THE region

Hinckley May Continue Visits in D.C. Area

Presidential assailant John W. Hinckley Jr. will be allowed to continue unsupervised visits with his parents in the Washington area until a federal judge decides in the fall whether to expand his freedom.

U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman ruled yesterday that Hinckley, who tried to kill President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and has largely been confined to the grounds of St. Elizabeths Hospital since 1982, should be allowed to continue the therapeutic trips until September. That's when the judge anticipates holding hearings on whether Hinckley could pose a danger if allowed to travel outside the Washington area without hospital supervision.

Friedman granted Hinckley permission to leave the hospital grounds without staff supervision for the first time in December 2003. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting of Reagan, his spokesman and two law enforcement officers. But in November 2004, the judge rejected Hinckley's request to travel outside Washington for overnight visits with his aging parents at their Williamsburg home. Hinckley's attorney has made that request again, prompting the new hearings.

the district

Blind Resident Seriously Hurt in Blaze

A 54-year-old man was seriously injured in a two-alarm fire yesterday in a Northwest Washington apartment complex for elderly residents and others with disabilities, D.C. officials said.

The fire started about 8 a.m. in a ninth-floor apartment at the Harvard Towers, in the 1800 block of Harvard Street, authorities and residents said.

James Butler, 80, said he saw his neighbor, John Wilson, struggle out of the apartment where the fire started. Butler and several others helped Wilson down the stairs. Butler, who uses a walker, said it took the group about a half-hour to reach the ground floor.

Wilson, who is blind, suffered smoke inhalation and first and second-degree burns, authorities said. He was hospitalized last night in serious condition. Three other residents were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, fire officials said.

Firefighters put out the fire in about half an hour. The blaze caused about $35,000 in damage, fire officials said.

Pepco Fire Snarls Downtown Traffic

A smoldering fire at a Pepco substation in Northeast Washington caused traffic signals to go dark on three busy thoroughfares yesterday and left more than 15,000 customers without power, officials said.

D.C. police said signals went out along stretches of North Capitol Street, Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue. Officers from the 5th Police District were sent to key intersections to keep evening rush hour moving, a police spokesman said.

The fire at the substation at 12th and Irving streets was reported about 4:30 p.m., Pepco spokeswoman Debbi Jarvis said. Some customers lost power because of the blaze, which was contained quickly, officials said. Power to other customers was cut so that workers could assess damage and investigate the fire's cause, Jarvis said.

Utility crews had restored power to several major customers by 5 p.m., including Providence Hospital, Catholic University and the Brentwood postal facility, Jarvis said. About 5,000 Pepco customers in the 16th Street area lost power around that time because of a feeder problem. Trinity University canceled evening classes because of the outage.

Summer Program Guide Online, in Print

The 2005 edition of the D.C. Summer Fun guide, which lists programs and activities for children and young people, is available online and in print, Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) said yesterday.

The guide includes information on meals, which will be offered at 300 locations citywide from June 22 through Aug. 31; health education and outreach programs, including free immunization clinics; and camps, including tennis, swimming, sailing, art, sports conditioning and reading. The summer camp season runs from June 27 through Aug. 19.

To get a copy of the guide or inquire about programs, go to www.summeryouthprogram.dc.gov or call 202-463-6211.

MARYLAND

Baker Announces Exploratory Committee

Former state delegate Rushern L. Baker III, who ran unsuccessfully for Prince George's county executive three years ago, announced yesterday that he has formed a committee to explore a 2006 bid for the office.

Standing outside the two-story brick home in Cheverly that he refinanced to help pay for his last campaign, Baker cast himself as a concerned resident in search of new leadership to address the challenges facing Prince George's and to "take it to the next level."

VIRGINIA

Meningitis Suspected in Spotsylvania

Two Spotsylvania County teenagers have been hospitalized with suspected bacterial meningitis, which can cause brain damage or death.

Local and state health officials would not identify the teenagers or the hospital but said the teenagers know one another. A female was in stable condition, and a male was in the intensive care unit, said Lucy Caldwell, a state Health Department spokeswoman.

Bacterial meningitis is contagious and passed through close contact such as kissing or sharing a glass or cigarette. Unlike less-serious viral meningitis, it can be treated with antibiotics.

There were 24 cases of bacterial and viral meningitis in Virginia last year, Caldwell said.

Agent Training at Quantico Dies of Injuries

An FBI agent who was critically injured in a fall at the bureau's training facility in Quantico has died, authorities said.

Robert R. Hardesty, 40, who was attached to the Springfield, Ill., division of the FBI, died Thursday of severe spinal injuries after falling from an airplane wing May 25, according to law enforcement officials. The fall occurred while a SWAT team was practicing airplane entry techniques.

Hardesty joined the FBI in December 2001 after serving with the Porter County, Ind., sheriff's police, where he held the rank of lieutenant and commanded the SWAT team.

He was married with two daughters and lived in the Bloomington, Ill., area. An investigation of the incident continues.

"It really hurt me to hear this man sat on my mother's porch for 15 minutes before he set the house on fire."

-- Darlene Lloyd, daughter of Lou Edna Jones, 86, who was killed in a fire set by Thomas A. Sweatt, who admitted in court that he is the serial arsonist responsible for blazes in the Washington area. -- A1

Compiled from staff reports by Michelle Boorstein, Carol D. Leonnig, Lori Montgomery, Ovetta Wiggins, Del Quentin Wilber, Debbi Wilgoren and Martin Weil and the Associated Press.