When Laverne Cunningham opened the backyard gate of her home in the quiet Deanwood neighborhood of far Northeast Washington Wednesday, she was just looking for her 16-year-old son Tyrone.
Instead she was confronted by a fleeing man with a pistol and a bloody shirt who shoved his way past her and ran for her own back door in a blaze of gunfire from pursuing police.
Mrs. Cunningham, who moments before had been standing at her stove cooking dinner, suddenly found herself caught in the middle, with policemen yelling "Get down, woman!"
Upstairs in the bedroom, her husband, John, who had heard the shots, was loading his own pistol when four of his children burst in screaming that "a man with a gun is after us."
Cunningham locked the bedroom door, and huddled his children together. "I want to tell them that everything would be all right," he recalled yesterday. "But all I could say was that this was serious."
Outside, a dog day afternoon saga was unfolding. With the Cunningham's shingled, two-storey frame house as center stage, hundreds of Deanwood residents watched, cheered and urged policemen on from a spectator area outside police barricades.
Some sipped refreshments from the back of custom vans while others pulled out lawn chairs and plugged in portable televisions to watch themselves watching themselves, and to see how Big John Cunningham, known by neighbors as a savvy hunter with a penchant for handling hound dogs and shotguns, would get out of this one.
"I know if old John get hold of his guns, it's gonna be all over," Clarence Powell, a neighbor across the alley said while peeping through curtains at the Cunningham house.
"If it's one thing Big John don't like it's people coming inside his house without knocking," Powell said.
By all accounts, this was the biggest event to happen in Deanwood in 15 years, since an unidentified woman drove her car into the tree in Candles Cook's front yard.
"They look like SWAT, Mommie!" one child cried out with glee as eight heavily armed tactical policemen assumed an attack-like formation. "Get back baby," Mommie said solemnly. "This ain't no movie. This is real."
Just how real became dissapointingly apparent when a crack SWAT squadman, trying to move in on the Cunningham house, tripped and fell flat in the street.
"I don't want to laugh at people trying to do their job, but damn," said the woman with the child. "Somebody call in the Pee Gee (Prince George's) police. They'll get that sucker out of there."
With watering eyes, Tyrone Cunningham stood behind a police barricade. He had hear the shots and had started to run for home when he was arrested.
"I told 'em I hadn't done nothing, but they just said shut up and get in the car," the youth recalled.
Mrs. Cunningham spotted Tyrone in the police cruiser and sighed with relief that he was alive.
"But then when I ask why they were holding him, this big cop comes over and says, "Shut up! Tyrone was trying to tell me that he hadn't done anything, but every time he'd try they'd tell him, 'Shut up.' I guess they were just upset because one of theirs had been shot. Otherwise, I think the police did a wonderful job."
Meanwhile, the police said yesterday that the suspect, who identified himself as William Harrington when arrested Wednesday, had several aliases. He is also known as Wyatt James Bartee, James Wyatt Harrington and Richard Hare, police said.
The 37-year-old suspect was listed in satisfactory condition in the lockup ward at D.C. General Hospital, where he is being treated for gunshot wounds in the stomach.
He was carried from the home on a stretcher after the 3 1/2 hour siege. None of the Cunninghams was injured.
The suspect's girlfriend, Odealia White, 35, of 1029 48th St. NE, has also been arrested and charged with burglary in connection with the break-in of a doctor's office at 1005 45th St. NE that touched off Wednesday's activity in Deanwood.
Harrington, according to police, has an extensive arrest record including drug-related and burglary charges. When he was arrested Wednesday, he had several sryinges in his possession and a small quantity of heroin.
Officer Raymond Hackett, who was on routine patrol when he came upon the burglars, was listed in good condition in Washington Hosptial Center, where he is being treated for a gunshot wound in the right hand.
Hackett an 8 1/2 year-old police veteran, was shot with his revolver when he tried to subdue the suspect as he climbed over a fence. "I never though I would end up getting shot," Hackett said yesterday from his hospital bed.
He said the doctors have said they will have to wait a few days until the swelling in his hand goes down before they can determine whether there is a nerve damage in his hand.
Friends and family members spent most of yesterday cleaning the Cunningham house at 1056 47th Pl. NE, which had been smeared with blood by the wounded man as he stumbled from one end of the house to the other.
"It was just a mess," Mrs. Cunningham said. "It still smells like a blood in here.
"It was just like a nightmare -- Just like a nightmare. I haven't been to sleep all night and I'm not even sleepy." CAPTION: Picture 1, Spectators watch during 3 1/2-hour siege of home in Deanwood; Picture 2, Police check house after suspect and Cunningham family members were taken out; Picture 3, Police take cover behind cars during the Wednesday siege. Photos by Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post; Picture 4, D.C. Officer Raymond Hackett was shot in hand at outset of Deanwood events. By Fred Sweets -- The Washington Post