Don't mess with Ada Deer. She faced-off in an alley with two assailants who won the first battle, ripping her purse from her arm and escaping. But Deer was once chief of the Menominee Indian Tribe, sturdy and proud, jet-black hair falling loosely around fixed, wide-set jaws. A drumbeat of revenge welled louder and louder inside:
"I said [to myself] my name is Deer, like running deer. I'm an Indian from a reservation. I don't let people walk on me. I fight back."
Thirty minutes later, police escorted Carl Lee Robinson, 26, from an abandoned building near 9th and T streets NW, his hands cuffed behind his back, face and leg bloodied, pants ripped. He was charged with robbery -- Ada Deer had won the war.
It began Monday, 8 p.m. The moon was hidden behind a cover of clouds, the night was black, still but for the occasional flash of headlights passing on 17th Street. Deer, 45, walked toward home on Florida Avenue, having worked late at the Native American Rights Fund, an Indian rights law firm on 17th and N Streets. She passed an alley.
"Suddenly, there was a commotion, and two men surrounded me. One ripped my denim purse off my shoulder, and they ran off. I was startled. Angry. I'm basically a fighter. They had my keys, my wallet, my credit cards."
She took off down the alley in hot pursuit, "screaming and yelling, 'Give me my purse back,'" Deer recalled, her voice rising.
She chased the men to New Hampshire Avenue and U Street, where she saw two youths on the corner. "I asked if they had seen a guy running by. They said he got on a bus."
A police squad car drove past and Deer flagged it down. She got in, explained, and they tailed the bus, pulling it over near 9th and T streets NW.
A man in light-colored clothes, whom Deer told police looked like one of her assailants, jumped from the bus, and ran into an abandoned building at 947 T Street. Three police cars, lights flashing, squealed to the curb.
Officer Harry Armbruster said he called out for the man to surrender. Getting no response, Armbruster entered the building, his black and tan K9 shepherd, Sabbath, straining at the leash.Deer waited in the squad car. What happened next is still under investigation, but Robinson, of several addresses, was arrested and charged with robbery. He was later taken to Howard University Hospital where he was treated for a dog bite in the leg and facial injuries. Third District Det. D. B. Jackson said Robinson was injured "when he tried to scale a wall and fell on his face."
Robinson was being held yesterday, in lieu of bond, at the D.C. Jail. The other suspect was still at large.
Deer's purse was found on the floor in the back of the bus. Ninety dollars was missing, but her pride, along with her keys and credit cards, were intact.
"I'm a social worker by training," said Deer. "I've worked with my tribe in North Central Wisconsin and with blacks in Bedford-Stuyvesant. I looked at [Robinson] and I asked what was going to happen to this young man? I started thinking about the ramifications, the causes of crime. I looked at the young man, figured he probably had no education, poor job skills or none, no chance for a good life.
"But," she said, the sun flashing off her silver and turquoise rings as she waved her hand in a gesture of finality, "he shouldn't have done it."