A crowd of more than 200 youths, angered by police who had stopped a suspected bicycle thief outside a popular Northeast disco club, pelted police with rocks and bottles briefly Wednesday night, injuring two officers and smashing a squad car window before the crowd was dispersed.
Police quickly quelled the disturbance outside the Disco Tres Chic, formerly called the Maverick Room, at 2323 Fourth St. NE, after closing the block to traffic. Two arrests were made.
Members of the crowd freed a third person who has been arrested earlier in an unrelated matter and brought to the scene in a squad car by an officer responding to a call for reinforcements.
Two D.C. police officers received head lacerations during the melee. They were treated at the Washington Hospital Center and released.
"It was wild," said Phillip Crews, who lives in the usually quiet neighborhood just off Rhode Island Avenue NE. "They just started throwing bottles. I had to move my car so it wouldn't get hit."
"All you could do was duck," said Dyrus Hines, another neighbor.
The club, which every Wednesday night features special discos geared for youths, has been a target of complaints by nearby residents who say large crowds of teen-agers often congregate outside the club and become rowdy.
Deputy Police Chief Carl V. Profater said the disturbance began when officer James Donahue stopped a man who was riding a bicycle that did not have a city registration sticker.
Donahue radioed the police dispatcher to run a check on the bicycle to see if it had been reported stolen, Profater said, and the man began arguing loudly with Donahue.
According to Profater, the man then shoved the bicycle into the officer and the two got into a fight. However, one witness, who asked not to be named, said Burton did not shove the bicycle into the officer and that the fight started when Donahue slapped the man.
Once the two began to tussle, a crowd of about 200 youths outside the disco club formed around the fight, witnesses and police said. They threw bottles and rocks at Donahue and another officer, Steven Watkins.
Donahue radioed for help. Officer C. C. Banks, who was taking a man he had arrested for driving without a license to the 5th District stationhouse nearby, heard the call and raced to the scene.
Banks and his car were immediately pelted with rocks and bottles. According to one witness, someone in the crowd opened the back door of Banks' squad car and let out Banks' prisoner, Gary Quigley, 20, of no fixed address. However, police said Quigley escaped through the rear window of the car after the crowd broke the window.
Quigley, who was handcuffed, fled on foot and as of yesterday still was at large.
Profater, said he has received several complaints from neighbors about the club's Wednesday night discos that draw crowds of youths from the metropolitan area. He said police have recovered stolen cars, stolen mopeds and guns from youths outside the club on Wednesday nights.
Neighbors interviewed yesterday said the youths smoke marijuana, sell drugs, loiter on neighbor's front stoops and cars and make loud noises into the wee hours of the morning.
Robert Mason, president of the Edgewood Civic Association, said he did not condone Wedesday night's actions by the youths but added that the entertainment provided by the club is needed. "It seems to me with the hot weather, the unemployment situation and the recreation centers being closed, the kids have no other outlet," he said.
Lester Craig, manager and owner of the club, said there were about 300 youths inside the club when the disturbance outside occurred. The popular local band Rare Essence was performing.
Craig said the Wednesday night disco dances cost $4 a person, were started "to give youths a place they could go." However, he said he now is considering cancelling the dances.
As for the bicycle that sparked the Wednesday night incident, police report that it disappeared from the scene, apparently stolen by a member of the crowd.