Dear PoP – Columbia Heights Assault and Home Invasion

Photo by PoPville flickr user julianne’s

“Dear PoP,

On Friday night at about 1 AM, our roommate returned to our Columbia Heights group house to find a stranger hanging out in the entrance to the basement apartment. After asking him to leave, our roommate was assaulted by the stranger and two other men who had been hiding behind him. They choked our roommate until he was unconscious, stole his keys, wallet, iPhone, and work Blackberry, opened the front door of our house, went into the first floor bedroom, stole a laptop, and left through the back door before anyone could report them to the cops. Fortunately our roommate recovered quickly and was not seriously injured, and no one was on the ground floor when the house was invaded. The incident is being investigated.

A few lessons learned:
-invest in security systems, like motion-activated floodlights and alarms
-don’t leave valuables in view, as home invaders are likely to grab the first thing they see
-always back up files and password protect your hard drive
-make sure you know the serial numbers of your electronic devices as well as any other information you can use to track them, and report them as stolen immediately
-change all your passwords right away if something like this happens
-our friends were asleep in the downstairs apartment, unaware there were strange men right outside their door; always lock the outside gate if you have one

PoP readers take note: just because a neighborhood is “gentrifying” doesn’t mean it’s safe. Be careful!”

105 Comment

  • Do we know where in Columbia Heights this was? A cross street? Just curious.

    • and was there a description of the perps? old/young? hispanic/black/white/asian? what type of clothes were they wearing?

      How about some motion activated cameras too…..

  • Anothe rlesson learned: Always carry a weapon. Cops aint gonna help you in that situation and the guy was kocked unconcious anyway, so the whole just give up your wallet mantra doesn’t apply either.

    • Right….cos the perps would’ve hauled your ass to the floor before you had time to brandish it, and then they would’ve just stolen your gun meaning you would have (un)wittingly armed a couple of thugs for their next home invasion/assault and possibly been shot yourself. Cops ain’t gonna help you in most live confrontations like this, but weapons aren’t really gonna help either.

      • austindc

        I don’t think Sleepy was implying the weapon had to be a gun, though Sleepy, perhaps you could clarify what kind of armament one should carry for this situation? I personally don’t carry a weapon, though if I had to think of a good weapon that would work even if I was unconscious, I would recommend a basket with a deadly cobra in it.

        Personally, I think the best weapon to carry is intelligence (cheesy). Be safe, be alert, and if you get attacked (as I have, maybe because I was weaponless), just pay attention to every detail about the attackers. Even if they don’t catch them, it may help to identify them later if someone else is victimized. See what they are wearing, listen for names, get heights, be able to describe haircuts, jewelery, shoes was a good recommendation by one OP, and try to see which way they go. Start hollering for help as soon as you can. If they are going to steal your stuff, steal as much information as you can about them before they leave.

        And I hope this poor dude is okay and that those cowards get what they deserve.

      • No, it only takes a second to pull a gun and given that he saw the thieves first he could have already had it at the ready.

        And there is no problem for thugs to find guns in DC just hard for us law abiding taxpayers. I am sure I could walk two blocks and buy a dirty gun from one of the corner boys.

        • so, a city in which individuals pull their guns on any stranger? sounds lovely. it may take only a second to pull a gun, but your little aggro TV fantasy world hasn’t calculated how quickly someone (or 3) can overpower you at close distance despite your scary gun.

          • +1,000,000

            Gun use isn’t like it is on TV and in movies. Throwing more guns into the mix isn’t going to help.

          • not going to hurt either.

            more criminals should be at risk of bodily injury, firearms are the easiest way to inflict this injury on assholes that try to choke you out.

          • First of all its not a “TV fantasy” as I’ve used guns for years. How many times have people “accidentally” murdered someone who was just looking to borrow sugar???

            Secondly, it’s not “any stranger”, its somebody standing in a dark access way to my home at 1 AM, (ie. this is not the FED EX guy).

            Third, I’m not saying point the gun at his head with your finger on the trigger, just have it at the ready. It can still be holstered. 2 days of training will teach you not to use a ranged weapon (ie a gun) within the range of someones reach. This defeats the purpose.

            The sooner people realize guns shouldn’t be any “scarier” than kitchen knives we will be in a better place.

            Finally, don’t worry, my guns are still locked away in VA for the moment until I can get the proper license for them.

          • really, you’ve used guns in this exact type of incident for years? you must be a cop, and therefore well within your rights to carry and brandish your arms at any suspicious individual.

            In this incident, the victim was entering a group home (and from the way the story reads, the basement is not the group home, but another tenant space altogether), meaning that those individuals could have been visiting one of the roommates or the tenant below. That’s likely why the victim spoke to them instead of immediately getting the hell out or informing the police.

            I don’t care about your 2 day gun courses. Again, 3 adult males against one adult male with a holstered or drawn gun at close range? i’m gonna take the 3 dudes on this one.

            guns ARE scarier than kitchen knives because they do a great deal more damage and are easily accessible to violent individuals (that includes vengeful vigilantes).

            And I’m really not that worried about your guns, but rather you and your willingness to use them in circumstances that only look “clear cut” well after the fact.

          • I think the circumstance became very clear cut once the victime was being choked.

            The idea is not to get into a gunfight, the idea is to give someone the option to defend themselves as the last resort.

            The victim is lucky that he was not killed or suffered brain damage, frankly the fact that his only legal option was to run and hope for the best is appaling.

          • elcal did a fine job responding to Another Chris’ gun-happy antics, but I wanted to respond to svi’s response.

            Of course it’s going to hurt. More guns means more shootings of the wrong people, more suicides because a gun is handy, and more accidents in which careless gun owners don’t secure their weapons properly.

            “more criminals should be at risk of bodily injury, firearms are the easiest way to inflict this injury on assholes that try to choke you out.” Firearms are also the easiest way to inflict injury on a loved one, an innocent bystander, someone who simply looks at you funny, and yourself.

            Gun advocates always look at these incidents in a vacuum (and an unrealistic one at that), thinking, “If I’d only had a gun on me, I coulda shot ’em/brandished my weapon!” They don’t think about the threat the gun poses the rest of the time to themselves and those around them.

          • hey, if you can pull a gun while being restrained and choked by 3 adult males AND without them noticing the gun first and pulling it back on you, go for it. Those chumps probably deserve a beating at the hands of Jason Bourne.

            Again, the circumstance looks clear cut WELL AFTER the point in time in which pulling the weapon was feasible (ie. when you’re already on the floor gasping for breath). Read RV’s (victim) comments on this thread, he had no clue these people were trouble until he was too close.

    • Yep. Again, another example of the need for a regional CCW permit.

      • i’m really going to have to disagree with you here. i find DC’s gun laws to be perfectly consistent with what is needed to protect your home, which is exactly what the situation was here.

        if the homeowner had a gun (which really, in my opinion, should be a shotgun) in his house, which is LEGAL in DC, even pre-Heller and had it in hand when he asked the strange person on his porch to kindly leave, i think this whole situation would likely have been avoided…at least for the time. (though who’s to say if they might come back to try to steal said gun).

        this situation does NOT beg for a concealed carry whatsoever.

        • Think you got a couple facts turned around here. The victim was approaching his home when he saw the man and was attacked. So, even if he legally had a gun in his home, he wouldn’t have had access to it in this situation. In this case, having a gun in his house would have accomplished nothing.

          • right, and considering the victim was burgled, the gun may have been stolen (read: dirty gun).

          • i stand corrected – i had read it originally as OP seeing a guy outside his own house from inside.

  • Is there a police report to accompany this?

  • Gentrifying neighborhoods are the places where crime is on the rise. More people with money who aren’t accustomed to dealing with criminals.

    Sorry to hear this happened and glad the roommate is okay.

    • Crime is on the rise? I dont think thats true.

      • uh… YEAH. The number of muggings and burglaries are substantially up in the DC area. Remember due to the recession more people are without employement and are desperate for money. Doesn’t mean you have to run scared and always think the worst is going to happen. It just means you should, as posters here ALWAYS recomend, be aware of your surroundings and understand you live in a city.

      • saf

        It certainly is.

        I’ve been here quite a while. Property crime has certainly risen in the last 10 years.

      • I believe property crime is up, but I believe violent crime is still down over last year, which was the lowest since the 60s. I have to admit that I dont watch crime statistics that carefully. If violent crime is higher so far this year, its not by much.

        Property crime, by itself, is not much of an indicator. A lot of it tends to not be reported, so if one year 85% is reported, and the next year 80% is reported, then the amount reported wouldnt accurately reflect the property crime that occurred or the year over year change.

        Violent crime is reported a lot more consistently. I’m not saying violent crime isnt underreported in many instances, but the reporting rate seems to be a lot more consistent.

  • To assume gentrification = safe is pretty damn stupid. Just because people with money move into a neighborhood doesn’t mean those people with money aren’t criminals. Y’all just do it differently.

    • Un huh…and what are the odds that the 3 perps who assaulted this person were gentrifiers who had just moved in and spent 500K on a 2br condo?

      • Again, y’all are just better at being criminals. You do it on paper.

        • We’re also better with grammar.

        • “doing it on paper” at least means not physically attacking people. So gentrified criminals are nicer, obviously 😉

        • austindc

          Well, our company has gone paperless for environmental reasons, so we do it on Excel sheets.

        • WHAT???? Yeah dude, I got tax evasions and ponzi schemes all over this city. For me insider trading, is a tuesday. On the street they call me little gordon gecco. Sorry dude, your assumptions are simply ludicrous!!!! I can barely pay my rent!!!

        • Some will rob you with a six-gun, And some with a fountain pen.-woody guthrie

        • I’m just doing it to the non-wealthy to recup what they took when they stole my laptop. 🙂

    • Might I also ad that the victims probably weren’t overly wealthy (at least not directly). They live in a group house.

    • I think the wealthier the person is, the more they have to lose, and the less likely they are to be a criminal. The issue of gentrification and crime doesnt always have to do with race. It has to do with ownership of wealth. Fact: areas with less wealth have more criminals.

    • Apples to oranges, brother. We’re talking about neighborhood violent crime that impacts quality of life and personal safety issues where we live. I’ll agree with you until the cows come home that there is all sorts of fraud and white collar crime being committed in this country every day by very wealthy people. But it’s idiotic and unproductive to conflate that with the crime described here. The issue isn’t moral relevance, it’s how to make our neighborhood safe.

    • I am happily watching the foreclosures around me…The good news? With their departure the neighborhood is in fact cleaner and SAFER. Don’t kid yourself…No guns going off in the alleys…no children wandering around throwing bottles and trash at moving vehicles… Since I have moved here, I have learned first hand that a violent and lost society is nested in the impoverished society.

      • DC is one of two cities in the country where property values are increasing (Seattle is the other). Are these foreclosure you speak of in DC? Just curious.

  • Location, please

  • “PoP readers take note: just because a neighborhood is “gentrifying” doesn’t mean it’s safe. Be careful!””

    I know someone who a similar incident occur in a wealthy part of Reston. It can happen anywhere – bottom line, use common sense and don’t let your guard down, particularly late at night.

  • Pretty sure it was on the 1200 block of Columbia (unless there were two stories like this, both on Friday night in C. Heights).

  • This is scary! I’m glad your roommate is physically OK.

    Another tip to add: if someone suspicious is hanging out near the entrance to your home, don’t go home.Of course, no one can always know who is/isn’t a potential criminal, but trust your instincts. There have been a few times when I have walked right past my basement apartment when I felt someone could potentially have been following me. My fears were probably unfounded, but going to the corner store until the suspicious person passed wasn’t a big deal at all.

  • No offense, but something about this story seems off. Not sure if it’s the scant details, the movie-style choke unconscious then ransack the house, or what, but something seems off. Maybe there are additional details that would clear it up.

    Hell, maybe I just don’t want to believe it.

    • It really is difficult to believe . . . until it happens to you. Seriously, non believers are victims-to-be. Stay alert.

    • Smells kind of fishy to me too.

    • If you happen to watch I Survived…, you’d like that this occurs more than you’d think. Scares the living bajeezus out of me!

      Glad everyone was ok–sometimes these home invasions can turn out much much worse.

      • *like = know. Baa typo

        I’d also like to know the location.

      • Wait, so a collection of anecdotal stories has made you think that crime is a lot more common than you had originally thought?

        Seriously people, you all act like the odds are you will be victim of serious crime at some point. This isnt true, no matter where you live in this city. The odds are still stacked against this happening.

        • I’ve been robbed twice in this city and im pretty damn vigilant. You are better off not trusting the people who look like they shouldn’t be trusted. Keep your wits, they would take everything from you if they knew they could get away with it.

  • I’ve never heard of that choke move before…were these attackers in Special Forces?

    We should give this unfortunate victim the benefit of the doubt, but pistol whipping/beat down is what we do in my stretch of the hood.

    Anybody who’s not street smart really shouldn’t be living in the changing parts of DC IMHO, or they the do, they should be surprised to find themselves in these sorts of situations.

    • your pistol whip/beatdown is more indicative of a robbery on the street. if the real goal here is to burglarize someone, having them passed out is probably what you want.

      you’d be surprised at how easy it is to do if you wind up in a physical confrontation with someone. if you can get them into a headlock (easier when there are two people), particularly from behind, squeezing until the person is unconscious is less than a minute or so. they’ll usually stay out for several after that – and will probably be woozy even when they get back up.

    • Sadly to ‘choke out’ someone is recently an in thing thanks to UFC . I saw some kids practicing their technique on each other on 10th & R/S about 3 weeks ago.

      No surprised at all. Just glad the victim was OK.

      • I’m the victim identified in the story above. We’re keeping details scant right now as it is still an open investigation and we have several solid leads. We’ll be happy to update PoP with information as the case is resolved or goes cold.

        I considered myself street smart before this and took several precautions before the attack even occurred. The problem is that I still had a “rational criminal model” and these criminals weren’t rational at all. Even if I had immediately called the police there was plenty of time for 3 assailants to take me out – this is despite *multiple* witnesses on a stoop directly across from our house during the entire crime. These guys didn’t care if they were positively ID’ed multiple times – they knew they could complete the crime and be gone before any police response.

        In retrospect, I should have played it like it wasn’t even my house, biked away and then called the police. But by the time I realized there was even 1 assailant [the other 2 were completely concealed] I had already ID’ed myself as a resident [gotten off my bike, started to grab keys out of my bag etc].

        As to conceal & carry, I’m conflicted. Let’s say I pulled a gun out to begin with – if the first assailant hadn’t left the property and I had shot him, then the other 2 could have shot me from their concealed positions. If I had waited until all 3 were attacking me to pull a gun, I would have had to disable 3 targets before any of them could pull a gun themselves or flank/disarm me. Statistically, neither of those situations seem like a good bet.

        In summary, ALL active defenses against this type of crime are problematic. That’s why passive defense [better lighting, better physical security, travel in numbers] is a better plan.

        As to needing Special Forces training for a simple sleeper hold? That’s silly. Heck, there’s even a walkthrough on eHow:

        That being said, I don’t think UFC is at fault either. When I was in elementary school [I’m 29 this summer] sleeper holds were all the rage. Only difference between those and this time was that you could tap out on the playground before you were rendered unconscious. These guys didn’t obey those formalities.

        • RV — thank you for being willing to talk about what must have been an incredibly frightening experience. I know the second-guessing and piling-on on these blogs can be hard to take. We’re all glad that you weren’t seriously hurt. I know that incidents like these be traumatic and I hope you’re able to feel safe again soon.

        • horrible that this happened to you. i hope you’re okay.

        • What a horrible experience. Glad you’re ok, RV!

    • I think I am going to wait for all the poor people to either be jailed, foreclosed, or leave my part of the district… thanks for your sobering suggestions though. In the mean time? Pepper spray is at the ready (2 whole cans of it!)

  • I hope these thugs get caught, thrown in jail (or juvey), and then shived in the lunch line.

    That’s right…I hope they die a painful death.

    • Burglary warrants death!

      What a scary world that would be.

      • i think the attempted murder part is where so much ire is coming from….

        • The assault part of it definitely brings on the ire, but I’m just tired of this shit in general. A world without these thugs is a better world. Period. I, and every other non-thug criminal, work too damn hard to have useless fucks like these three walking the streets. They provide nothing to society…and don’t even try to tell me that society hasn’t done anything for them. Because if you go that route, you’re spitting in the face of every single person who took nothing and made it into something.

          • Dammit…I meant every other non-criminal. See friends…don’t type angry.

          • Agreed 100%… The only real consequence to be feared is death. Why should only the law abiding people be afraid that they will be killed? (for their ipods no less!)

      • What an orderly world it would be. I know it is draconian…but society is losing its grip…Anyone who isnt on board or can’t contribute is useless to us but that is acceptible… the ones who are in direct contention with civilized society do deserve to die.

      • Scary for burglars.

  • “use common sense and don’t let your guard down”

    Pardon me if I sound stupid, but please explain how one goes about this, particularly in the situation described?

    • Maybe by not confronting a stranger standing in the (presumably, small and/or narrow) entrance to your apartment, but instead calling the police. Odd story that is really of little use without a description of the location or the perpetrators. Can’t believe the police would have a problem releasing either bit of info.

      “Just because a neighborhood is “gentrifying” doesn’t mean it’s safe.” Really?

    • For one, if you see someone standing by the basement entrance to your house @ 1am looking shady, you should keep walking, run away, or call the police instead of approaching them and asking them to leave.

      But in reality, its easy to say that from the comfort of my desk. As men, we are not inclined to run away from a guy trespassing on our property. We are more likely to confront them, unless they have a visible weapon, so I couldn’t say the same thing wouldn’t happen to me nor do I want to seem as if I am “blaming the victim”. I am just glad there were no serious injuries.

      • I’m the victim identified above and this is absolutely the correct action. I’m not sure I still wouldn’t have been attacked as I had to already ID myself as living at this location [through body language] before I could actually see that anything was wrong. [Just casually walking by I wouldn’t have been able to see these guys, they were well hidden].

        Would I have been able to outrun all 3? Or get back on my bike and pedal fast enough?

        Maybe – but I think my odds in avoiding physical harm and preventing entry into the house would have been much higher.

        • Wow, that’s definitely a tough and terrifying situation. Thanks for sharing, I’m sure your story will help someone.

  • Hate to quibble, but this was a battery and a burglary, not a home invasion. A home invasion involves armed perps who take everyone in the house hostage and then burgle it. This was horrible, clearly, but a home invasion is much more serious and often ends up deadly.

  • I would call it more along the lines of attempted murder

  • This assault was terrible, but please, pretty please, leave gentrification out of it. It’s a pretty complex concept, and it has nothing to do with safety; in fact, pairing “safety” with “gentrification” tends to get pretty ugly.

  • we all know what’s got to be done. price ’em out. no one’s getting cobra clutched in their homes on the waterfronts of fort washington, or in good old marlton.

    • there was a murder in my neighborhood last week. the victim and the murderer were from md. how does pricing em out solve anything?

  • what part of maryland? i know its not popular to say, but people of a certain income/education level simply don’t rob and shoot.

  • carry a small metal object in your pocket with a sharp point such as any of the multi-tools you can pick up at Target (not the folding kind). they are legal and will hurt a great deal when raked over someone’s skin. then run like hell.

  • He had an Iphone and a Blackberry…sounds a bit like overkill there.

  • The best lesson is to add good lighting to the front of your home — both on the front porch and by the basement door. Helps eliminate the room for someone to hide on your property or near it. You can get timers or lights that go on automatically at sundown and/or ones that get brighter with movement. Highly recommended. Please keep your lights on at night.

  • I know the guy this happened to and I’m told it happened at 13th and Columbia… about a block from the metro.

  • I used to have hippie-dippy, wet noodle views about guns, but after living in Balmer for several months and in a transitioning ‘hood in northwest DC for a year — I own property there — I’m ready to buy a Glock and a 12 gauge. Here’s hoping CCW legislation is enacted and the District finally allows its law-abiding residents to buy AR-15s.

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