A D.C. police commander was arrested, handcuffed and detained by federal authorities last week after he parked illegally and then allegedly hit an officer's leg with his car door and drove off after the officer threatened to give him a ticket.
There are different versions of the incident, which occurred at 12:30 p.m. Friday when Charles L. Fonville, a field commander and 27-year D.C. police veteran, parked his green Lexus in a security area at Seventh Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW near the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Fonville, who was off duty and in plain clothes, left the car in a marked no-parking zone. When he returned about five minutes later, Officer Nelson D. Ray, of the Federal Protective Service, was in a patrol car behind Fonville's car and ordered him to move the vehicle.
D.C. police officials acknowledged that Fonville parked illegally and that Ray ordered him to move his car. "The officer hits the siren and says, 'You can't park there,' " said D.C. Executive Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer. Gainer said Fonville then moved the car "25 feet."
Gainer said Ray again activated his siren and lights, pulled up behind Fonville and told him he going to issue a ticket. Fonville said in a report to his supervisors that he thought he was parked on a city street--not a federal street--and that the officer couldn't give him a ticket.
According to Gainer, Ray told Fonville he was arresting him, then handcuffed him and placed him in the back of the squad car for nearly two hours. Fonville's police identification was taken when Ray handcuffed him, and he wasn't told why he was being detained, Gainer said.
" I was dressed casually . . . driving a Lexus, and the guy got offended when I questioned whether he could write me a ticket," Fonville said last night. "I was humiliated. I felt like a criminal. At no time did any officer ask me what happened."
Ray, a member of the Federal Protective Service for 2 1/2 years, was not allowed, as a matter of policy, to speak with a reporter.
Federal officials said yesterday that when Ray told Fonville to move his vehicle, Fonville replied that Ray didn't have the jurisdiction to write tickets on District streets.
Fonville told Ray that he was a District police officer and "got into his car," said Gary Caruso, a regional spokesman for the General Services Administration, which oversees the Federal Protective Service. "Our officer approached him and stood in the car doorway. [Fonville] then closed the door and bumped the officer's leg and drove away."
Seconds later, Caruso said, Fonville stopped his car and got out. Ray called for backup, and at least five Federal Protective Service officers, including Acting Chief Don Waldon, arrived. Fonville was handcuffed for one, not two hours, Caruso said.
"He had identification that said he was a commander, but it was one we did not recognize," Caruso said. "And because he had driven away, our officer placed handcuffs on him to keep him from leaving and for the officer's safety."
Three D.C. police officers arrived, including Cmdr. Gene Marlin, Fonville's supervisor. Members of both agencies talked, and Fonville was uncuffed and released. No parking ticket was issued.
"We turned him over" to D.C. police, Caruso said.
The D.C. police department is investigating the incident to determine whether Fonville was unlawfully detained, Gainer said.
"I think it was clearly a misunderstanding that arose out of a car parking in a no-parking zone," Gainer said. "No one, including a police officer, can park in a [no-parking] zone. But you don't put handcuffs on a guy because he was parked illegally. The fact that they handcuffed him and then released him leads me to believe this was not standard police practice."