Judge reduces charge against tow truck driver

Nearly 25 seconds after he was robbed at gunpoint and pistol-whipped last month, a D.C. tow- truck operator hopped into his rig, drove onto a sidewalk and fatally struck his attacker with his vehicle, dragging him nearly 100 feet, a D.C. homicide detective testified Wednesday.

District prosecutors acknowledged during the hearing in D.C. Superior Court that Corey D. Stoddard, 35, was the initial victim on the afternoon of Dec. 31. It was then, prosecutors said, that Kevin Lewis Crouch, 22, of Southeast Washington, holding a black handgun, walked up to Stoddard and a co-worker and demanded money.

Less than a minute after the robbery, after Crouch fled the scene with Stoddard’s wallet, Stoddard became the aggressor, prosecutors said. After Stoddard struck Crouch, they said, he hopped out of his truck and removed Crouch’s pants and jacket, searching for the stolen wallet.

Crouch’s body was found lying face down in the 1400 block of Kenilworth Avenue NE. Underneath him was the gun, which police say was a BB gun.

Prosecutors had charged Stoddard, who worked for Collision Towing for about 10 years, with second-degree murder, arguing that he was no longer in danger when he chased Crouch. “There is no valid claim of self-defense,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward O’Connell said. “He had no right to use deadly force to regain his property.”

Stoddard’s attorney, Eugene Ohm of the District’s Public Defender Service, argued his client was in fear for his life, even when he was in his truck, because Crouch had a gun.

Judge Russell Canan agreed with prosecutors’ initial argument but reduced the charge to voluntary manslaughter as detectives search for additional evidence in the case.

One outstanding question Canan posed is whether Crouch was pointing the gun at Stoddard while Stoddard was behind the wheel of the truck.

Stoddard remains free but is on GPS monitoring. Canan reprimanded him after officials alerted the judge that Stoddard told authorities that his ankle bracelet “accidentally” fell off and that he did not notify the office until two days later. Canan told Stoddard that another such “accident” with his bracelet would result in him returning to jail until trial.

Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of intern Chandra Levy.
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