5 D.C. Youths Arrested in Robberies On the Mall
Saturday, August 12, 2006
The five robbers who frightened and assaulted tourists on the Mall in recent months were a group of young neighborhood friends who rode the Metro to a site they thought was a "sweet spot," officials said yesterday.
U.S. Park Police have charged the District residents, ages 16 to 22, with crimes related to five incidents on the Mall in which 12 tourists were attacked, some of them viciously, in May and July. Officials said the suspects were traced through credit cards and a stolen cellphone.
"Tourists who had once walked in admiration of our monuments now walked in fear -- in fear of the dangers that lurked in their shadows," U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Wainstein said. Standing before the Washington Monument, he said the arrests were made during the past two weeks. "Virtually overnight, this place of public pride became a place of public danger."
The Mall crimes were part of a 14 percent increase in robberies this year in the District. Wainstein said "hundreds" of robberies have occurred in the past few months. Some of the sharpest increases have been in Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights and other densely populated areas north of downtown.
The suspects in the Mall robberies were identified as Zachary Bright, 19; his cousin, Michael Bright, 16; Ryan Newman, 17; Trayvon Thomas, 18; and Marcus Brown, 22. The two minors are being charged as adults, authorities said.
Police said they are a group of friends who lived in the same apartment complex, Hampton East on Benning Road in Southeast. They were bored and directionless until Newman came up with the idea of robbing tourists on the Mall, said U.S. Park Police Detective Todd C. Reid, who headed the investigation.
"Newman was behind it all. He found what he called a 'sweet spot' on the Mall and showed it to his buddies," Reid said. "They agreed it was a good place to rob people."
The tourists were accosted on three nights in May and July.
On May 25, two sets of tourists were robbed near the Museum of Natural History, each by three men, police said.
Two couples were ordered to the ground at gunpoint -- a BB gun -- and searched for money and valuables, police said. In both incidents, the women were roughly groped. One woman was kicked in the head as she curled up on the ground, police said.
On May 27, a couple walking along the Mall was approached by three young men, police said. The couple was robbed, and the 17-year-old woman was dragged into the shadows of the Smithsonian castle, where, at gunpoint, she was raped by one person and sexually assaulted by another, police said.
The next two incidents occurred July 11, under a stand of cherry trees near the Washington Monument.