D.C. police on Thursday captured a teenager accused of burglarizing a home in Chevy Chase and striking an 81-year-old woman who was inside.

The arrest came within hours of a news conference in which the head of the Criminal Investigation Division pleaded for the public’s help and noted that investigators were working off a scant description from Wednesday’s attack.

A police spokesman would not describe the circumstance of the arrest or what led to the quick break in the case.

At a news conference earlier Thursday, police Cmdr. George Kucik called the attack heinous and said, “The person who did this is a coward.” He said he thought the victim would be fine, but he remarked, “When you attack someone of that age, it is serious.”

The woman is legally blind, according to sources with knowledge of the case.

Police identified the suspect as Tyran Mcelrath, 18, of Southeast Washington and said he is being charged with first-degree burglary. Mcelrath could be arraigned in D.C. Superior Court on Friday.

Burglaries are a common crime, but most do not involve violence. Word of the break-in late Wednesday morning spread by e-mail through the Chevy Chase community in Northwest Washington, near the Maryland line, after police put an alert on an Internet bulletin board.

Kucik said the burglar broke in through a rear window of the house, in the 3500 block of McKinley Street, near Connecticut Avenue, between 11:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Police said little about what was taken, and would not comment on whether the masked burglar might have known that the house was occupied.

Authorities said they are reviewing recent burglary reports from the area to determine whether there are similarities.

George Corey, public safety chair for the Chevy Chase Citizens Association, said that crime in the area is down and that most burglaries seem to be crimes of opportunity, in which doors and windows have been left unlocked.

“But there are no assaults,” Corey said. “That was really the concern that came up immediately with this one.”