The detective who arrived at the scene of an apparent homicide in Northeast Washington Saturday night came upon a mystery.

A man had crashed his car into a pole shortly before 10 p.m. near Kenilworth Avenue and Meade Street NE. He died at the scene.

Police and paramedics, seeing that the victim was bleeding from the chest, thought he had been shot and had crashed while seeking help. An autopsy later revealed that Bernard Queen, 40, had been stabbed.

There were no witnesses at the scene. It wasn't even known how far the man had driven before crashing. But a single clue in the car -- an unopened, still-cold bottle of beer wrapped in a brown paper bag -- led the detective to a suspect and an arrest.

The suspect, Eric Sean Anderson, 18, of Northeast Washington, was arrested yesterday and charged with second-degree murder while armed, said Pam Reed, the homicide detective.

The unopened beer provided the break in the case, Reed said. Because it was still cold, she began to canvass the area for liquor stores and groceries that sell beer, hoping to determine where Queen had been and retrace his route.

Reed said she never did find the store where the beer was bought, but during the search encountered a witness to what had happened.

"It was good reasoning that put me there," Reed said. "But it was a fluke that I found the witness."

Reed said the investigation revealed that Queen had been involved in a traffic dispute with Anderson, who was on foot, about three blocks from the crash scene, and that the dispute grew heated.

Anderson allegedly stabbed Queen because he didn't know if Queen had a weapon, "so he wanted to beat him to it," the detective said.