By Clarence Williams and Allan Lengel
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 13, 2006
A 23-year-old maintenance man from Southeast Washington was arrested last night and charged in the robbery and slaying of New York Times journalist David E. Rosenbaum, police said. They also were seeking one other person.
Michael C. Hamlin was arrested shortly after 6 p.m. when he walked into the 7th District police station in the 2400 block of Alabama Avenue SE, which is in the block where he lives, and asked why "my face is on TV," police said.
Only an hour earlier, police had released to the media images from surveillance videotapes taken at a CVS store in Southeast Washington and an auto parts business in Prince George's County. Police said the tapes showed Hamlin using or attempting to use Rosenbaum's credit cards shortly after Rosenbaum was robbed near his home in Northwest Washington on Jan. 6.
Hamlin walked into the police station last night wearing the same dark jacket, with his first name sewed onto a chest patch, that he had been wearing in a surveillance tape, police said.
Police drove Hamlin to the department's violent crimes branch, where he provided detectives with a statement on the slaying, police said. He was charged with felony murder.
"It did wrap up rather quickly," Detective Anthony Paci said during a news conference last night outside the violent crimes branch.
After talking with Hamlin, police declined to discuss a motive for the attack other than robbery, and they declined to say why the mugging turned violent. But they did say that the attack appeared to be random and that Rosenbaum had not been targeted.
Police also declined to say whether Hamlin provided them with any information on the second person involved in the attack.
Rosenbaum died Sunday night, two days after a neighborhood resident found him dazed on a sidewalk in the 3800 block of Gramercy Street NW, not far from his home between Connecticut and Wisconsin avenues. He had been taking a walk after dinner when he was attacked about 9 p.m.
Rosenbaum, 63, had retired days earlier from the New York Times Washington bureau, where he had been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years. He planned to continue contributing to the newspaper as a freelancer.
The D.C. medical examiner concluded that Rosenbaum died from blunt-force trauma to the head.
The arrest was welcome news to those close to him.
"It is very important that whoever committed this crime be off the streets so they don't kill someone else," said Rosenbaum's brother, Marcus.
Philip Taubman, the Times Washington bureau chief, said, "We are encouraged that the police appeared to be making progress in their investigation and hope that anyone who was involved in the brutal assault on David will be identified and brought to justice."
Authorities credited good detective work and assistance from the community, the media and credit card companies.
Police said they decided not to cancel the stolen credit cards after the attack so they could track the robbers' whereabouts.
Overall, authorities said, someone used or tried to use Rosenbaum's credit cards at least seven times between 9:18 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m. Sunday. More than $1,300 worth of goods was charged to the cards, including purchases of laundry detergent and parts for Hamlin's Cadillac, which was recovered last night on Naylor Road SE, police said.
A credit card was first used at a gas station not far from where Rosenbaum was attacked, police said -- minutes before police even arrived on the scene.
Surveillance cameras then showed a card being used at 10:39 p.m. Friday at a CVS store in the 2600 block of Naylor Road SE and at 11:01 a.m. Saturday at Advance Auto Parts, in the 6500 block of Kenilworth Avenue in Riverdale. The auto store turned down the card. Both businesses declined to comment yesterday.
Both videos showed a medium-complexioned black man with a mustache. In one, he wore a black ski cap and a blue jacket with a name tag. Before the arrest, police said they had been unable to decipher the name on the jacket because the video image was too grainy.
"We've been trying to enhance it," Capt. C.V. Morris said yesterday afternoon. But "every time they blow it up, it breaks up."
Shortly before 9 p.m., police escorted a handcuffed Hamlin to look for a weapon -- possibly a bat or a tire iron -- that may have been used in the slaying. It was not clear where they went.
A memorial service for Rosenbaum is scheduled for today at the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
Hamlin is scheduled to be arraigned today in D.C. Superior Court.
Staff writer Serge Kovaleski contributed to this report.