The crowd of men were hanging out in front of Sly's Variety Store yesterday, some forming a bee line to the side window of an ice cream truck when the city police vice squad moved in.
Gathered amid broken glass and ruined store-fronts at 14th S streets NW, reminders of the riots of 11 years ago, nervous inner city residents watched as the tension mounted.
"Why ya'll always messings with us? Why can't ya'll leave people alone you SOBs," Bruce Griffith screamed at K-9 officer T. E. Munro.
"Hey, you don't have to curse me," Munro replied casually looking down at his shoes.
"Yeah, man, I got to curse. It's getting hot out here," Griffith said.
"It's just as hot as for me as for you," Munro replied.
"Yeah, like hell," Griffith said.
Since spring began, the anxieties of life along 14th Street NW have become more visible as hundreds of unemployed and underemployed men search for what police sources say is an increasing supply of heroin and Preludin, which is a weight control drug widely abused as a stimulant by drug addicts.
In years past, when upstanding residents would complain about the conspicuous drug use and distribution along 14th Street, police simply would chase the user to a new location.
As a new residents move to Washington, and the city becomes renovated where a decade ago it had been burned out, the chase appears to be coming to a head for lack of running room.
"It started up at 14th and U, moved down to Wallach Place, then to T and now S," said one undercover officer. "We're getting pressure to move them somewhere but we don't have anywhere to go."
The tension was compounded by what had started as an unrelated shooting at 14th Street and Riggs Place NW, about a block away from where the drug bust was taking place.
As police moved in front of Sly's a man with a gunshot wound to the stomach stumbled around the corner. Police said it appeared that the man had been shot during a quarrel with a man carrying a black attache case. The wounded man, Lorenzo Berry , 25, of 3500 13th. NW died later in Washington Hospital Center.
Rumors spread rapidly targeting the police as the persons responsible for the shooting.
"It was an undercover cop that done it. They bust you then sell the dope [back out on the street]" a woman screamed.
The sound of automobile backfire sent the crowd ducking for cover. Suddenly, almost everyone stopped to watch as a flaming paper bag blew harmlessly along 14th Street.
When a bottle was thrown at a police car, detectives bolted into the crowd, searched out the alleged culprit and, according to witnesses, handcuffed and subdued him.
"He was just standing up there with me. It was a dame who threw the bottle." Griffith said. "They beat [him] for something he didn't do."
Numerous witnesses agreed with Griffith's claim that Gary Rowe, 25, of 4737 First St. SW, had been thrown into a brick wall, thrown to the ground, kicked and arrested.
"No matter who you are-drug users or non drug-users, the police don't make a distinction," complained Marty Smith, who lives at 14th and S streets in the Turnkey III apartments. "Since the weather broke, they been pretty mean going-ons out here."
Rowe was charged with destroying government properly. Kenneth Pollard, 41, of 647 Morris Pl. SE, was arrested in connection with an alleged drug transaction in front of Sly's Variety Shop, also at 14th and S streets NW.
"We were given a description of the drug dealer," said Sgt. Larry Ware. "Our undercover unit responded to the scene and placed him under arrest."
Ware said when a suspect threw a bottle at a police car "we moved in an arrested him. We simply did our jobs."
"I don't mind them cracking on people [making arrests]," said Nelson Trevor, who lives in the Turnkey apartments. "I know it's tough. There's too much drugs out here. But one day they're going to pick on the wrong guy. And blue shirt or no blue shirt, we're going to have trouble out here like you can't imagine. CAPTION: Picture, Bruce Griffith, left, shouts at K-9 Officers T. E. Munro on the street outside Sly's Variety Store yesterday after officers arrived to make drug arrest. By Fred Sweers-The Washington Post