inspection every five years. The inspection team evaluates all aspects of the laboratory, including personnel qualification and standards for evaluation; employee development and proficiency training; space, safety and security; and evidence control, security, handling and preservation. The inspection also evaluates management organization, planning, budget and administrative practices; quality programs for methods and procedures, including an internal audit program; internal and external communications; instrument maintenance, calibration and use of comparison standards; administrative and technical review of work products; and internal and external proficiency testing. In addition, each laboratory is inspected annually by an internal inspection team.

ASCLD/LAB accredits more than 300 forensic laboratories worldwide.

More information on ATF and its programs and resources is at