Man Charged in Beating of Churchgoer

Shanon Washington, 28, is charged with first-degree attempted murder, first degree assault and robbery in an attack on a 69-year-old man in College Park.
Shanon Washington, 28, is charged with first-degree attempted murder, first degree assault and robbery in an attack on a 69-year-old man in College Park. (Courtesy Of Prince Georges County Police)

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By Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 3, 2009

Surveillance footage, a tipster and a lucky break put Prince George's County police on the trail of a Capitol Heights man who was charged yesterday with attempted murder in the Christmas Eve beating of an elderly man outside a church before Midnight Mass in College Park, authorities said.

Detectives investigating the beating of Wayne Williams, 69, found surveillance camera images of a Ford Explorer in the area shortly after he collapsed, bloodied, outside Holy Redeemer Catholic Church. A College Park resident saw the images and called police with a tip: A man who used to live in the area drove a similar truck and had a violent past.

The information led detectives to start looking for Shanon Washington, according to several police sources familiar with the investigation. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the case has not gone to court.

Washington, 28, had grown up a few blocks from the church. He had led county police on a chase through the neighborhood 10 years earlier -- with a gun in his car -- and was wanted on outstanding warrants, police said.

At sunset on New Year's Day, after searching at least eight other locations over two days, police found Washington outside a friend's home in Savage, 16 miles from the crime scene, standing next to his Explorer.

Washington's Explorer, however, wasn't the same one caught on the tape. Police sources said the wrong car led them to the right man. A lucky break, they said.

Acting Police Chief Roberto Hylton declined yesterday to say why police think they have the right man. He said statements by Washington, combined with other evidence police had obtained, led them to conclude that Washington was responsible.

Hylton said that detective work remains and that forensic evidence must be processed to finish building the case against Washington. Authorities were announcing the arrest, he said, because "we wanted the community to know we have removed this person from the community."

Williams's son, Jonathan, 32, attended the news conference and thanked police.

The family is "relieved and grateful," he said of the arrest. "Hopefully, it's preventing this from happening to anyone else."

Wayne Williams's wife, Ginny, had been afraid to stay at the couple's Greenbelt home after the attack, fearing the assailant knew the address because he had stolen her husband's wallet.

Wayne Williams remains at Washington Hospital Center. He is no longer in intensive care, his son said.

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