Some of the officers, patrolling in the 800 block of Gallatin Street NW about 9 p.m., heard a woman scream for help. Like the earlier victims, she had been grievously injured by a sudden blow to the head. As the officers rushed to her aid, police said, they noticed a man with a backpack staring at them from an alley.
When the officers stared back, police said, the man turned and ran. Minutes later and a few blocks away, after a frantic foot chase ended with the suspect in handcuffs, officers opened his dark-colored backpack and peered inside.
Just hours into what might have become a protracted hunt for a dangerous and unpredictable attacker, police said, they caught a key break: They found a claw hammer.
Michael Davis, 19, who lives with his grandmother in Petworth, was charged with aggravated assault in Thursday night’s attack on the 19-year-old woman, who was hospitalized in critical condition.
“From what we know, this attack was sudden and completely unprovoked,” D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said.
Davis comes from a family of prominent athletes. Two of his brothers play in the National Football League: Vernon Davis, a tight end for the San Francisco 49ers, and Vontae Davis, a cornerback with the Miami Dolphins. Like Michael Davis, they grew up in the Emerson Street rowhouse with their grandmother.
“Just got a disturbing call from back home in washington dc,” a message on Vernon Davis’s Twitter account said Friday. “A good day gone bad! Hopefully he wasn’t involved.”
Police said Michael Davis is under investigation in connection with the three other assaults, which occurred Tuesday and Wednesday. As of Friday evening, he had not been charged.
Two of the victims in those cases survived with severe head injuries. The other, a 66-year-old Denver man, was found dead in an alley about a block from the rowhouse where Davis lives, in the 900 block of Emerson Street NW.
“At this time, there is no apparent motive,” Lt. Robert Alder of D.C. police’s homicide unit said Friday, standing outside the Davis home as investigators searched inside.
“I see him all the time,” a neighbor, Cathy Meads, said of Davis. She stood on her front porch, watching evidence technicians enter and leave next door, on a street crowded with police cars and news trucks. “Wouldn’t have thought nothing like this would happen,” Meads said, describing Davis as “a nice young man.”
“I’d walk up the street, don’t worry at all about him hitting me on the head,” she said.
After police finished their work at the rowhouse Friday, a clutch of reporters and TV camera operators crowded onto the front porch, one of them ringing the doorbell repeatedly. No one responded. A trash bag was taped over the door window inside. Phone calls seeking comment on the arrest went unanswered at the home.