As Enduring Prank, Eggings More Than a Throwback
Teen Cases Continue in Va. and Elsewhere, but Stakes Can Be Higher
By S. Mitra Kalita
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 26, 2004; Page B01
On a March morning this year, Phil Lee stepped outside his Prince George's County home. He smelled the rotten rawness as the yellow and clear liquid dripped and congealed. It shone against his dark blue PT Cruiser and green Ford pickup. It stuck to the beige aluminum siding of his house.
Slowly, it dawned on him: He had been egged. Like countless other egging victims, he didn't call police right away. Lee, who is president of the Kettering Civic Federation, said that he didn't want to waste their time and that he had a few suspects in mind -- but no proof.
In a time in which grudges often are resolved with guns and knives, eggings might seem a throwback to a more innocent era -- teen pranks with no more consequences than irate neighbors. But eggings are an enduring social phenomenon, police said, and recently the consequences have been tragic and politically charged.
Early the morning of July 2, an activist, James Boissonnault, was awakened by an anonymous phone call. Minutes later, he heard his Alexandria home being pelted with nearly two dozen eggs, some breaking the screen on his sleeping daughter's bedroom window. Boissonnault saw the culprits and called police.
Police have charged two youths -- sons of politicians in Alexandria -- with misdemeanor destruction of property. Samuel Howard Woodson IV, 18, the son of City Council member Joyce Woodson, and James J. Luby, 19, the son of School Board member Melissa W. Luby, were released on a summons to appear in court. Melissa Luby has been the target of a recall petition that has been circulated largely by Boissonnault the past few weeks.
The high-profile nature of the parties involved helped propel the egging case into headlines and onto talk radio, but it's not the first time an egging has received media attention in Alexandria. Last year, Schuyler H. Jones, 16, was beaten to death in Old Town Alexandria by two teenagers in an attack instigated by a third teenager who was angry because Jones allegedly egged his family's home nearly a year before.
Nationwide, there is evidence of eggings escalating into much more than a practical joke. Last fall, about 100 high school students in a suburb of Austin used an estimated 4,000 eggs in an egging, causing $2,000 in damage to their principal's car. In Milwaukee, a 10-year-old was talked into throwing an egg at a 36-year-old man, which caused a fight between the man and the youths -- resulting in the man being beaten to death. In Modesto, Calif., an 18-year-old throwing eggs at cars with his friends was stabbed to death when egging victims attacked him.
The egg throwers tend to know their victims, police and civic leaders said, and usually are acting in retaliation -- from girlfriends mad at former boyfriends to students targeting teachers. They don't expect to get caught or reported, so the age-old prank has endured.
The adolescent activity draws the most attention near Halloween, April Fools' Day and graduation season, police said. Some police departments advise grocery stores not to sell multiple egg cartons to teenagers.
"They're pranks not meant maliciously, but usually kids in high school getting back at each other," Fairfax County police officer Sophia Grinnan said. She said that she has handled egging cases each of her 19 years on the Fairfax force but that she has not seen a sharp rise or decline in them.
Fairfax has no statistics on the number of eggings because the incidents are lumped together with other property destruction charges, Grinnan said.
In Alexandria, police responded to 36 calls about eggings last year and 28 such calls in 2002, police spokeswoman Amy Bertsch said. Police have responded to 10 calls this year.
"In cases where we identify a suspect, it usually is juveniles," Bertsch said. "There are cases where we've identified suspects and they've apologized, and it's the end of the case."
In 1999, Alexandria police arrested five teenage boys for egging a neighborhood along Fort Williams Parkway. Police said that the youths had "hundreds and hundreds" of eggs and that they had cleaned out egg stocks at several grocery stores.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Nanak Singh Manku, the architect of a Sikh temple in Northwest, helps clean up after vandals egged a construction trailer in 2001. Police say that though eggings occur randomly, a high number of the victims are activists, teachers and politicians.
(Michael Williamson -- The Washington Post)