Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Grabbing Man – Assault at 4th and E St, NE. 5/25/07, 6:20pm

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As I walked north along 4th Street, NE, between E Street and F Street, in broad daylight, I passed a basketball court to my right. I noticed an African American man, likely in his early 40s, approaching on the sidewalk about 10 yards away. He was an attractive man, about 6’2”, dressed in dark, silky basketball shorts and other basketball/sporting gear. He had very short, clean-cut hair, medium/dark complexion and flat abs. He had the build of a very fit basketball player.

At 5 yards away, he stared intently at me and slowed down until he was nearly stopped on the sidewalk, with a stance that he might block my path. I confidently strode along the right side of the sidewalk and attempted to pass.

Suddenly, he leaned toward me and said, “What, are ya scared of me?” He grabbed my left forearm. Adrenaline in overdrive, I wrenched free and said, "You're crazy," as I kept walking. When I had reached what I felt was a safe distance from him, about 20 yards, I yelled, as loudly as I could, “You don’t go around grabbing people, you crazy man!!!!” I heard him yelling back at me but did not see him move toward me. I quickened my pace and continued walking north toward F Street NE along 4th. A minute later, at the corner of 4th and F, I turned around, and I saw two young black women about 30 yards south, walking in my direction. They, too, had passed this man on the sidewalk.

I called 911 for the first time in my life. I calmly described the incident and asked them to check out the situation. As I provided the report, the two women approached me with the same fearful look in their eyes as I must have had, and they stated that the exact same thing had occurred to them.

When I reached TexDem’s house and described what had happened, she said, “That’s assault.” Nonsense, I thought. Then I thought again.

The Free Dictionary definition for assault is this:

ASSAULT, crim. law. An assault is any unlawful attempt or offer with force or violence to do a corporal hurt to another, whether from malice or wantonness; for example, by striking at him or even holding up the fist at him in a threatening or insulting manner, or with other circumstances as denote at the time. an intention, coupled with a present ability, of actual violence against his person, as by pointing a weapon at him when he is within reach of it. 6 Rogers Rec: 9. When the injury is actually inflicted, it amounts to a battery. (q.v.)
2. Assaults are either simple or aggravated. 1. A simple assault is one Where there is no intention to do any other injury. This is punished at common law by fine and imprisonment. 2. An aggravated assault is one that has in addition to the bare intention to commit it, another object which is also criminal; for example, if a man should fire a pistol at another and miss him, the former would be guilty of an assault with intent to murder; so an assault with intent to rob a man, or with intent to spoil his clothes, and the like, are aggravated assaults, and they are more severely punished than simple assaults. General references, 1 East, P. C. 406; Bull. N. P. 15; Hawk. P. B. b. 1, c. 62, s. 12; 1 Russ. Cr. 604; 2 Camp. Rep. 650 1 Wheeler's Cr. C. 364; 6 Rogers' Rec. 9; 1 Serg. & Rawle, 347 Bac. Ab. h.t.; Roscoe. Cr. Ev. 210.

DC police called and asked me to speak with an officer to provide more details about the incident, and I agreed. I reported it, face-to-face, to Office Mazloom of the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C.

Here’s a stunning follow-up:

Back home tonight, I relayed the event to my roommate, AK, and her eyes grew as wide as saucers. At approximately 9:30 tonight, she was walking home from Capitol South Metro and encountered this same man, dressed exactly as I described. He also grabbed her forearm! The coincidence was absolutely haunting.

I hope that he’s caught – soon.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fraternity & Proximity

A special thing happened tonight. I had a lovely visit with WT (the same from City Grits). She lives on Capitol Hill, as do I. We made plans for her to come and have a little refreshment and catch up before going out to dinner at a favorite neighborhood restaurant. We talked, laughed and listened to LL Cool J, Dr. Dre, A Tribe Called Quest, Bell Biv DeVoe and M.C. Solaar.

Enjoying the cool night air, we strolled to La Plaza. I am on a first-name basis with the the owner there. La Plaza has some of the best Tex-Mex in town, and Henry is one of my favorite business owners on Capitol Hill.

We rolled in at 9:45 p.m., and Henry, recognizing each of us, kissed us warmly and welcomed us in. Hot chips were immediately brought to our table. The later hour afforded us great personal service. I got the beef and cheese enchiladas, while WT got the bean burrito. We laughed that the bean burrito was "a good alone-food." All were delicious. WT and I talked and laughed, gave each other advice, and had a series of heart to hearts.

She "did the gentlemanly thing" and walked me back to my house. We stood, commenting on my fledgling gardens, and gazed down the block of roses trailing off railings along the sidewalks.

Then, the magic happened.

Striding confidently toward us was my dear friend, TxDem. She looked whole, beautiful, and exuded a radiance that I had not seen in months. Truly, she has battled some demons and has begun winning, finally. We three talked, exchanged stories, laughed, hugged.

The best thing about the whole situation is that both TxDem and WT are my neighbors. I love that I can stand out on my sidewalk, on Capitol Hill, on a Saturday night at 11 p.m., conversing with a friend, and encounter another good friend along her walk home.

It's the best of city living. To have proximity and fraternity with loved ones is rare and priceless. Walking to work is priceless. Walking to a restaurant is priceless. I am still beaming, thinking about standing out there outside my front spring-time gardens, hugging my dear friends and chatting, impromptu, about the recent goings-on of our lives. I'm savoring the surprise neighborhood reunion.

So satisfying. NOW I remember why I sacrifice so much to live where I do.


I love cool, rainy mornings. They are best for lounging around and relaxing, but I don't even mind getting out in the weather. They are also good for gardening, as it provides new plantings with a moment to rest before harsh sun comes their way.

I took this video from my window on a rainy April morning. Yes, traffic may be heard, but much of the sound is of heavy rain drops pelting the new sugar maple leaves, just outside. The pansies on my front steps were crushed; yellow-and-purple faces were downturned and flattened. It still amazes me , how they are able to recover by the afternoon - standing tall again, reaching for the sun.

My heart longed for Texas during this moment. Lone Star State weather is more dramatic than storms back East. The low lands and plains topography are a perfect combination for flooding. Rain comes down as if poured from a bucket, or in sheets. Walking 15 feet without an umbrella leaves one drenched to the core.

One storm, in particular, will always stay with me. Coming home late from a party, I parked just 10 yards from my apartment. Unfortunately, I was wearing a pretty suede top. Suede is ruined by water. What would any sensible party girl do? I took off the top, rolled it up, inside-out (it was a pretty small piece of suede), tucked it under my arm, and bolted for my front door. Surely enough, by the time I entered my apartment, I was drenched to the core.

But the suede was saved! Three cheers for ingenuity.

Storms, fog, blinding sun, frost, snow, wind: all make me feel alive and grateful to experience them, if not for a brief moment.