By the time Officer Freddie Adams got there, the fist fight was pretty much over. But the threats and hurt feelings were just beginning.
One young man had stopped a punch with his left eye. It was badly swollen and bleeding. As always, it was his pride that had been hurt worst, especially since about two dozen young ladies had seen the punch knock him down. So the young man was vowing revenge.
"Next time, it's gonna be me and him!" the young man, a 17-year-old Ballou High School senior, shouted. "He stole me (snuck up on me) from behind, man! I'm gonna kill than punk!"
Ten minutes later, with a mixture of fatherly stroking and tough-cop lecturing, and without any threats or force, Freddie Adams had the young man calmed down -- and admitting he was wrong.
As he walked back out into Ballou's halls to resume patrolling, Adams turned to a companion, smiled and said: "Just another frantic Friday." a
Every day is frantic for the 105 Metropolitan police officers assigned to walk beats in the city's schools. There were more than two dozen shootings in the city's schools last year, and more than 1,000 reported robberies, assaults and thefts.
But few officers handle school troubles as smoothly and successfully as Freddie Adams.
During the eight years Adams has served as Ballou's police officer, the school, at Fourth and Trenton streets SE, has been the scene of only two aggravated assaults (a stabbing and a shooting) and two assaults on teachers (both attempted robberies). None of the incidents proved serious.
"Incidents do happen here," said Adams, a soft-spoken, burly, 34-year-old veteran of 13 years on the police force. "But the trick is knowing these kids beforehand and making sure they know you. Like, they know I'm pretty fair and pretty calm, so incidents are less likely to happen here."
"He's a real star here," said Ballou's principal, Dennis C. Johnson Jr.
"Without Officer Adams, I don't know what we'd do."
Adams says that the bulk of the trouble at Ballou is caused by people who do not attend the school.
"I get to know who most of them are," says Adams, who grew up only a mile from Ballou and attended nearby Anacostia High. "But I can't stop them from coming in. This is a public school. Anybody can come in here."
Often, according to Adams, trouble that starts somewhere else ends at Ballou.
In the incident he calls the most memorable of his time at the school, Adams once arrested nine women at once, all for disorderly conduct.
A girl who was a Ballou student had gotten into a dispute with another girl about a boy at a weekend dance. When the dispute continued at Ballou Monday morning, the girl went home and collected her mother, three sisters, and five aunts. The nine women were preparing to beat up the other girl when Adams intervened.
Most typical, however, according to Adams, are thefts from lockers, drug sales, jilted boyfriends seeking revenge and reports of students carrying weapons.Adams says he averages about eight felony arrests a month, usually for those offenses.
"But things are a lot better than they were when I first got here. In '72, my first year here, these kids would be sitting in the halls so stoned they couldn't move. Now, I think they know that the world's a tough place -- and you aren't going to get anywhere without an education."
Adams' chief gripe is that; because of police department budget restrictions, he is not assigned to Ballou full time. He also patrols the immediate neighborhood on a motorscooter, and serves on the department's Civil Disturbance Unit. He averages about two hours per weekday at Ballou.
"I don't think being here full-time would help by itself, unless there was also a law limiting outsiders from coming in here," said Adams.
In addition to his regular duties, Adams also volunteers to turn up at all of Ballou's football and basketball games and weekend dances.
Adams is not paid for the extra duty, "but it really is part of the job. Just letting them know I'm out there," he said.
And the rewards are tangible. Ten Ballou students Adams first met in the school's halls are now Metropolitan police officers. And last year, as he stood in a Superior Court hallway waiting to testify, a young man in a suit approached him and asked if he was Officer Adams.
"I said I was, and he said I had given him a break at Ballou a long time ago and he wanted to thank me," said Adams. "He had gone to college and law school, and was about to argue a case.
"Stuff like that makes it worth it."