From the Files of I Don’t Know Whether to Laugh or Cry

IMG00035, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

Dear PoP…

I’m half-Latvian and was raised bi-lingually and sort of multi-culturally. Well, it turns out that there is a sizable portion of Rock Creek Cemetery that is “the Latvian section.” It’s where a lot of the WWII-era Latvians who settled in the DC area are buried. From time to time a group of us Latvians get together and do a little maintenance of the graves in the Latvian section.

Anyway, so we’re out there working on Saturday and one of the men working with us feels something heavy under some leaves that are under a bush. It’s in a black bag and would have never been seen if it wasn’t for us cutting down the bush. He picks the bag up and finds a black Berretta handgun loaded with a full clip and the hammer cocked back ready to go.

The gun had a bit of fresh rust, due to the fact that the bag was broken and all of the rain we’ve had lately. Considering those factors, we deduced that the gun couldn’t have been hidden there for more than a few months. Likely someone either hid it there and lost it, or intended for it to never be found. The guy who found the gun, using the plastic bag and not touching the actual gun, placed it on top of a gravestone.

So, being a good citizen, I call 911 to report what we had found. And then, not surprisingly, things went downhill. Continues after the jump.

The 911 operator, though friendly, was having some issues. Apparently “Rock Creek Cemetary” was not a very helpful description of where we were. She repeatedly asked me if I knew the address and I repeatedly told her “No, it’s the big cemetary between N. Capitol and New Hampshire”. She told me that she was fully aware of where it was located but had to fill out the “address” part on her computer. I then heard her going back and forth with another operator or her supervisor about what to put in the address section of the form. This took a few minutes until they overrode that issue one way or another. Stating the obvious here, but what if the call was a real emergency, and not just a found gun?

Anyway, so the cops finally show. The officer’s first words to me — “Sir, the address of this place is 210 Allison St.” Gee thanks, I’ll remember that in case I ever have to call 911 from here again. Beyond that the cops were very friendly and helpful. As the bulk of us packed our stuff up to go, we were told that the two officers were waiting for crime scene people to come by and process the scene (CSI stuff we are thinking).

Tonight I found out from the guy who found the gun (who stayed on the scene after we left) that after an hour of waiting for something to happen, the cops announced that he had disturbed the scene by moving the gun (even though he never touched it, only the bag) and that nobody would be coming by to work the scene. They bagged the gun up and took off.

I’m not a forensic expert. I only know the legit stuff I learned from The Wire and the tv stuff I learned from Law & Order, but you’ve got to be kidding me. There had to be something worth looking at there.

So other than the cool picture of the gun, the lessons I’m taking from my Saturday morning are that DC’s 911 service is predictably still working out kinks and that paperwork truly is a police officer’s biggest enemy. Even without forensic work, just having to bring that gun in was probably an hour of forms for those officers. Who knows how long someone would be at the desk if they worked the scene?


31 Comment

  • Yikes. That little red painted dot at the rear of the slide means “safety is off.” If the hammer was back, and a round was in the chamber, it would have only taken 5 pounds of pressure on the trigger to fire a shot. Bad juju handling that thing, without really knowing what it was, through a plastic bag. Lucky no one got hurt.

    As for the 911 incompetence, sounds about par for the course. Do you think the 911 operator filled out some kind of “after action report” so that future calls from that location could be handled better? Yeah, me neither. Which is why I’d suggest filling out the DC government’s “customer service survey” at

  • Apparently a law abiding citizen was just keeping it safe until the hand gun ban was lifted so they could go right downtown and register it.

  • Little-reported fact about DC’s handgun laws: even after the Supreme Court repealed the ban, DC continues to prohibit ALL semi-automatic handguns, to include the pictured Beretta. If you want a legal handgun in DC, you’ll have to content yourself with a revolver.
    Until the next lawsuit.

  • saf


    Might I suggest email to Commander Linda Gilmore-Brown (assuming this is in 4D, and I believe it is) and to Chief Lanier, with a copy to a member of the press? I’m thinking that this is the kind of thing Marc Fisher at the Post might sink his teeth into. You might also want to copy the relevant ANC member.

    I hate that whole “we need an exact address thing.” The police say “Call, we’ll come.” The operators say “Well, are you sure it’s really worth their time, can you tell me exactly where it is, do you REALLY want to report this?” Unified Communications is, in my very strongly held opinion, a serious failure that endangers all our lives.

  • My husband was gardening in our front yard at 13th and T and found a 45 (with no rust). This was shortly before we had a house full of neighborhood kids (back when there still were neighborhood kids) over for my son’s birthday party. Rather frightening. We called the police, the came and got it with no “working of the scene.”

  • I’ve pretty much universally found DC’s 911 call-takers & dispatchers to be completely useless. They’re brains are so completely focused on filling out the little boxes on their CAD [Computer Aided Dispatch] screens they lose sight of the fact that there’s a f’ing situation that requires police or fire services, often fast. They’re apparently unable to use cross-streets, intersections, or landmarks to locate points in the city, and will rudely demand an exact street address over and over again. I’ve been to other large urban dispatch centers in the county, and there’s this ‘amazing’ website called google maps. Of course they probably can’t grant internet access to dispatchers and call takers because they’d spend all day dicking around on email or blogs.

    To the poster and anyone else interested, I’ve had really great profession help from other police forces that operate in the city, and if you’re ‘lucky’ enough to have an incident occur on their jurisdiction it’s best to call their emergency numbers directly:
    US Park Police: 202-619-7300
    Metro Transit [WMATA] Police: 202-962-2121

  • saf

    Oh, you might also bring this to the attention of Ms Bowser. And while I’m at it, are you on the 4D-neighbors email list? It belongs there too.

  • This weekend I was jogging in the same cemetery when I came across a group of 4 young people. One of the individuals had collapsed, and the others were calling 911. Now eventhough we could see the ambulance coming out of the fire station across on North Cap, and saw police on North Cap coming in our direction they still got lost and we had to go flag them down! And I specifically told the 911 operator that they should take an immediate right after coming into the cemetery.

    I won’t say anything negative about the dispatchers as I don’t know what their job entails. However, as I understand it when you use your cell phone they are still supposed to be able to trace you. Case in point a friend got lost in the woods in St. Mary’s Cnty and they were able to walk her out of the woods using the GPS device in her cell. Is this not operational in DC?

  • I think DC’s CSI Team is like the Maytag repair man, just sits around and plays solitaire, because the police don’t call them unless the site is pristine. Here is my experince I wrote elsewhere dealing with the policewhen my car was completly vandilized in CH.
    A year ago I had my car completely vandalized. Called the police to come out take a report. When they arrived they asked if there was anything taken from the vehicle and the damages. They then asked if I touched the vehicle? I made the mistake of saying yes. They then gave me the third degree about how I disturbed a crime scene and the CSI wont dust for prints now, even though my prints were already all over my car (from use the night before) and the tire iron that smashed my windows and another tool was untouched and laying on the ground. And if they did dust for prints I might have to be arrested since my prints are on the car and would be guilty at the very least of tampering with evidence! Threatening to arrest me while taking my report! so ridiculous.

    How am I supposed to tell them if anything was took from the car and what the damage is if I don’t open the door to get to my glove box and center console?

    Well thanks for letting me vent. In summary, no DC doesn’t consider breaking into cars and vandalizing a crime, only reporting them. So have at DC, the police aren’t going to be looking for you.

  • you all shoulda kept the gun, and turned it in for big $$ during the next DC-no-penalty-gun-turn-in.

    and then y’all coulda gone out for pizza like civilized people!


  • Saf- Where can one sign up for the 4D e-mail list? All I saw was a yahoo group- is that it?

  • On the MDP-1D yahoo group, there have been a ton of recent e-mails about how when neighbors call in to report a house or car break-in the dispatcher won’t send any police because the neighbor isn’t the owner. Someone even mentioned that they once called in a hit and run, but since the caller wasn’t the victim, the dispatcher wouldn’t send anyone, even though the victim was unconscious…And also apparently dispatchers can’t add information to an already open ticket, i.e. if one witness calls in a crash, and another witness calls in later with a license plate number, the dispatcher can’t let the police know that license plate number…

    Anyway, Cathy Lanier was forwarded some of the e-mails and wrote back to MPD-1D that she’s on the case. So I bet if you bring to her attention this problem regarding the address and disturbing the scene, some changes might be be made.

  • My brother is a cop in New Jersey. He said that if someone dials 911 and then, for whatever reason, hangs up before talking to someone, the police still go to the place where the call originated from as if it were an emergency. The idea is that the call might be terminated due to the caller being attacked or otherwise incapacitated (but more often than not is due to the person deciding at the last minute that something is not a police emergency after all).

    Not sure why call-takers here need to demand a precise address before doing anything.

    Of course, even if they do take your call it might not be worth much if the first responders are hiding out in a radio dead-zone Tenleytown.

  • This city is such a banana republic.

  • saf

    OB – that’s it. There are 2:

    The official one, which is SUPPOSED to be for official stuff only but people keep using it as their person soapbox:

    The unofficial one, which might be more useful, but I’m not sure:

    They both make me INSANE, as they are full of people who like to pontificate without listening, but there are some good and thoughtful people on both, so I put up with the crazies.

  • @Anonymous 12:13PM
    “On the MDP-1D yahoo group, there have been a ton of recent e-mails about how when neighbors call in to report a house or car break-in the dispatcher won’t send any police because the neighbor isn’t the owner.”

    This is true. Going back to my previously told story regarding my car being broke in to and vandalized, there were several cars around mine that were vandalized by the same twerps. When I brought it up to both the dispatcher and the police officers who came to the scene, since the crimes are related should be put together in one folder, or cross referenced or something, everyone said that only the owner could talk to them about it and have them do a report. Great pro-active police work.

  • The story says it all. I cannot even go into the many calls I have made to 911 only to betreated like I was bothering someone. It really is sad. The infrastructure in this city really sucks.

  • Expat,

    Heller has already filed said “next lawsuit”.

  • This sounds silly, but I think it’s really cool that there’s a group of people of Latvian descent in the city, taking care of this little piece of history. That’s just sweet. Um, minus the gun part.

  • AlphaTango: Exactly. And the city is going to waste a bunch of money and LOSE again when they had to know that banning semi-autos with clips

  • [hmmm… message was oddly clipped]

    … with clips under 12 rounds, when the city’s own definition of a prohibited “machine gun” (on which they claim to base this new restriction) defines such a beast as a weapon capable of firing MORE than 12 rounds. i.e. they have to KNOW that they are not only going against parts of Heller, but, incredibly, even THEIR OWN PRIOR RULES!

    Once again the council and mayor waste money to grandstand. Whoopee.

  • @Tmoney Says:

    July 30th, 2008 at 1:14 pm
    @Anonymous 12:13PM
    “On the MDP-1D yahoo group, there have been a ton of recent e-mails about how when neighbors call in to report a house or car break-in the dispatcher won’t send any police because the neighbor isn’t the owner.”

    This is true. Going back to my previously told story regarding my car being broke in to and vandalized, there were several cars around mine that were vandalized by the same twerps. When I brought it up to both the dispatcher and the police officers who came to the scene, since the crimes are related should be put together in one folder, or cross referenced or something, everyone said that only the owner could talk to them about it and have them do a report. Great pro-active police work.
    This is true in MoCo too. We’ve seen three cars broken into on our little one block, one way street lately (a block from the redline) and when we called 911, we got the same response, so while I don’t agree, it appears that’s more then a “DC” issue.

  • Will add my own quick story…right after moving in to my Florida Ave home was cleaning up the small front yard and discovered about 8 or 10 9mm shell casings. Didn’t touch them or move them, just thought they might be potential evidence, a lead or something. If shell casings have no value to an investigation so be it but I had no idea. Soooo called the non-emergency MPD number and here is a snapshot of the conversation which blew my mind:
    Me: Found a bunch of empty 9mm shell casings in my yard
    MPD: What would you like me to do?
    Me: I don’t know, just thought they might be a piece of evidence or something
    MPD: I can send over a police car
    Me: I didn’t touch them or move them; what will they do with them?
    MPD: Pick them up and throw them away
    Me: I can do that myself
    MPD: So you don’t want me to send a car?
    Me: Forget it thanks.

  • Why was the dispatcher incompetent? Did not everyone from the citizens to the dispatchers to the police do thier jobs? Sounds like the dispatcher tried to get some needed information and did, and low and behold, the police arrived on the scene and took away the gun. Is there no appreciation for a system that apparently worked?

  • The dispatcher [actually call-taker] was incompetent because she did not know how to override the address field on her screen and this delayed an Officer being dispatched to the call. This is not a big deal on a found weapon call, but this happens regularly with priority calls where delayed police response can cost lives.

    This really comes down to overall management of the Unified Communications Center. It’s current director Janice Quintana appears to have no public safety experience and her only real qualifications appear to be heading up an MCI customer service call center. I know a lot of folks who would be happy to just get ‘customer service’ type politeness from dispatchers/call takers, but she can’t even get that in line.

    If anyone has access to the televised May DC Council hearing in which Quintana tries to explain the 911/311 shift they should post a link. Her behavior is absolutely hilarious. She just gets more and more frustrated and irate as she’s caught in her own circles of lies and double-speak. There’s a brief story on it here:

  • Well, Anonymous (5:23)…

    The dispatcher was incompetent because she got stuck for quite some time trying to figure out what to put in the “address” part of her form, even though she freely admitted to me that she knew where I was AND I told her the cemetary was in 4D. There was no need for a prolonged delay…she had all the info she needed.

    Whether or not the police did their job is debatable. Yeah, they showed up after two calls to me from the dispatcher saying the officers were lost in the cemetary and couldn’t find me even though i told them what section of the cemetary we were in and that they should be able to locate the 7 cars parked next to each other as us. Admittedly, that cemetary is a maze, so I sort of give them a pass on that.

    My problem with the response of the actual police officers began with the first officer’s dismissive/annoyed tone when she told me (totally irrelevantly) what the address of the cemetary is. It continues with the fact that the two officers (or one of their superiors) made the decision to not dust for prints or anything of that nature after they told us they would.

    I keep thinking of all those murders and shootings we’ve had lately with the idiots over by Ingraham/Jefferson/Kennedy or over around Webster or down into NE. Here is a gun that was clearly stashed for some reason and the cops didn’t even want to see if they could get any evidence off the gun at the scene. So many of these shootings and killings go unsolved because of the retarded street justice “snitches get stitches” stuff, and then when what is extremely likely to be a key piece of evidence falls into the hands of the cops, they don’t seem to really care.

    If you say the system worked, then I guess I can say you’re right. The same system that gets called out so often for missing the big picture of things missed the big picture of things again this time — with flying colors! Congrats to them.

  • i fail to understand how the system “worked ” here. fortunately the incompetent dispatcher was not requesting an ambulance and no one was in immediate danger. dispatch problems are not a rarity in this city by along shot. people have literally died waiting for medical assistance. the attitude of the police is troubling to say the least, may being the gun at that point was not worth much in terms of evidence. but why not just thank folks for calling it in and be off ?

  • It was my understanding that if you call 911 from a cell phone, you are not getting local emergency services but a call center set up by your cell service provider. This was told to me several years ago when I came upon an overturned and burning car late one night by the Kennedy Center. After I told the operator that it was on the Rock Creek Parkway by the KC, she told me she was not based locally and needed an address. When I told her I didn’t know the address and there were people trapped inside and the car was on fire she immediately put me through to the DC dispatch that thank God knew where the Kennedy Center was at.

  • drewlove, that’s not correct, at least for Verizon, Sprint/Nextel or AT&T. Your cell phone provider transfers 911 calls to whatever dispatch center handles calls for the location of the cellular tower you’re connecting to. The issue with your call from Rock Creek Parkway probably arose from your phone connecting to a tower across the river in Arlington.

    This scenario could be different for pre-paid or other cell phone providers. The only situation I know of that diverts 911 calls to a nationwide call center is VOIP [Vonage, etc]

  • The dispatcher was doing her job so lets go get a life. The only reason you are mad is because you wanted to see CSI work the scene in front of you, but they aren’t entertainers for you. The gun was worked in a laboratory like it is supposed too. Stop wining and get a life you LIBS.


Comments are closed.