Guardian Angels keeping watch over D.C.’s streets by night

August 1, 2011

Cheshire moon, rising.

Drunks, falling.

Britney blasts over the boulevard.

We ain’t stopping

Keep on dancing till the world ends . . .


Gerald McFadden, 18, called “Big Mac” by his friends, of the Guardian Angels guards 18th Street, making sure no one is jay-walking. The Guardian Angels are a volunteer law enforcement group that helps D.C. police keep order at night in Adams Morgan. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post)

Columbia Road doglegs to Champlain Street.

Which slopes down to Kalorama.

Which doglegs to Columbia.

All bisected by 18th Street.

A Trapezoid of Iniquity.

The social contract strains amid the cops, cars and coeds.

This is where the Angels ride.

“Big Mac to Braveheart.”

0230 hours.

The Guardian Angels volunteer citizen crime patrol unit has three members on bikes tonight.

T-Bone, 24, diamond earrings.

Agent M, 18, glasses and spandex skullcap.

Braveheart, 22, goatee.

White T-shirts. Utility belts. Walkie-talkies.

A molten summer night.

The invisible rolling fog of car exhaust.

Eight hours of stand-up pedaling.

Swooping down alleys.

Shining lights into urban crannies.

Jumping curbs.

Straining calves.

Awaiting rumbles.

Flushing loiterers out of the Marie Reed Recreation Center grounds.

Panting, skidding.

Nerding out on civic duty.

“Use the crosswalk, please.”

“Seatbelts save lives. Buckle up.”

Do the right thing.

Dreadlocked pedestrian: “Fake [bleep] police.”

Minivan driver: “Guardian Angels! Peace, brothers, thank you.”

Salutes. Jeers.

0259 hours.

Bars close.

Music stops.

Le deluge.

The steps of the Madrid apartment building on 18th.

A man screaming.

A woman sobbing.

Agent M squeezes the brakes. His bike fishtails.

The angels swarm. Contain the situation.

The cops arrive. Handcuff the man.

Woman: “Please don’t lock him up. He didn’t do nothing wrong. We just fighting.”

Man: “I didn’t do [bleep] wrong.”

They lead him away.

Man: “Here I go, Roxy.”

The angels remain.

Woman: “Why are cops such [bleep], man?”

T-Bone: “We’re just doing our jobs.”

Woman: “Yeah, but you’re not cops.”

Braveheart: “We’re with the cops.”

Woman: “He has my keys. I want you to personally pay for my taxi home.”

Good intentions.

Indifferent world.

0340 hours.

A break.

Bottles of warm water at the Angels squad car on Columbia.

T-Bone, flop sweaty: “You know I lost 25 pounds tonight.”

Then, out of nowhere, a cool breeze marches down the street like a liberating army.

Sweat evaporates.

Energy returns.

Let’s do one last check, T-Bone says. The alley between Columbia, Biltmore and Mintwood.

The Angels pass two squad cars. Cops are interviewing witnesses to an assault and robbery.

Left into the alley.

Hot garbage.

Right toward 19th.

The butts of cars.

The calisthenics of rats.

The wanderings of SuperCans.

Wait.

Look.

A wallet.

In a square of light on the concrete ground in a brick recess of a fire escape.

Kickstands deploy.

The Angels approach.

The wallet doesn’t move.

They bend down.

They flip it open.

Driver’s license. Foggy Bottom address.

Credit cards.

No cash.

Ditched after a robbery?

Maybe the robbery a block away?

This is the most action they’ve seen all night.

Agent M: “I love my job.”

Braveheart, into his radio: “Possible recovered wallet from a robbery.”

Indeterminate crackling over the channel.

One assault victim, at the hospital, losing faith in mankind.

Three Angels, in an alley, restoring it.

Braveheart: “I need some police assistance.”

Radio silence. 0400 hours.

No assistance arrives. They pick up the wallet. Ferry it to the squad car. Are told an officer just got to the scene. Return to it.

The officer checks the ID.

“That’s him. We’ll take it to GW.”

The angels ride high back to Columbia. Braveheart continues to 18th.

T-Bone and Agent M are intercepted by a cop on a bike.

Cop on bike: “Who moved the wallet?”

The angels stammer.

It’s late.

No one was coming.

We’re just trying to help.

Cop on bike: “We really appreciate what you do. But you [bleeps] [bleeped] with my crime scene.”

T-Bone: “Sorry.”

Agent M: “Sorry.”

Cop on bike: “Lesson learned.”

He turns on his bike and pedals off to a flashing squad car.

The moon is grinning.

Dan Zak is a feature writer and general assignment reporter based in the Style section. He joined the Post in 2005, after stints as an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a city-desk reporter and obituary writer at The Buffalo News.
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