Saturday, November 03, 2007

a crime and its outcome

I've been meaning to do a post about my bicycle commute: my accident a week or so ago, my encounters with wildlife, the effects on me of the weather transition we're going through, how I cope with age-related pain in lower back and hips, other bicyclists, ....

Yesterday morning, while this intention was still pretty vague, I saw the flashing blue and red lights of emergency vehicles a few blocks ahead as I rode down 11th St leaving the Mt. Pleasant area and entering Shaw and the vicinity of Howard University and Logan Circle. Closing in on the activity, I saw that it was all police cruisers and noticed that there was a police helicopter overhead with its search light beaming down on a neighborhood a bit to the south. I never stop and gawk at scenes where lots of blue shirts are gathered. Neither do the others out on the street. Where there are guns, I think we all agree it's best to keep in motion.

Usually if I chance to check local news for the event, I learn nothing about it. Either it was not newsworthy or the news media couldn't get on top of it for one reason or another (I think sometimes they don't cover events when there's no visual component, for example.)

Yesterday, was different. It was newsworthy because a police officer was struck by a stolen vehicle, because the event was caught on closed-circuit tv, and because the video was made available for viewing.

Here's a map showing my route, north to south, down 11th St. The block with all the action is shown in blue. The gas station where the hit-and-run occurred is in green.

{click to view full size - credit: Mapblast}

Here are some extracts from the DC Police account of the event. There's a link to a video at the end. Do view this video. If you look carefully, you can observe what occurred at the gas station pretty much as described in the police report.
November 2, 2007
Police-Involved Shooting in the 2800 Block of Sherman Avenue, NW

Shortly after 5:00 this morning, Friday, November 2, 2007, officers from the department's Third District Substation were investigating the report of a stolen vehicle in the 2800 block of Sherman Avenue, NW. Officers were able to locate a 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer matching the description of the vehicle being sought at the Apex Gas Station located at 2830 Sherman Avenue, NW. That vehicle was being occupied by one male subject in the driver's seat while two other male subjects had apparently exited the vehicle. Officers subsequently attempted to approach the suspect vehicle when one of the officers exiting his marked unit was struck by the suspect vehicle as the operator apparently rammed the officer in an effort to escape. The impact threw the officer upon the hood of the moving vehicle, injuring the officer and forcing him to fire his service weapon in fear of his life as it appeared the vehicle could run him over.

A short time later, the Trailblazer was located unoccupied, after witnesses reportedly observed a male suspect running from that vehicle. A subsequent investigation eventually located the suspect inside of an apartment building ... suffering from an apparent gunshot wound to the chest. He was taken to an area hospital and admitted in stable condition. His wounds are not believed to be life threatening. He is currently being charged with one count of Assault on a Police Officer; however other charges may be pending. Investigators are attempting to determine if the suspect was wounded as a result of police gunfire.

One of the other suspects was apprehended at the gas station without incident. The third suspect in this case apparently made good his escape.

* Download a video of the incident (Must have Windows Media Player to view this WMV file)
Thinking about this now, I'm intrigued by a number of things: (1) The event occurred only about half an hour before I rode by the scene, (2) the DC Police web site had this account up the same day, (3) the video was captured on a Police CCTV camera, one of many that have been set up in crime neighborhoods, and (4) although the helicopter, a large Police presence on the ground, and the CCTV were used to help locate the driver of the stolen car, it was information given by witnesses that enabled Police to find first the car and (presumably) then the man himself, holed up in an apartment building.

I hadn't been aware that the Police used CCTV video cams as much as they do. There seem to be 90 or 100 in place now. Here's a link from the Police web site: locations of the CCTV cameras designed to combat crime in DC neighborhoods. Many are in areas where high-profile events take place (anti-war and anti-globalization demonstrations, for example), but many also are in residential neighborhoods, including ones like the Shaw/Howard/Logan Circle area, which are known for their drug-related crime activity. CCTV makes me uneasy, but it's comforting to know that it's used in low-income areas and not just the big-money, high-power districts. It's also a bit comforting to discover that the DC Police are able to get a full account of a crime on their web site not much later than the local media give their coverage to it. There are many ways to combat crime, including better education in the schools of low-income areas, more job opportunities for poorly-educated people, improvements in the welfare system, and the like. I believe good policing is as important as any of the others in this list.

It's also comforting to know that witnesses are willing to help police. We're often told that witnesses keep silent out of fear of retaliation. As in this case, the suspects are often from the same neighborhood as the witnesses and there's good chance the former can learn the identity of the latter.

Addendum: It took me quite a bit of searching to find out about the videocam that caught the action. I checked all the traffic cams and couldn't find one at the right location. Only searching within the MetroPolice site itself eventually brought forward information about the CCTV cameras they operate. I was a little surprised to see the locations listed but didn't do any further research on the politics of their deployment or public disclosure.

Another addendum: I like riding down 11th St. Traffic is very light at 5:45 am as I come through and it's an easy part of the ride (fairly straight, fairly level). When, from a distance, I saw the flashing lights at the Harvard St. intersection I was intrigued by the broad splash of blue, not intense and focused but more like a fan-shaped spray -- hard to describe but quite fascinating at the time -- something like the Northern Lights but of course more concentrated. As I got closer the light source became apparent and the display resolved to a more normal-looking flash, flash, flash.

No comments: