Last Saturday morning, the shop of Ivan Hall, a crippled watch repairman who has run his own business at 807 11th Street NW for 30 years, was looted by four men. Hall says all but one watch was taken and his uninsured losses exceed $4000.
Garfield Smith, a 53-year-old truck driver, says he waw the looting occur. Smith and a night work crew are resurfacing the intersection of 11th and H Streets NW, about 50 yards from Hall's shop.
"I was sitting up in the truck and one of the boys came over and said something funny was going on," said Smith. "I got down from the truck and I saw these four guys fooling around in front of Hall's store. I wasn't real sure what was going on 'til one of them came down to the corner and the other ones looked like they went in the corner building."
Smith says the lookout man was standing just across the street from where the crew of five was working.
"That guy, a young man about 20, he looked at us and he looked up and down H street. I think he may have had a gun. I didn't look at him 'cuz I didn't want him to know I see his face," said Smith.
Smith says he waited another minute before deciding what to do. "Up the street aways there were people from the bus station. They were watching and doing nothing. If I had seen the door kicked in, I would have called the cops right away but I just wasn't sure what was going on," he said.
Finally, the lookout man turned his back on the crew and Smith "eased on out down the street. I didn't go to the pay phone 'cuz I didn't want them (the four men) to think I was calling the cops. I just walked real careful down to 10th Street and beat on the door of the Ebbitt Hotel. They let me in and I called the cops," said Smith.
Smith says he left the hotel in time to see the four men joined by two women running across the parking lot behind Hall's store. The police arrived several minutes later.
"If only the cops had gotten here faster," said Smith shaking his head and looking down at his heavy boots.
"If only I'd put bars on the door," said Ivan Hall several days after the burglary. Hall, who repairs both clocks and watches from a semireclined position in his wood and cane wheelchair, obtained a dog after losing everything in the 1968 riots. The German shepherd, named King, is constantly at his side. Hall's son secured the door with 2-by-4s on the afternoon after the break-in.
"You know I must have the worst luck in the world," said Hall. "I have this arthritis, this summer I had a heart attack, then the city tells me I have to move and now this," he said as he waved his hand toward the broken display cases.
Smith, who noted that he recently brought a watch to Hall for repair, said the burglary disturbed him.
"You know, that shouldn't have happened to that gentleman. It should have been someone else. He works so hard at his business and then those kids do that to him," he said.
Smith, a deacon in the Holy Trinity Fire Baptist Church in Seat Pleasant, Md., said the he explained to the congregation what had happened to Hall, and last Sunday they offered up a special prayer for the watch repairman.
"We've asked Jesus to bless him and to keep him and to help him to survive," Smith said, adding that the congregation will pray again for Hall this Sunday.
For his part, Hall will decide soon if he will be able to stay in business.
"All my customers tell me to hang in there, but my family's afraid for me now," he said.