Two gunmen held up a group of 20 fraternal lodge members on a chartered bus preparing to depart for Rocky Mount, N.C. yesterday, taking about $1,000 in cash, and numerous rings, wallets, watches and other valuables, D.C. police reported.
The scene of the crime: A few yards in front of the 5th District police headquarters on Bladensburg Road NE early yesterday morning, just before the shift change, when dozens of city police officers were scheduled to be either leaving or coming to work.
"They [police] were probably unaware of the crime because they were out patrolling the streets and not sitting around the station," City Countil member William R. Spaulding (D-Ward 5) said of the robbery, which took place in his ward.
Council member Willie J. Hardy (D-Ward 7), whose ward is nearby, took a different view: "I think it's atrocious," she said. "It just goes to show you that criminals have gotten so bold as to think the closer you are to the precinct, the safer they are from the police."
Police said that the driver of the chartered Greyhound bus followed the last of 20 passengers onto the vehicle. Then, two weapon-toting bandits followed him, held a gun to his head and forced the passengers to empty their wallets and remove their watches and rings.
The robbery lasted for about 10 minutes, but no police officers came past, police reported. Police were alerted to the incident when one of the passengers, Albert Matthews, 39, of 10th Street NW, tried to stop the robbery and was shot.
Several police heard the shots and ran from the station house -- just in time to see two men fleeing into the sunrise in a car that had been waiting nearby, said Sgt. W. E. Johnson of the 5th District.
Officers chased the robbers, but later lost them when the pair abandoned the car and fled on foot.
Matthews was treated for a gunshot wound in the arm and then released from Providence Hospital. He and his fellow lodge members -- who delayed their trip until the extent of his injuries could be determined -- then departed for North Carolina.
Later in the afternoon, police charged Ronnie Alton Moore, 27, of 618 Geranium St. NW, with robbery, after he strode into the station house to report that his car had been stolen. Moore matched the description of one of the holdup men, and his auto matched that of the getaway car, police said.
Police said that one or perhaps two others reportedly involved in the robbery remained at large last night.
"People load buses in front of the station all the time," a police official said. "They feel safer here, I guess."