A D.C. police department internal investigative report on a traffic accident in which a police captain hit a tree and then tried to flee the scene conflicts with sworn statements given by police officers who said they responded to the Aug. 13 accident and witnessed the events that followed, according to the statements and accounts of the report.
D.C. police Capt. Winston Robinson Jr., the police department's liaison officer with the D.C. Office of Personnel, was arrested for disorderly conduct after a struggle with police, according to the statements made by police officers as part of the internal investigation. Officers also discussed whether to bring more serious charges against Robinson, including driving under the influence, before they discovered that he was a police captain, according to the statements, copies of which have been obtained by The Washington Post.
According to two statements, after Robinson's identity became known and his supervisor, Assistant Police Chief Carl V. Profater, was called to the hospital where he had been taken, Robinson was released from the hospital and driven home by Profater without being charged.
The investigative report, signed by Profater and based primarily on the police officers' statements, appears to conflict with them by concluding that Robinson was not placed under arrest and that appropriate department procedures were followed, according to a source. The report concludes that the same actions would have been taken if Robinson were a private citizen, the source said.
The statements show that some of the captain's injuries resulted from his struggle with police officers -- not the car accident -- meaning that additional police reports should have been filed. Sources said that at least one police report -- a form for an injured person taken to a hospital -- has disappeared.
The statements and the accounts of the police department's internal investigative report, which have been verified by the Post, raise questions about whether Robinson was given preferential treatment. They also raise questions about the police department's investigation, which was conducted in part by three officials who were involved in the incident.
The police department announced Thursday night that as a result of the investigation, Robinson has been issued a $50 traffic citation for colliding with a fixed object and will be given an official departmental reprimand.
A source close the the investigation said that the report recommended that Robinson be reassigned but that D.C. police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. did not follow the recommendation.
Turner, through a spokesman, said yesterday that the department would not comment.
The accident occurred about 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 13 when a car being driven by Robinson, 36 and a 15-year veteran of the force, hit a tree in the 200 block of New York Avenue NW. Robinson, who was off duty and not in uniform, was on his way home about an hour after leaving Turner's 50th birthday party at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill.
According to a statement Robinson gave later, he was driving north on New Jersey Avenue and had a green arrow to turn right into the eastbound lanes of New York Avenue when "I noticed a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed approaching from my left. To avoid a collision, I attempted to turn right.
"This is the last thing I remember. My next recollection is being at the hospital and being interviewed by a uniformed officer . . . . "
Robinson could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The statements of officers at the scene say that after Robinson hit a tree, he ran from the scene of the accident, was chased by an officer and was handcuffed with the assistance of two more officers and a passer-by. He gave police a false name, Herbert Williams, and was taken in a D.C. Fire Department ambulance under police guard to the lock-up ward at D.C. General Hospital. According to the statements of and transcripts of radio communications obtained by The Post, his identity was learned about 90 minutes later.
"When Chief Profater arrived on the scene at the hospital I informed Chief Profater that one set of numbers to go on a form had been obtained for a disorderly conduct" charge, Lt. Michael Irish said in his statement.
Profater told a reporter the day after the accident occurred that no one at the hospital had mentioned any problems with Robinson at the accident scene. Profater could not be reached for comment yesterday.
According to the statements, Profater met Irish and another lieutenant, Robert Holliday, at the hospital, and then spoke to the arresting officer, Ricardo Chen.
"He asked me how I felt about the incident, and I responded by saying that I would rather forget about the whole thing, interpreting his question to mean: Was I interested in pressing the issue?" Chen said in a statement. "He told me we were not going to forget about it."
Profater then said that he was going to handle the matter administratively and ordered that statements be taken from everyone involved.
The accident occurred in the 1st Police District, commanded by Deputy Chief Max J. Krupo, and the investigation was turned over to him the next day. Deputy Chief John Connor wrote the final report, which was signed by Profater and sent to Turner. According to sources, Profater had a major role in the report. Holliday and Irish conducted some of the interviews.
Though the investigative report concludes that Robinson was never arrested, a police source said, the statements and radio transcripts indicated that he was. According to communications transcripts, arresting officer Chen broadcast while on the scene, "Originally I was going to charge that subject Robinson with hit and run, but after conferring with the lieutenant Holliday we decided on disorderly conduct." Chen and Holliday confirmed this in their statements.
According to police department standard operating procedure, a person is placed under arrest the moment his or her freedom is inhibited, such as by being placed in handcuffs. After a person is arrested, his or her name is written into an arrest book and the charge is noted. Robinson's name appears in no arrest book.
The report, according to a source, indicates that officers and officials did not believe that alcohol was a factor in the accident and that a charge of driving under the influence would not have been appropriate. The report said that a severe blow to the head Robinson received during the collision would account for his actions at the scene, and that a blood test was therefore not taken.
In a statement, Robinson said he had a light meal, three beers and a cognac at the party, and that he ordered his last drink at about 8:45 p.m.
According to a statement by Sgt. Verna Olszewski, she talked to Chen at the hospital and "he thought the individual might be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, because of his behavior on the scene." Officer James Murphy said in his statement that "It the accident appeared to have overtones of a DUI."
Most officers and officials volunteered that they did not smell alcohol on Robinson, and every person who was asked said he or she did not smell any. A urinalysis taken three days after the accident was negative for drugs and alcohol, a source close to the investigation said.
The police department has viewed as minor the struggle between Robinson and police officers, and the report does not address whether Robinson was injured in the struggle, a source said.
According to Chen's statement, after he arrived on the scene Robinson could not produce his driver's license and "he turned and ran . . . with myself in pursuit. I caught up with him and had to drag him down. I was wrestling with him; he was trying to get away. I was having a problem restraining him."
A motorist stopped and assisted Chen, Chen's statement says. The motorist, who was interviewed by a reporter but who did not want to be identified, said he thought Robinson's actions on the scene "were not inconsistent with someone getting a strong hit on the head" in an automobile accident. However, he added, Robinson got "pretty rough treatment. He got punched a couple of times in the head."
According to a fire department paramedic who took Robinson to the hospital, "The nurse asked about the injuries and he stated he struck his head in the car and got the bloody nose and mouth struggling with the uniformed policemen."
Whenever a person is injured by a police officer, a police department form 251 must be filled out. The report has two roles: to protect the officer and the department in case a lawsuit is filed, and to determine if excessive force was used. Such a form is not mentioned in the investigative report, a source said.