Photo by PoPville flickr user KJinDC
A few buddies and I were watching football on the front patio at Lou’s City Bar in Columbia Heights around 3:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon when my friend glanced outside and saw two guys carrying away bikes belonging to her and her husband. My friends had locked the bikes up across Irving street from Lou’s while we were watching the game, and these guys had successfully cut the lock and were brazenly walking away carrying (not rolling) the bikes, in broad daylight, with dozens of people out and about. Nobody else appeared to notice them cutting the lock or walking away with these bikes in hand.
We confronted the two guys in an alleyway behind Target, off of Irving; one of them was still holding a small pair of bolt cutters (maybe 10” long) and was trying to remove the remnants of the lock, which had coiled up around the front wheel. The other reached in his jacket and said “I’m gonna smoke you,” but fortunately pulled out just an empty hand. After a very short standoff, a couple of punches thrown by one of the thugs, and a tug-of-war over one of the bikes, the guys left the bikes and took off running.
I was content to just get the bikes back, but two of my friends ran off to follow these guys while calling 911–they tracked the thieves for a few blocks (at a distance), watched them get on a 64 Bus, and then followed the bus, describing its location to the police. DC Police responded immediately and within minutes had pulled the bus over around 11th and Monroe. When the officers removed the perps from the bus, one of them put up a fight. Officer Chen sustained some scrapes and bruises while trying to restrain this jerk. The officer fortunately didn’t seem to have major injuries, and impressively stayed to help fill out paperwork after he got some medical attention (double extra PROPS)!
Ultimately, Metro PD got these guys in custody and they will hopefully be charged with theft, assault, assault on a police officer/resisting arrest, and perhaps robbery. (In other news, one of the perps was already wearing an ankle monitor, and some synthetic marijuana was found on the bus.)
The police did an awesome job responding to this incident–many thanks to Metro PD. There is certainly more serious crime in this city than bike theft, but it is a huge and growing problem nonetheless. In retrospect, I can’t recommend people confront bike thieves themselves. We lucked out, but if these guys had a weapon one or more of us could be in the hospital right now. If you see an apparent bike theft, call Metro PD and maybe follow the thieves at a safe distance if you are in a public place.”