Yesterday was a lottery winner's lucky day.
A 44-year-old District man bought a winning $25,000 scratch-off lottery ticket at a convenience store in Northeast Washington only to have it snatched by a robber as he left the shop, D.C. police said.
Within two hours, officers arrested the alleged thief and reunited the victim with his ticket. Minutes later, the D.C. Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board had cut the man a check for his winnings, minus federal taxes, police said.
"He was ecstatic," said Detective William A. Riddle, who investigated the case. "He was smiling."
The victim, whose identity was withheld by authorities because he was a witness to the theft, seemed even more excited when police arrested his alleged assailant, Riddle said.
"He was very happy about that," Riddle added.
Last evening, police charged 38-year-old Rolland Thomas of the 2200 block of U Place SE with robbery with the threat of violence in the case. Thomas was held pending an initial appearance in D.C. Superior Court today.
The incident started about 2 p.m., when the victim entered a convenience store in the 1100 block of H Street NE and purchased a scratch-off lottery ticket, Riddle said.
After realizing he had won $25,000, the man became excited and tried to cash the ticket at the counter.
The clerk declined, saying he could not pay out such a large amount, Riddle said.
The clerk then sent the customer to the lottery board's offices in Northwest Washington. As he left the store, the winner was jumped from behind, police said. The assailant took only one thing: the lottery ticket.
Officers Albert Williams and Natwan Logan took a report at the scene and watched videotape from a surveillance camera in the store. It showed the excited victim trying to cash his ticket and a man standing right behind him, staring over the lottery winner's shoulder at the suddenly valuable slip of paper, Riddle said.
The officers raced to the lottery claims offices in the 2000 block of 14th Street NW and gave employees their cell phone numbers to call in case anyone tried to claim the ticket.
Within 30 minutes, a woman and man showed up to cash the slip, and lottery officials alerted the officers, police said. Under questioning, the man and woman said they were acting on behalf of a friend.
Detectives soon persuaded the pair to call the friend and tell him they had the money and wanted to hand it over. When the man arrived minutes later, police arrested him, Riddle said.
The man was the same person seen standing behind the victim in the store's surveillance videotape, police said. The victim also identified him as his assailant in a photo array, police said.
The thief apparently had raced home after stealing the ticket and enlisted his friends to help him cash it. He evidently had child-support problems, police said, and was worried that the lottery board would confiscate the cash.