At 7:20 LAST Sunday morning two men flagged down a police cruiser to report that something suspicious was happening at the gas station around the corner at 9th and Florida NW. Looking inside, the police found an armed man robbing the attendant. As the policemen neared, he attempted to fire at them twice, his .45 automatic jamming both times. The police fired back and missed. The gunman ran, but in a nearby alley a suspect was detained.
The suspect was Clinton Teddy Wilson, 37, according to police. His record showed he was convicted in 1971 of armed robbery, sent to jail, and later released on parole that will not end until 1987. But when Mr. Wilson, described by police as an unemployed heroin addict, was taken to court this week and charged with atempted armed robbery, the U.S. attorney's office did not ask that he be held under the preventive detention statute as a dangerous person. Nor was he held to allow time for his parole to be revoked.
Judge Shellie Bowers, simply by looking at the facts in this case, may not have had sufficient reason to ask that Mr. Wilson be held. If a suspect has a local address, relatives in the city, owns property or has a job, a judge would have to conclude that there is relatively little chance he would not appear in court when his case is called. Judge Bowers was not supposed to consider whether Mr. Wilson was a danger to the community in deciding whether to hold him. But the judge would have been acting within his powers if he had held the suspect for five days in light of his parole status. Why the judge did not put Mr. Wilson on a five-day hold is a mystery. He will not answer questions about the case.
The U.S. attorney's office could have requested that Mr. Wilson be held under the preventive detention statute, which does take into consideration the suspect's potential danger to the community.
If the prosecutor handling the case had the facts to show that Mr. Wilson, is an unemployed addict, the prosecutor could have argued that Mr. Wilson lacks some of the stability necessary to qualify as someone who is likely to return to court and, meanwhile, not commit any other crimes. But no such argument was made, and Mr. Wilson was released.
Third District police are angry at the court's casual handling of a man who tried to shoot an officer. The people of the District have good reason to be upset that a man twice accused of armed robbery, and once convicted, is back on the street with an apparent need for quick money to satisfy a drug dependency. It is outrageous.