Cynthia Baylor lives on the top floor of her Southeast Washington apartment building, but she worried nevertheless last week when word flashed through her neighborhood that "some weirdo" was peering at people in ground-floor apartments and shooting them through open windows or glass doors.
Yesterday, even though D.C. police had arrested and charged a suspect in one of those so-called peeping Tom shootings, Baylor, 24, said she is still pretty nervous.
"They say they think they've got the right one, and I hope it's true," she said. "But I don't know. He may still be out there."
In the Southeast neighborhoods stalked by the peeping Tom assailant, there was both relief and some cautious skepticism yesterday as residents talked about the shooting incidents, including Saturday night's fatality, and speculated on whether the terrifying ordeal is really over.
"I will have no real relief until I know he's the one," said Sarah Williams, 47. "Just saying he's confessed to one or two, that's nothing."
Williams also had harsh words for the police department, which she said had not warned residents soon enough that a gunman was systematically prowling their neighborhoods.
"I think it's terrible that they had to wait until a policewoman got shot before they told us what was happening," she said.
Though the shootings began Sept. 5, according to police, the department didn't disclose them until last Thursday, the day after an off-duty police officer was shot, her head grazed by a bullet fired through her apartment window.
Police late Saturday night arrested Ricky Brogsdale, 26, just five blocks from the Southeast apartment of Yvonne Watts, who was fatally shot in the chest through her bedroom window earlier that evening. Yesterday Brogsdale was formally charged in D.C. Superior Court with the first-degree murder of Watts and was ordered held without bond.
A prosecutor said yesterday that Brogsdale has claimed responsibility for Watts' death and three other homicides. Police believe they can tie him to the seven other peeping Tom shootings.
All but one of the shootings occurred in an area roughly bounded by Portland Street and Alabama Avenue SE on the north, South Capitol Street on the west and Southern Avenue on the east and south. An additional shooting occurred early Friday in Prince Georges County, just over the District line.
Yesterday, in an apartment on Mississippi Avenue SE, not far from where Watts lived, an 18-year-old woman complained that her neighborhood has been bothered for years by men who roam the area and peek into apartments where women live.
"There's been peeping Toms around here since we moved here three years ago," said the woman, who declined to give her name. "Just last week, my sister saw someone standing outside, looking into the window in the den and masturbating."
The woman said she had not yet heard about the peeping Tom assailant and did not call police about the incident. She said she has complained in the past, with mixed results.
"Sometimes police decide to investigate, but they're slow, and by the time they get here, the guys are gone," she said.
The woman said she had heard of Brogsdale's arrest but wondered, "How do they know it's the guy?"
Tajuana Russell, 29, who said she lives in a ground-floor apartment and had paid particular attention to the news reports, said she is sleeping easier. "From what I heard on the news, I'm very sure it's the right guy," she said.
Richard Mills, 44, came to his front door of his town house yesterday to answer questions, but said he has been spending most of his time upstairs -- and drawing the blinds.