A 22-year-old man sought for allegedly firing a gun down an escalator at the Columbia Heights Metro station last week was arrested Thursday evening hiding under a car in a shopping mall parking garage in Montgomery County, according to law enforcement authorities.
Cesar Morales, 22, had been the subject of a manhunt since the shooting incident at lunchtime Aug. 25, which was caught on video at what typically is a busy station at Irving and 14th streets in Northwest Washington.
His apprehension, near Westfield Wheaton Mall, came hours after D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham held a news conference and made the suspect’s photo public, describing Morales as “armed and dangerous.” He was charged in a District warrant with assault with a dangerous weapon.
Capt. Paul Starks, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Police Department, said a resident called 911 at 5:09 p.m. and reported possibly seeing Morales along Grandview Avenue, between Veirs Mill Road and Georgia Avenue, in the large shopping plaza. Police officers who responded said they recognized Morales from his mug shot and tattoos on his neck and face. “He does have a pretty unique look,” Starks said.
Police said Morales ran from the officers and went into a garage. Police surrounded the garage and another bystander told them he saw “somebody hiding under a car.” Starks said Morales was arrested without incident. “We really appreciate the people from Wheaton calling us,” Starks said. “It was good work by police officers. Nobody got hurt.”
Morales appeared Friday in Montgomery County District Court and was ordered held without bail on charge of being a fugitive from justice. He faces extradition to the District. If he contests the move, he will have another hearing in the county.
The firearms discharge at the Columbia Heights Metro stop occurred about 12:15 p.m. on Aug 25. Surveillance video shows one man chasing another man and then standing atop an escalator and firing down into the station. No one was hit. The intended target disappeared and has not been interviewed by detectives.
Police said it took several hours to realize that a shot had been fired into the station, which is adjacent to a shopping center with a Target, Best Buy and other shops.
Newsham said there was no information to suggest last week’s incident was linked to the Wednesday night fatal shooting of a 42-year-old man in the 1400 block of Harvard Street, just a few blocks south. But he said that because of their proximity, “We’re going to look at them and see if they are connected.”
Court documents show that Morales has an extensive criminal record.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons said that on Aug. 5, Morales walked away from a halfway house supervised by the Baltimore Residential Reentry Management Office, which oversees facilities in the District and four other states. A prison system spokesman did not identify the location of the halfway house.
Morales was nearing the end of serving a five-year sentence on several gun charges related to the July 2013 shooting of a man in the District. Authorities typically move inmates nearing release to halfway houses or other detention centers designed to transition them back into society. The federal prison system listed Morales as an escapee.
Court records say that in the 2013 incident, Morales argued with a man after nearly hitting him with a pickup truck. The two parted, but Morales returned and fired a single shot at the man, missing him but hitting the wall of a house on Holmead Place NW in Columbia Heights.
The jury convicted Morales of assault with a dangerous weapon, possession of a firearm during a crime of violence and possession of an unregistered firearm. Prosecutors asked that Morales be imprisoned for more than seven years, but the judge sentenced him to five years followed by three years’ supervised release.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article said Morales was first spotted by a resident at 6:40 p.m. The time was incorrect. He was spotted at 5:09 p.m. The story has been corrected.