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Man arrested after investigation of suspicious substance halts some Metro service

Police released photos of a man sought as part of an investigation into a substance at two Metro stations. (Metro Transit Police)
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A man with a history of mental illness was arrested Monday after police say someone left a white powder at two Metro stations, leading to road closures and the suspension of rail service in part of downtown Washington before officials determined it was not hazardous.

The person spread the substance on benches at Eastern Market before taking a train to Metro Center, where he exited using an elevator, according to Metro Transit Police. No injuries were reported.

Service on a portion of Metro’s Orange and Blue lines was suspended for nearly two hours as police investigated the substance, which was found at both stations. It was thought to be baby powder, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.

Metro Transit Police said Thomas S. Greene, 59, was found in the 1000 block of H Street NW and arrested on charges from open warrants. Authorities were consulting with the U.S. attorney’s office regarding possible charges tied to Monday’s incident.

Doug Buchanan, a spokesman for the D.C. fire department, said someone reported also finding the white powder on an elevator at Metro Center — the same substance found at Eastern Market. Authorities received calls about the two incidents minutes apart.

Buchanan said the substance tested negative at both stations for anything hazardous.

Greene has a history of court-ordered mental health evaluations following arrests in assault cases and selling cocaine. He was also diagnosed as being schizophrenic.

Last week, a D.C. Superior Court judge issued a warrant for Greene’s arrest after he failed to comply with orders as a result of pleading guilty to selling cocaine last January. As part of that plea, the judge agreed to defer Greene’s sentencing and allow him to remain outside of jail if he attended mental-health court.

In 2017, Greene was sent to St. Elizabeths Hospital for a mental-health evaluation after being accused of grabbing a woman’s buttocks, a case in which he was charged with misdemeanor sexual abuse. A report by a court psychologist indicated Greene had previously been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was on medication. Doctors recommended he stay at the hospital for further evaluation.

A judge in April 2017 determined Greene was incompetent to stand trial and ordered additional mental evaluations. After a stay at St. Elizabeths, prosecutors dropped charges based on the age of the case, according to court records.

In 2015, he was arrested for throwing liquid on a woman. According to court charging documents, he walked past a woman as she exited a Metro station in the 700 block of 7th Street NW and began muttering incoherently before throwing the liquid.

Following a court-ordered examination in that case, Greene was found to have used cocaine and marijuana, as well as having schizophrenia and anti-social personality disorder. Prosecutors later dismissed charges after his stay at St. Elizabeths, months before it was scheduled for trial in 2016.

In Monday’s incident, Metro suspended rail service between the Federal Center SW and Stadium-Armory stations beginning about 9:50 a.m., with service resuming after 11:30 a.m. The Silver Line operated only between the Wiehle-Reston East and Ballston stations.

Robert Pohl, who lives on Capitol Hill, said he was walking by the Eastern Market station Monday when he stumbled upon a large response from authorities.

“I was surprised at the size of the reaction,” he said.

Four firetrucks, an environmental emergency response vehicle and about a dozen police cars were outside the station at one point as officials redirected traffic. The incident disrupted fewer commutes than it might have on most Monday mornings, happening on New Year’s Eve amid a partial government shutdown.

Peter Hermann and Sarah Kaplan contributed to this report.