One of several arrests made Wednesday during a District of Columbia police crackdown on heroin sales occurred in the 1900 block of 9th Street NW. The arrest took place on the sidewalk adjacent ot 1916 9th Street and did not involve and businesses or homes in that area as a story in Thursday's editions of The Washington Post may have implied.
The fat man, terror in his eyes, hurled himself to the ground and tried to wedge himself under a parked car out of the grasp of three District of Columbia police officers who were frantically trying to get a packet of heroin out of his mouth before he swallowed it.
"Out with it! Out with it!" one officer shouted as he wrapped his arm around the man's beefy neck and kneed him in the back, a kind of backward Heimlich maneuver designed to jar the drugs loose.
The fat man kept his mouth closed. One officer squeezed the man's cheeks and tried to pry his mouth open. They struggled with him for a full minute while he lay on a sidewalk next to the parked car at Ninth and T streets NW.
One of the policemen whacked at the fat man's cheeks with a small leather slapjack. "I see the heroin up your mouth. Give it up," one yelled. The man, bleeding from the mouth, would not open. Suddenly he blurted out, "I don't have nothin'."
The officers stopped. They knew that what they were seeking was now in the man's digestive tract.
Lying near the heaving body of the suspect was an imitation leather pouch filled with $150 worth of heroin. The officers couldn't swear it was his. All they could do was arrest him on a disorderly conduct charge.
This sidewalk drama, around 2:30 p.m., was a brief part of Day Two of a new police push to drive heroin dealers from the Seventh and T streets NW neighborhood, which for months has been a freewheeling market for illegal drug sales. Hundreds of people have clustered along the sidewalks there, bartering for and buying and selling packets of heroin, using sleights of hand and secret hiding places.
Police reported 18 arrests on narcotics charges as of late last night, but dozens of suspects, who like the fat man were involved in cases too flimsy for narcotics charges, felt the heat. Officers were obviously pleased that their tactics were disrupting the flourishing heroin trafficking, sending the crowds scurrying for hideouts.
Uniformed police in groups of twos and threes patrolled the Seventh Street corridor, which is the primary gathering spot in the city for junkies and dealers.
Meanwhile, others trailed undercover narcotics officers who fanned out for a tense cat-and-mouse game through back alleys and surrounding streets of the Shaw neighborhood, breaking up knots of would-be heroin dealers trying to stay one step ahead of the men in blue.
The afternoon operation began at 2:13 p.m. when some two dozen police officers descended on Seventh Street between S and T streets. A bustling crowd of about 150 people scattered in seconds from a parking lot that is also being used this week for nighttime revival meetings. The crowd left behind empty whisky and soda bottles, crumpled brown paper bags and orange, blue and red used syringes.
An empty, 30-count cardboard box of "B-D disposable" syringes with a price tag of $8.41 lay nearby.
Crowds of onlookers gathered whenever the police moved in for an arrest. Delighted merchants and residents, who had been clamoring for months for the city to do something, stood side-by-side with some of the drug crowd who were openly mocking and taunting the police.
At 3:50 p.m., in the 900 block of T Street, Sgt. Claude (Cowboy) Malcolm was busy with three undercover officers who were holding three men suspected of taking part in a heroin deal. Another officer, apparently hidden from sight in one of the nearby town houses that line the street, was reporting by radio what the men had done. Two of them were arrested, the third was freed.
"I did not serve him," one of the suspects protested, using the street jargon for the person who handles heroin but doesn't touch the money. Another officer read the man his rights and he was taken away, charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin.
Ten minutes later, Malcolm and his troops were around the corner at Ninth and Westminster streets NW, where officers were detaining three more suspects. It wasn't clear to the officers which one had thrown down five packets of heroin, which sell for $45 each. There were no arrests. The heroin was confiscated.
Up the street, at 1916 Ninth Street NW, the officers made another heroin arrest. They figured the suspect had bought heroin from the men down the street. He was arrested and the police roared off for another encounter.
At the same time, the sullen crowd that had watched this arrest suddenly sprang to life. Six men, laughing uproariously, jumped from the sidewalk to the street and groped under two parked cars.
The police had overlooked some "stashed" heroin and a mad scramble was on to see who had the quickest hands. In seconds, it was scooped up and the crowd was gone.
And the game moved to another block.