The man felt a gun pressed to the back of his head and heard a click.
It was the announcement of another armed robbery on Capitol Hill, according to details from court documents. One man searched the victim while two others stood guard. It was 7 p.m. on Sunday at Seventh and E streets Northeast, a hedge-lined residential block two blocks from Stanton Park.
The young men escaped in a silver Nissan sedan with the victim’s cellphone, keys and $75. D.C. police officers on heightened alert because of a recent spike in armed robberies spotted the car 15 minutes later in Southeast and arrested three suspects after a vehicle and foot pursuit. Police said that the Nissan had been taken in an armed carjacking four days earlier and that a “Black Ops” airsoft pistol was found on the floor behind the passenger seat.
Authorities and D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) said those arrests and others last week have dealt a significant blow to a series of armed holdups that have targeted Capitol Hill residents in recent weeks and hit other areas of the District, including a strip along Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast.
The crimes include five robberies that occurred within 40 minutes the night of Oct. 21 on Capitol Hill and around the Navy Yard. Allen, who represents Capitol Hill, said five people arrested that night after a chase into Prince George’s County are believed to be responsible for some of the Oct. 21 holdups. The group arrested after Sunday’s robbery at Seventh and E streets are believed to have committed the others on Oct. 21, he said, and even more in other parts of the District.
“Police picked up and got some very dangerous people off the streets,” Allen said.
The robberies, coupled with a mid-October home invasion in Hill East, where a woman was sexually assaulted, have angered Capitol Hill residents, some of whom formed the group Citizens for a Safe Capitol Hill. The group, which quickly attracted more than 200 members, helped fill a community meeting Tuesday night, when residents confronted D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier.
One of the group’s leaders, Sarah A. Spurgeon, said Capitol Hill is plagued by crime that includes “mob attacks by local juveniles” and “muggings by gunpoint.” Earlier this month, Spurgeon and other residents, along with Allen, had an e-mail exchange about crime and whether it was time for residents to move. The Washington Post was included in the e-mail exchange.
Richard Lukas, a 15-year Capitol Hill resident, called the crime spike a “reign of terror,” a term that has stuck during e-mail discussions.
“Hopefully, our elected officials will eventually act — but I am not holding my breath,” he wrote. “Instead, I will follow the practice of my neighbors and just try not to be a walking target. Our streets are not safe.”
Spurgeon said this week she is grateful that Lanier has increased police resources in the neighborhood and that arrests have been made. “It’s far too early to claim a victory, however,” she said. “For one, it is very unclear to what degree any of these arrests will lead to any significant consequences if the accused are found guilty. . . . I’m also extremely concerned that the MPD will be unable to sustain its efforts.”
Residents who attended Tuesday’s meeting said they asked about how they can track recent arrestees through the judicial system, including possible trials and sentencing. That could prove difficult in some circumstances.
Two of the five suspects arrested in Maryland after the Oct. 21 robberies were released without charges in Prince George’s. Two others, ages 16 and 17, were charged as juveniles with gun offenses, and their names were not publicly released. Their travels through the system will be shielded in secrecy.
The fifth, Raekwon Powell, 20, who lives in Southeast Washington, was charged by Prince George’s police with four handgun violations, including being a felon in possession of a firearm. He is being held on $7,500 bail and is awaiting extradition to the District to face charges in connection with at least one of the robberies, according to police.
Of the three suspects arrested after Sunday’s robbery at Seventh and E streets, two are juveniles, D.C. police said.
The adult, Nyasan D. Childs, 18, has been charged with robbery while armed and was ordered detained until a hearing on Thursday in D.C. Superior Court. Another person arrested Friday after a robbery on New Jersey Avenue near the Navy Yard — after the victim tackled him — is also a juvenile.
Police said they are still trying to link suspects to possible additional cases, but Lanier said earlier this week that immediately after the arrests, authorities saw a drop in armed robberies. Gun holdups have soared in Ward 6 — which includes Capitol Hill and Navy Yard — to 140 this year, compared with 92 at this point in 2014.
Across the District, those attacks have risen to 996 from 887 at the same time last year. Lanier has called robberies of people and businesses the District’s “biggest criminal enterprise.”
Allen said that last week, Lanier toured the Capitol Hill area with the district commander to pinpoint areas of frequent robberies and station additional officers there. They include uniformed police on bicycles and those working undercover.
The council member said that residents are frustrated with the judicial system and want reform.
“We don’t want people to get arrested and get back out and commit more crimes,” he said.
Lynh Bui contributed to this report.