Two men and a woman suspected in the armed robbery of a Georgetown jewelry store led police on a wild, roundabout car chase through crowded downtown streets yesterday afternoon before their car, trapped in traffic at one of the city's busiest intersections, was rammed by a patrol car.
Hundreds of gawking bystanders watched from sidewalks and office windows as U.S. Park Police officers with guns drawn forced the suspects out of their car on K Street NW, just west of bustling Connecticut Avenue shortly after 3 p.m.
The three suspects were charged with armed robbery and assault in the holdup minutes before at the Silver Creation of Georgetown, a fashionable jewelry store in the Canal Square shopping mall, police said.
Police said two men entered the store just before 3 p.m., pulled out pistols and demanded money. A scuffle ensued, police said, and the robbers hit both of the store's owners, Jay and Myung Pae, in the head with their guns. One of theguns went off, police said, said the bullet struck a wall.
The men fled empty-handed, running out through the mall toward 31st Street, and Myung Pae, her husband Jay and several other men chased after them on foot. But police said the robbers jumped into a car and headed south on 31st Street.
A motorist who witnessed the fracas at Canal Square flagged U.S. Park Police Officer James Wayland, who was assisting a disabled motorist on Rock Creek Parkway at Virginia Avenue. Wayland immediately jumped in his car and turned on his red lights as the driver of the suspected getaway car sped away.
The cars, traveling about 35 miles an hour, headed south onto the parkway and veered through the parking garage under the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.The cars then headed down the Kennedy Center drive to Virginia Avenue, south to E Street, east to 18th Street and north to K Street, where the car with the suspected robbers turned right -- and ran into heavy traffic.
"I don't know how in the world they made it as far as they did without getting anyone else involved in it," said Park Police Lt. Ronald Miller. "There were people all over the place along that whole route."
Police said a gun was tossed from the suspects' car at 19th Street and Virginia Avenue and another at 18th and E streets. The first was recovered by another Park Police officer and the second by a passerby who turned it over to police.
From the third-story window of her K Street Nationwide Insurance office, Nancy Gravett looked down and saw the yellow, two-door Mercury in which the suspects were riding try to weave through K Street traffic as it approached Connecticut Avenue. Gravett said the car became caught behind a jeep in the right-hand lane and began ramming it.
From the opposite direction, an unmarked Park Police cruiser blocked the escape car's route.
At that moment, Wayland pulled alongside the side of the Mercury and rammed into the left front fender. While spectators stood dumfounded at the curb, Wayland jumped from his car and drew his service revolver.
"He took all three of them on," said Kermit Ryman, who watched from across the street. "I wish people could see more of this kind of bravery from their policemen."
The traffic jam that ensued stretched as far as the eye could see in both directions on K Street, and lasted for nearly an hour.
Police said they never heard again from either the Jeep driver, who apparently drove off, or the motorist whose shouts alerted Wayland in the first place.
Police identified the suspects as Kenneth G. Young, 22, 1202 Monroe St. NW; James L. Truesdale, 30, 4818 Ft. Totten Dr. NW, and Patricia Ann Waller, 33, 1039 Quebec Pl. NW.