A 22-caliber, semi-automatic pistol stolen from a display case at the National Rifle Association's headquarters here was used to kill a Northwest Washington man during a street robbery last November.
Police have charged that Joseph (Joe Joe) Nicks, the 16-year-old Washington youth convicted of the 1976 murder of Washington socialite Gladys Werlick, broke into the NRA last Nov. 23 and stole the gun and seven other weapons. Police said Nicks used the pistol four days later to kill Orlando Gonzales-Angel in a robbery near 17th and T streets NW.
"We reported (the burglary) immediately to the police and gave them full cooperation," said Harlon B. Carter, executive vice president of the NRA, the nation's most vocal opponent of gun control.
Carter declined, however, to say how the NRA felt about one of its weapons being used in a street crime.
"Inasmuch as this matter is pending in the courts, I won't comment any further," Carter said. "I would not want in any way to jeopardize justice."
At a bond hearing on the new murder charges against Nicks, D.C. Police Detective Raymond Harper testified that the pistol used to kill Gonzales-Angel was later pinpointed as one of the weapons that was stolen from the NRA.
Nicks and two other youths have been charged with the burglary at the association's Scott Circle headquarters in which four antique pistols, a flare gun, a .22 caliber rifle, an air pistol and a supply of ammunition were also stolen.
According to testimony, Gonzales-Angel was shot once in the back by Nicks after he refused to hand over money to Nicks and a 19-year-old companion, John Hart. Nicks, who has been charged as an adult, was arrested two days later.
Calling the case "an American tragedy," D.C. Supreme Court Judge James Washington on Thursday ordered that Nicks be jailed without bond pending his murder trial. The judge said he agreed with Assistant U.s. Attorney Reggie Walton that Nicks poses a threat to the community and should not be released.
Walton said at a hearing that the youth's mother is a drug addict, his father cannot be located and that his grandmother, who raised him, is no longer able to supervise him.
"Here is a young man running wild in the streets and is capable of committing very dangerous crimes," Washington said.
Nicks, 12 at the time of the Werlich killing, was convicted after he gave police a detailed description of how he and three other youths spent the morning of Jan. 13, 1976, seeking robbery victims.
The youth said that the four assailants had been eating snacks at a McDonald's restaurant and as they left the restaurant spotted "a lady walking down the street by the alley." The youth said that one of his friends tried to snatch Mrs. Werlich's purse and that a second youth knocked her to the ground. Nicks said that he and the fourth boy did not touch the 85-year-old woman.
After his conviction, Nicks served less than two years at Cedar Knoll, a D.C. youth detention facility, and then was released.