The Washington Post

Man arrested in hammer assault; police probe link to Petworth attacks

D.C. police officers investigate tools on the front porch of a home where Michael Davis, 19, was arrested. (Linda Davidson/THE WASHINGTON POST)

A 19-year-old man has been arrested and charged with attacking a young woman Thursday night in Northwest Washington, and detectives are investigating whether he could be responsible for three recent similar assaults, including one in which a man was killed, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said Friday.

Michael Davis of the 900 block of Emerson Street NW is charged with aggravated assault in the attack Thursday on the 19-year-old woman, who police think was struck in the head with a claw hammer.

Undercover officers patrolling the area heard the woman calling for help about 9 p.m. Thursday in the 800 block of Gallatin Street NW, and found her lying on the ground with a serious head injury, Lanier said. The woman, who has not been identified, remains hospitalized in critical condition.

Lanier said Davis was near the scene of the attack when police arrived. He attempted to run away, but officers chased and apprehended him several blocks away. Davis was carrying a claw hammer in a dark-colored bag, Lanier said.

“From what we know,” Lanier said, “this attack was sudden and completely unprovoked.”

Davis’s brothers are San Francisco 49ers’ tight end Vernon Davis, who played at the University of Maryland, and Miami Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis.

Thursday’s assault came on the heels of three other attacks in the Petworth neighborhood of Northwest Washington. The previous three victims were attacked in the same area east of Rock Creek Park, police have said.

Gary Dederichs, 66, of Denver was found suffering from fatal head wounds Tuesday evening in an alley in the 800 block of Emerson Street. The next morning, police found a 53-year-old man with head wounds on Georgia Avenue. That night, a 37-year-old woman was found with serious head wounds in the 5600 block of Ninth Street.

Like the woman in Thursday’s attack, the other victims had been walking alone, prompting police to encourage people to walk in groups or pairs, if possible. Authorities had also described those attacks as “sudden” and “unprovoked.”

Lanier said police have not conclusively linked Thursday’s assault to the previous attacks, but the similarities have led them to investigate a connection.

“I feel very much more confident now that this person is in custody,” Lanier said.

Clarence Williams is the night police reporter for The Washington Post and has spent the better part of 13 years standing next to crime scene tape, riding in police cars or waking officials in the middle of night to gather information about breaking news in and around Washington.

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