An armed robbery at a hardware store in the District's Tenleytown neighborhood led to a two-hour police chase yesterday morning that ended with a pair of suspects in custody and one still at large.
The pursuit snarled the morning rush in a busy pocket of Northwest Washington. No one was injured in the robbery or chase.
The trouble began at 8:30 a.m., when two masked gunmen confronted a store employee outside Ace Hardware, in the 4500 block of Wisconsin Avenue NW. A third person was apparently waiting in a getaway car nearby.
"They put a gun to his head and made him take them back inside," store owner Gina Schaefer said. Once in the store, "they emptied the cash registers and the safe."
Five employees, but no customers, were in the store. The robbers ordered the employees to the floor before taking $1,000 and leaving, Schaefer said. Witnesses told police the robbers fled in a 1986 white Cadillac with a damaged front.
Store employees called police, who broadcast a lookout for the Cadillac. Cmdr. Andy Solberg, head of the 2nd Police District, said he spotted the Cadillac within minutes near Wisconsin Avenue and Van Ness Street.
Solberg, who was alone in his police car, gave chase. Other officers followed. Solberg noticed that the Cadillac was being driven by a young woman, possibly a teenager. He followed as she traveled on Upton Street across Wisconsin Avenue.
"I got behind her, and she maintained her calm for a minute, then she took off," Solberg said.
The Cadillac crashed in the 2900 block of 34th Street, where the woman and two men bailed out and ran. Solberg and other officers ran after them. One suspect was caught after he jumped a fence behind the Uptown Theater.
Aided by police dogs, a helicopter and tips from residents, the search continued well into the morning.
Finally, at 11 a.m., officers found a second suspect inside a shed in the 3500 block of Ordway Street. Police did not release the names of the two men in custody. The woman was not found.