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Dear PoPville – Frustrating Police Response

by Prince Of Petworth July 24, 2012 at 11:30 am 41 Comments

Dear PoPville,

I wanted to share a rather disturbing experience I had last Saturday (July 15) at the V Nail Salon on Park Rd, between 14th and 15th in Columbia Heights. I was there with about 25 other customers in the salon around 3 pm in the afternoon. A male entered the salon, clearly high as a kite on something, mumbling incoherently with only pants on. The owner of V nails, an older gentleman tried to ask the man to leave. At that point, the man escalated and became physically threatening to the owner, and began moving throughout the entire salon. He was clearly threatening to everyone in the place, we had no idea what he was on, if he had a weapon or what he could do to any one of us. I placed a call to 911 at 2:57 and provided a very detailed description (considering he was about 2 feet from me, that wasn’t exactly challening), along with at least one other customer and the shop owner. I put another call in at 3:03 when the man left the establishment and moved towards 16th street on Park Rd to alert police. The shop owner locked the door, and the man came back continuing to make threatening gestures through the window. Shockingly, considering the number of people in harms way, the police didn’t arrive until about 10 minutes after my first call. 4 uniformed officers came to the door of the salon and spoke with the owner. None came in and they split up, 2 going towards16th and 2 going towards 14th. No police officer ever returned to the salon. At about 3:20, I left and started walking towards 16th street. To my surprise, when I came towards to the corner of 16th and park, low and behold the man who had threatened 25 people was hanging out in the park across the catholic church (not exactly a shocking location for him to be found for anyone that knows the neighborhood in the slightest). I called 911 again at 3:25 and the dispatcher initially had a difficult time locating the original call, then explained that unless the shopkeeper filed charges, there was nothing the police could. I explained it was a bit difficult for the shop owner to file charges, when the police had clearly never apprehended the suspect since I was looking at him from across the street while talking to the dispatcher and there was no police presence. He stated he’d make a note about my concerns.

I then saw a police car driving down 16th street and flagged them down. The officers responded and called into dispatch to alert the officers assigned to the original call to let them know they had the suspect in sight. The dispatcher couldn’t find any record of any call about this incident (just to reiterate – I’m aware of at least 6 calls that occurred related to this incident), so the officer got into her vehicle and looked it up on her computer, where she learned that the call had been closed out and since it was closed out, they couldn’t find out who the assigned officers were. Furthermore, since the original complaint took place in the 3rd district and they were in the 4th district, they couldn’t take action. They explained that they had already been assigned a call and needed to clear that in their district, but afterwards would go back and check on the shopkeeper. I noted the absurdity of this when I was an eyewitness and had identified the man, they agreed but their hands were tied. I took their cards and returned to the shop. The shop owner confirmed that the police had never returned. I provided the business card of the police officers from district 4 and explained that they thought they would come back.

The whole thing was disturbing on so many levels. I don’t know if this is the level of police response we can expect in our neighborhood these days – but I find it incredibly disturbing at the various levels of inaction and incompetence. It certainly does not make this long time Mt Pleasant resident feel confident about any police response in the future in an emergency situation.

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