When a slaying suspect, wanted by Prince George’s County and described as armed and dangerous, abandoned his vehicle Wednesday night in Old Town Alexandria and took off running, Sheriff Dana Lawhorne had one reaction — chase him.
No matter that it’s been at least 12 years since Lawhorne (D) got into a footrace with a suspected criminal, or that the 59-year-old sheriff is more than twice as old as the suspect.
“I was like Seabiscuit with a broken leg,” Lawhorne said, adding that his chief deputy, Tim Gleeson, who also joined the pursuit, “took off like a bolt of lightning” and actually helped Alexandria police corner the suspect.
It was canine officer Carlos Rolon who arrested Charles Romain in an alley near the King Street Metro station. Romain faces first- and second-degree murder charges in connection with the shooting death of Lafeal Sinclair, 29, on Tuesday in Suitland.
Lawhorne was a city police officer for 27 years before being elected sheriff in 2005. Since then, as best he can recall, he has not run after a suspect.
“I live in the city. I’m always here,” Lawhorne said, adding that he listens to the police radio when he’s in his car. “If I’m in the area, I’ll stop and back them up.”
About 9 p.m. Wednesday, Lawhorne and Gleeson were leaving a ceremony honoring a deputy at the American Legion near City Hall. In their cars, they heard an undercover officer report that he’d spotted Romain driving near police headquarters, in the 3100 block of Duke Street, a little less than 2½ miles from their location.
Lawhorne figured that Romain would head to the freeway or into town. Lawhorne drove west until he spotted Romain’s car, trailed by the undercover officer’s vehicle, coming east on King Street near the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.
The sheriff followed and joined in the police effort to block Romain’s vehicle.
Soon, Romain jumped out and ran, “pitching his gun” en route, Lawhorne said. The sheriff chased him, as did his deputy and the city police, but lost him.
“I let the younger officers finish the job,” Lawhorne said. “But there was a day . . .”
On Thursday, Lawhorne found out that he had come in contact with Romain before. Two years ago, the sheriff honored him along with several other inmates at the Alexandria detention center for earning their general equivalency diplomas while incarcerated.
But Lawhorne said he didn’t recognize Romain when he saw him bailing out of the car Wednesday night. He was just responding to a police call to be on the lookout for a suspect.