The gawkers came to the 2100 block of Minnesota Avenue SE yesterday, a traffic jam full of the curious who had come to see the aftermath of a siege.
They saw only that the neat row of look-alike, two-story brick row houses is now marred by the one at 2106, with its burned-out second story and a pile of charred debris in the tiny front yard.
A walk down the street, however, provided a more intimate glimpse of deeper, more subtle changes -- the ways in which the lives of neighbors and friends had been affected by the brief rampage of the man they knew as eccentric, down-on-his-luck Reginald Coleman.
JoAnne Jacobs, owner of the house where Coleman, 33, lived and died, wiped her eyes as she stood on the front porch because of the tear gas that lingered in the heavily damaged building. She struggled to lock the front door but could not, finally dragging a white cement planter to the door to hold it closed.
Jacobs, who had rented a bedroom to Coleman for the past year, said Coleman kept a neat room, "even neater than mine." She said he had gotten behind on his rent but would pay her part of the rent when he had it.
Jacobs said Coleman was particularly upset when his car, a dark green 1974 AMC Matador with a broken wheel, was tagged for towing on Wednesday.
"Three days ago the police put a yellow sticker on his car saying they would tow it," Jacobs said. "He got more depressed. He kept saying, 'My car, my car. I don't know what I'm going to do about my car. I don't have any money to pay the rent and they're going to tow my car.' "
Robinette Sandifer, 27, who described herself as a first cousin of Coleman, went to Anacostia from her home in Northwest Washington to see the house. She said Coleman was a graduate of Spingarn High School and a Vietnam veteran.
"He didn't want anybody crying over him," Sandifer said. "He wouldn't want a funeral. He will be cremated, and I want everyone to know he did not take drugs."
Coleman's presence had made some in the neighborhood uneasy. Some had seen a nervousness in his eyes that worried them. Many knew that he had a gun.
"The neighbors used to say when they saw him, 'There's Reggie. I hope he keeps on walking,' " said Brian Coleman, who is the son of the man Reginald Coleman stabbed and is not related to Reginald Coleman.
Many of the onlookers outside the burned house on Minnesota Avenue drew comparisons to a Philadelphia police assult on a radical group's house in May. In that incident, 11 people were killed and 61 homes destroyed in a fire that started when police dropped a bomb on the group's home.
D.C. police officials, who held a day-after news conference yesterday that provided few new details of Washington incident, were clear in contending that any comparison with Philadelphia was unfair. They noted that D.C. police fired at most several shots during the siege, and that the fire that climaxed the incident was not allowed to affect other buildings.
"I don't think I would want to associate this with Philadelphia," said Police Chief Maurice Turner, crediting the professionalism of the city's firefighters and police.
Said another police offical: "Restraint is one of the hallmarks of the episode. When you think about this whole thing in Philly, where they fired 50,000 rounds, when you make a comparision and see this guy was firing, that was extraordinary restraint used.