A 12-year-old girl armed with a starter's pistol tried to rob a Northeast Washington dry cleaners Tuesday afternoon because she needed money to buy cocaine, D.C. police sources said.
Hours later, two 14-year-old youths were arrested in a Northeast Washington motel with $48,000 worth of drugs and charged with possession and intent to distribute PCP and cocaine, police said.
Law enforcement sources said the two incidents reflect the growing and alarming involvement of District children in drugs, guns and violence.
A 12-year-old boy was arrested this month in Southeast Washington on charges of carrying a 9mm semiautomatic weapon.
The girl was turned in to police by her mother Tuesday night, and charged with assault with intent to rob, they said.
The owner of Peerless Cleaners at 1202 Bladensburg Rd. NE, who asked not to be identified, said the girl came in to the dry cleaners, where one other customer was waiting, about 3 p.m.
She asked for the owner's daughter and another worker, who were not there, and then left, the owner said.
The girl returned about five minutes later and demanded money from the owner, the owner said.
"I said, 'For what?' " the owner said.
When the owner refused to give her money, the girl burst through a counter door and pulled out a starter's pistol, the owner said.
A starter's pistol is a gun that has no opening at the end of the barrel and fires only blanks, police said, but the owner said it looked to her like a handgun. "I saw the gun and I was very afraid," said the 43-year-old owner.
She said that she had been threatened by a man with a gun a few months ago.
The owner screamed and knocked the gun out of the girl's hand. The girl started attacking her and scratching her face, the owner said.
The customer, who had been in the shop minutes before, ran in when he heard the screams. "I yelled, 'Call the police, call the police,' " said the owner. "He tried to pull us apart, and then ran out the door and waved to a police car."
At that point, the girl fled from the shop and an officer chased her in the car. Police identified the suspect from witnesses in the area, and contacted the girl's mother, who brought her into police headquarters at 7:45 Tuesday night. Police sources said that her mother told them about the girl's alleged cocaine habit.
The owner of the dry cleaners said that she wants to close her shop soon because she fears for her life. "I don't know how many people have died over here already," she said. "I am so scared. Don't put my name in because I am so scared."
Hours after the incident at the dry cleaners, Treavor Hewick, a 4th Police District officer, spotted seven youths getting into a cab in the 600 block of Park Road NW. Suspicious about why the youths were out at 2:45 a.m., Hewick stopped the cab and discovered that they were on the way to The Hospitality House Motel at 6711 Georgia Ave. NW.
The officer called additional officers, and they watched the motel. Police said the officers saw two youths enter Room 317, which was later visited by a man. The officers checked with a motel clerk who said that no one was supposed to be in Room 317 because he had not rented it out for the night.
After knocking on the door of the room, the officers entered and found 139 packages of crack, 34 ounces of PCP and what police called a small amount of marijuana laced with PCP. Police seized the drugs, which they said had a street value of $48,000.
The two juveniles, along with three adults who were in a fourth-floor room in the motel, were all arrested and charged with possession and intent to distribute PCP and cocaine. The adults were identified as Reginald Keys, 18, of 3217 Sherman Ave. NW; Reginald Lewis, 20, of 1718 U St. SE, and Leonard Livingston, 30, of 3531 19th St. SE.
Several slayings last month that involved youths, guns and drugs touched off concern by police about the proliferation of illegal guns and narcotics among juveniles. In December alone, Sean Smith, 15, of Northeast Washington was shot to death in an argument over his new ski jacket. Mark Settles, 12, was shot to death in his Southeast home, along with his German shepherd dog, apparently during an argument over his alleged involvement with drugs. And Kendall Merriweather, 17, was gunned down on a Southeast street corner when two teens tried to steal his radio. Police have attributed the sophisticated weaponry found in the District to drug trade.
Staff writers Nancy Lewis and Lynne Duke contributed to this report.