The hotline rang in Lt. Nelson Grillo's robbery squad office Monday morning. The Health, Education and Welfare Credit Union had been robbed of more than $100,000.
The knot in Grillo's stomach tightened. His men, already under pressure to solve more of the record number of robberies in Washington this year, had been picked on again.
Grillo's concern was short lived, however. By late yesterday, as suspect in the credit union robbery had been arraigned in D.C. Superior Court and $95,793 in cash had been recovered.
"Oh, we needed that. Oh Goddamn, we needed that," sighed Sgt. Ed Dory yesterday.
Spreading a stack of $20s through his fingers as though a deck of cards, the head of the city's bank robbery unit said: "It feels so good."
The incident began at 10 a.m. Monday when an armed guard for Federal Armored Express was shot in the shoulder and his money bag taken as he walked through the lobby of the HEW headquarters at 200 Independence Ave. SW. The guard, Larry Fridley, 32, was not seriously hurt.
The bag contained $106,000, police said.
About the same time, D.C. police officer General Stephens was ticketing a car parked illegally outside the HEW building. When Stephens heard a lookout minutes later describing the alleged robbery getaway car, he checked his traffic book, found it matched the auto he had just ticketed and notified Grillo.
"That was the start of the break-through," a proud Grillo explained. "After several days of detective work, we located the suspect."
On Wednesday, James William Treece Sr., 32, of Oxon Hill was arrested at his home. Treece, according to police sources, had been formerly employed by Federal Armored Express and assigned to the HEW route.
At 3:15 p.m. yesterday, police reported, the money was found in Prince George's County at a location they would not disclose.
The police department then called around town inviting reporters and television crews to police headquarters to watch the robbery squad count the money.
"You see these dirty paws?" asked Det. Al Webb. "That's how we found the money. Lots of hard work."
As the cameras moved in on him, Webb called for makeup.
One detective fingered a fist full of dollars. Sgt. Dory rolled his eyes. "It does feel good," he sighed again.
In the sharpest rise in four years, serious crime in Washington has increased 23 percent during the first three months of this year.
Surprised by the increase, Police Chief Burtell M. Jefferson said he had "laid down the law" to his field commanders to reduce crime.
There have been over 1,800 robberies so far this year, an 18 percent increase over last year, police reported.
According to Lt. Grillo, his men worked 32 hours straight on the HEW robbery - stopping only to change clothes in an almost unprecedented effort to bolster their reputation.
"That's what the job is all about," Grillo said yesterday. "Find the suspect and recover the goods. There's personal satisfaction when you do the job you set out to do." CAPTION: Picture, Robbery squad detectives count some of the $95,793 of recovered stolen money. By Joe Heiberger - The Washington Post