District hit with a string of robberies

January 19, 2013

As thousands of people converged on Washington for a great patriotic ritual, a rash of robberies erupted in areas not far from the U.S. Capitol, in an unwelcome counterpoint to the grandeur of the coming events.

During the series of holdups, which began late Friday and continued Saturday morning, a woman was robbed at gunpoint and a man lost a phone. A man was punched, and a woman’s purse was taken.

It appeared that different robbers were involved in most or all of the holdups. They occurred in neighborhoods north, south and east of where Monday’s inauguration will be held. Several were on or near streets with a striking view of the Capitol’s dome.

On Friday evening, as the workday was ending, an armed robbery was reported in the 1400 block of H Street NE, near the eastern end of the swiftly redeveloping H Street corridor.

A description of the robbers in the 5:45 p.m. incident indicated that both wore ski masks.

In Southwest Washington, near the waterfront and about a mile from the Capitol, another robbery occurred a few minutes later.

A woman had placed her purse on the ground and was taking items out of it when somebody grabbed the purse and ran, police said.

Much later that night, a woman was parking a car near Potomac Avenue and 13th Street SE, on the southeastern edge of Capitol Hill, when someone came up, talked with her briefly, then pulled out a gun and took her cash.

He was described as black, older, about 5-foot-8 or 5-foot-9, and wearing a loose knit cap and a Navy style peacoat. Police said a similar description had been given in several previous robberies in the area. In those, he was said to have worn a puffy coat.

About 2:05 a.m. Saturday in the 900 block of New Jersey Avenue SE, a street with a view of the Capitol’s dome, a man was texting on a smartphone. A man in a mask demanded the device and took it, police said.

Forty minutes later in the 500 block of 17th Street SE, near Congressional Cemetery in a section known as Hill East, four people threw a man down and took his phone and wallet.

Shortly after 3 a.m., two people were walking through a parking lot in the 1100 block of North Capitol Street NE, which is about a mile and a half north of the Capitol, when three robbers accosted them.

The robbers pulled out guns, demanded the victims’ property and fled in a sport-utility vehicle, police said.

What appeared to be the last robbery in the series occurred about 4 a.m. in the 600 block of Elliot Street NE, a block of restored rowhouses about two miles northeast of the Capitol. It is two or three blocks from the scene of Friday evening’s robbery on H Street.

A man and a woman were approached by four robbers, who demanded the man’s phone. When he refused to surrender it, one robber punched him and tried to take items from him. Another robber took the woman’s purse, and the four ran away.

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