Ex-army chief re­jects ter­ror­ism charges

The Washington Times Daily - - World -

Tot­ten Metro Sta­tion. He saw two young men peer­ing into his van, which was parked be­hind the apart­ment com­plex, and be­gan film­ing the sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity with his cell­phone. When the men be­gan us­ing a screw­driver on the door of the ve­hi­cle, the van owner asked his wife to call po­lice, he had an­other rel­a­tive con­tinue tap­ing, and he ran out to con­front the men.

“I bolted out the door. Hon­estly, I started pray­ing, ‘Let my neigh­bors be down­stairs. I don’t want to get into a con­fronta­tion,’ “said the man, whose name The Washington Times agreed to with­hold be­cause he was a vic­tim of a crime. “But this has to stop. Liv­ing by the Metro sta­tion, we’ve had it all — rob­beries and thefts.”

On his way out, the man saw sev­eral of his neigh­bors and asked whether they could back him up as he ap­proached the van.

They fol­lowed and stood guard around the van as the owner con­fronted a young man, who by this time was tak­ing a screw­driver to the ig­ni­tion.

The van owner said he asked the young man to hand over the screw­driver, and an­other neigh­bor — a re­tired po­lice of­fi­cer — brought out a pair of hand­cuffs to help de­tain the young man un­til po­lice ar­rived.

The young man, who was not named be­cause he is a ju­ve­nile, was charged with sim­ple as­sault and un­law­ful en­try, ac­cord­ing to a po­lice re­port.

Ac­counts of the in­ci­dent by the van owner match that of a 4th Dis­trict po­lice lieu­tenant and a po­lice re­port.

“I don’t be­lieve in the whole vig­i­lante thing, but I do be­lieve peo­ple are re­spon­si­ble for them­selves and each other,” the van owner said in an in­ter­view, ex­plain­ing his ac­tions. “In our case, no one was try­ing to be a hero or get all this recog­ni­tion, but a mes­sage has to be sent that you can’t just do wrong and al­low noth­ing to hap­pen.”

Res­i­dents were alerted to the in­ci­dent on the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice Depart­ment’s 4th Dis­trict on­line list­serv with a mes­sage from a po­lice lieu­tenant who de­scribed the in­ci­dent and thanked neigh­bors who “stood up and took ac­tion.”

“Our thanks go out to the neigh­bors who stood up to make a dif­fer­ence in their neigh­bor­hood as they showed they will not tol­er­ate this be­hav­ior in their neigh­bor­hoods any­more,” wrote Lt. John Haines.

Other res­i­dents quickly chimed in, both con­grat­u­lat­ing the neigh­bors for a job well done and ques­tion­ing whether those in­volved had put their lives at un­nec­es­sary risk to pro­tect an inan­i­mate ob­ject.

The Trayvon Martin case seemed to loom large over the dis­cus­sion.

The Florida teen was fa­tally shot last month by neigh­bor­hood watch vol­un­teer Ge­orge Zim­mer­man in a case that has ig­nited is­sues of race sur­round­ing the shoot­ing and its han­dling by the po­lice depart­ment.

But the case has also touched off con­tro­versy over the role cit­i­zens play in polic­ing their neigh­bor­hoods.

“I think it’s won­der­ful that peo­ple stood up in one re­spect. It sends the mes­sage out that the neigh­bor­hood is not go­ing to take this,” Jay Phillips, a res­i­dent who lives in the 4th Dis­trict, said in an in­ter­view af­ter com­ment­ing on­line. “But the guy in the pur­suit of Trayvon was, in his mind, do­ing noth­ing wrong as the neigh­bors in this case were think­ing as well.”

Bright­wood-area res­i­dent Char­lotte Wil­liams, who read the on­line ac­count of the in­ci­dent in North­east, pointed to Trayvon Martin’s fa­tal shoot­ing as “a glar­ing ex­am­ple” why res­i­dents should opt to call po­lice rather than con­front a sus­pect them­selves. “There was no one in im­me­di­ate dan­ger for the owner of that ve­hi­cle to go out there,” she said. “If a life is not in im­me­di­ate dan­ger, you can­not put your hands on some­one. If that guy had be­come in­jured in any kind of way, he could have sued them.”

The on­line de­bate prompted a se­nior Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice Depart­ment of­fi­cial to weigh in and re­state the depart­ment’s of­fi­cial po­si­tion.

“Our mes­sage has al­ways been con­sis­tent, con­stant and clear, that if you see a crime in progress or some­one that is act­ing sus­pi­ciously, call 911. Dis­patch­ers will alert po­lice and help will be on the way,” As­sis­tant Po­lice Chief Al­fred Durham said in a state­ment posted to the list­serv, adding that the depart­ment does not con­done or ad­vise peo­ple to con­front or chal­lenge any­one en­gaged in crim­i­nal be­hav­ior.

Even the van owner who took ac­tion said he in­voked the story of the Florida teen when speak­ing with the young man he caught in his ve­hi­cle be­fore the po­lice carted him away.

“I told the young man, that young man was in the wrong place at the wrong time with peo­ple hav­ing the wrong per­cep­tion of him,” the van owner said.

“And there you are in the wrong place at the wrong time with peo­ple who have the right per­cep­tion of you.”

ANKARA | A for­mer Turk­ish mil­i­tary chief ac­cused of lead­ing an In­ter­net cam­paign as part of an al­leged

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