A Gate-Crasher's Change of Heart
Friday, July 13, 2007
A grand feast of marinated steaks and jumbo shrimp was winding down, and a group of friends was sitting on the back patio of a Capitol Hill home, sipping red wine. Suddenly, a hooded man slid in through an open gate and put the barrel of a handgun to the head of a 14-year-old guest.
"Give me your money, or I'll start shooting," he demanded, according to D.C. police and witness accounts.
The five other guests, including the girls' parents, froze -- and then one spoke.
"We were just finishing dinner," Cristina "Cha Cha" Rowan, 43, blurted out. "Why don't you have a glass of wine with us?"
The intruder took a sip of their Chateau Malescot St-Exupéry and said, "Damn, that's good wine."
The girl's father, Michael Rabdau, 51, who described the harrowing evening in an interview, told the intruder, described as being in his 20s, to take the whole glass. Rowan offered him the bottle. The would-be robber, his hood now down, took another sip and had a bite of Camembert cheese that was on the table.
Then he tucked the gun into the pocket of his nylon sweatpants.
"I think I may have come to the wrong house," he said, looking around the patio of the home in the 1300 block of Constitution Avenue NE.
"I'm sorry," he told the group. "Can I get a hug?"
Rowan, who lives in Falls Church and works part time at her children's school, stood up and wrapped her arms around him. Then it was Rabdau's turn. Then his wife's. The other two guests complied.
"That's really good wine," the man said, taking another sip. He had a final request: "Can we have a group hug?"
The five adults surrounded him, arms out.