A 27-year-old D.C. man paroled from a federal prison two months ago was arrested Tuesday and charged with first degree murder in the Jan. 14 shooting death of Carl Lane, a popular innercity clothing store owner.
Lane, whose shop on Georgia Avenue NW attracted many of the city's poor as well as prominent sports and civic figures, was shot in the head as he stood near his car outside the store. For six days after the shooting he was kept alive at the Washington Hospital Center by life support machinery. He died Jan. 21.
The suspect, who was being held without bond last night, was identified as Perry Lovell Elijah, a resident of an apartment building at 1368 Quincy St. NW, only a few blocks from Lane's York Haberdashey at 3608 Georgia Ave. NW.
Police said Elijah was paroled after serving part of a 10-month-to-three year sentence on a 1977 gun possession conviction. Homicide detectives said Elijah had served most of the time in a federal prison in the South, but they were uncertain last night which one.
Elijah, who told police he was unemployed, had also been convicted in 1972 on a charge of armed robbery and served a separate sentence in that case, police said.
Detectives said they obtained a D.C. Superior Court arrest warrant for Elijah Tuesday afternoon after they received new information in the case and showed suspects' pictures to witnesses of the shooting.
He was subsequently taken into custody without incident, police said.
At a court hearing yesterday, Elijah was placed on a "five-day hold" as a repeat offender pending another bond hearing Monday at which prosecutors are expected to argue that the suspect should not be released before his trial. a
The shooting occurred about 6 p.m., Police said that Lane was standing shortly after Lane and his wife, Doris, had closed the store for the evening at the rear of his car, putting a briefcase in the trunk, when a man with a gun walked up behind him, and without a word, fired one shot into the back of his head.
The assailant was standing over Lane when an off-duty D.C. police detective, William Saunders, spotted him from across the street and gave chase.
The suspect escaped when several passerby inadvertently walked in front of Saunders' line of fire, the police officer said.
The shooting of Lane was particularly distributing to Saunders, because as a teen-ager, he, like countless other black youths in the neighborhood, had bought his first suit from Lane. "I was so sorry," Saunders said afterward. "My grandmother sent me (to Lane's store) so I could graduate from Banneker Junior High in style."
The shooting shocked and puzzled Lane's many friends and customers, who knew him as a gentle, kindly man who made a friend of everyone who entered the store. He had no known enemies, and most of the neighborhood knew that he never carried any money.
A white businessman who had operated his shop in a largely black section of Washington for more than 30 years, Lane was determined to remain at the Georgia Avenue location even after the store was burned down in the 1968 riots.
"We're going back," he told his wife at the time. Lane rebuilt the shop, much to the delight of his many long-time customers, even though most of the other burnt-out business in the area chose to leave for good.
Many of Lane's cash customers included well-heeled athletes who bought his clothing and brought an air of celebrity to his shop, but his fame in the inner city rested on the generosity and kindness be extended to his poorest customers.
He gave credit on faith and handshakes, and pioneered lenient layaway options, a rarity in an area of many "cash only" businessess.
"He loved people and the ones he loved the most were black people," sail Al Williams, Lane's black store manager, after the shooting. "When the store burned down during the riots, I urged him to move out, but he insisted on staying at the same spot," Williams said.
Doris Lane said her husband could have retired on the insurance money after the riots, but that he wouldn't hear of it. "He just could never step back or turn his back on anything," she said. "He knew the loyalty of his customers and the dedication of his employes."
Lane was an enthusiastic sports fan, and when he wasn't talking about sizes and lengths, he was usually talking baseball or football. He eagerly supported the Redskins and the old Washington Senators and was a frequent honored guest at Touchdown Club functions here.