A man believed to the "robber-jogger," a perpetrator of at least 30 street robberies and two homicides committed in Southeast Washington since last November, was shot and killed yesterday morning by a D.C. police officer.
The dead man was identified as Rodney Darnell Hart, 19, whose last known address was 2652 Martin Luther King Ave. SE.
The shooting occurred following a spectacular chase through densely wooded hills and congested apartment complexes that line the Suitland Parkway in Southeast. Police marshaled a helicopter and 25 officers, most of them plainclothesmen, for the climactic search. The officers had been assigned to track down the "robber-jogger" only last Tuesday.
A break in the baffling case, which had traumatized an already crime-ridden Southeast neighborhood, came at 5:10 a.m. yesterday when a man police identified as Issac Gray reported that he had encountered the "robber-jogger."
According to police, Gray was walking in front of 2115 R St. SE when a man in a blue jogging outfit - the trademark of the "robber-jogger" - ran up to him and said, "Hey Slim, get into the alley." The man then produced a gun, police said.
Police said Gray fell backward at the sight of the pistol. Suddenly, the man in the jogger's outfit began pulling the trigger. The gun misfired four times, police said, and the jogger fled.
When word reached the 7th District police station that the "robber-jogger" had struck again, a SWAT-style team of officers with dogs and the helicopter quickly formed a perimeter around a seven-block area and began to tighten the circle.
Jumping fences, hiding behind industrial waste containers and lurking under thick oak trees, the nimble-footed Hart twice appeared to have eluded police. But as Hart neared the edge of a wooded area where he had been hiding, he was spotted by a helicopter pilot who alerted the men on the ground.
"He had on about three different jogging outfits," said Capt. William R. Anastos. "The pilot spotted him peeling them off as he ran. That's what made him so elusive. We would get a report of a guy in a blue suit, and he would be strolling about seconds later in a brown or green one."
Within on a grassy knoll between buildings in the Ambassador apartment complex at 2632 Sheridan Rd. SE. When Officer Calvin Bowie stepped from behind one of the buildings, he found himself within 20 yards of Hart.
Bowie said Hart was holding a pistol in each hand. When the guns were pointed his way, Bowie fired one blast from his shotgun but missed.
Hart then ran further up the grassy knoll where another squad of police-men were closing in on foot from the other side. Standing at the top of the hill, Hart confronted Officer William Haupt, who said Hart again drew his guns. Haupt fired one shot from his service revolver, killing Hart instantly.
Haupt was placed on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation of the shooting.
The scene of the shooting, usually a trouble spot for police because of the large number of teen-age youths who live there, was described by police as "calm" and "cooperative" yesterday.
'Everyone just seemed relieved," said Capt. Anastos. This case has generated a lot of community concern."
Several residents who live in the area of the Ambassador apartments agreed with Anastos. "We were scared," said one young woman during an interview yesterday. "Everybody was getting mad at the police for not catching this fool. But then the police were staking every place out, and this was making people mad, too."
According to Anastos, the "robber-jogger" came to the attention of police in November last year when a rash of street robberies were attributed to a young, well-built man who habitually wore a blue jogging suit.
Victims of the "robber-jogger" repeatedly told police that the man referred to them as "Slim." Increasingly, Anastos said, the robber became more violent.
At first, he would only take money, usually netting about $10 to $25 at best. Then he began using a handgun to shoot some victims in the arms and legs after robbing them, police said.
On Nov. 2, Mack L. Pope, 48, a maintenance man for the C&P Telephone company, was shot and killed by a man wearing a blue jogging suit.
"we're pretty sure we have our man, based on (method of operation) and descriptions given by victims," he said.
The special squad was set up to track down the "robber-jogger" on Tuesday. After several months of inactivity, the robber reappeared on the streets of Southeast on May 10. Ten person were robbed by a man wearing a blue jogging suit came then. Issac Gray would have been number 11.
"Our timing was excellent," said Anastos. "I hate to say it but it went just like they do it on television."