Home Invasion on Henson Ridge

It was a normal day in the office working late then working out. Today I decided to go for a bike ride down Hains Point, the 3.2-mile loop that juts out into the Washington Channel, and I was feeling on top of the world. Arriving home at ten o’clock was not too terribly late, and I had to make two trips from the car to the house.

I parked in the grass because I only had one parking space in my driveway. I did not want a parking ticket from the district for parking overnight on a D.C street without D.C. plates. As soon as I went to the back, one of my contractors called me which delayed me from the car. So I had to make two trips from the car to the house.

I made my first trip and dropped off my briefcase and went back out to get my bike. I did not lock the door because I would be back in a couple of minutes. From the corner of my eyes, I saw a man walking down the sidewalk twenty feet away. Although I live in a residential neighborhood we get incoming foot traffic from Alabama Avenue in Congress Heights. I then dropped off my briefcase in the foyer. I immediately went back out to retrieve my bike; I saw no need to lock the door because I was only going to be in for less than two minutes.

As soon as I closed the door I noticed that the man was now directly in front of my house. He appeared to be in decent shape and carried himself fairly well, which I even questioned. He looked like someone that could have been my colleague in the Navy. In fact he resembled my drill instructor in boot camp marching smartly in front of me.

In my Hope VI neighborhood in Henson Ridge located in the heart of Congress Heights people do not usually greet each other even on a sunny afternoon in the spring.  However, when I first put money on this plot of land in 2004, I saw pictures of family barbecues, tossing football with Colin and perhaps even a cheerful beagle running around the neighborhood park.

Some have criticized the program for having the right goals but not the right mindset to carry out the plans.  The subdivision that I live in is 24-acres of land once owned by a former slave (Josiah Henson) and more recently consisted of dilapidated buildings and rampant crime (Stanton Terrace).

When the projects was called Stanton Terrace, dealers of crack cocaine called this area home. The projects were infested with rats and roaches and thugs became so brazen they'd go head to head with the MPD. But today, this mixed-income development of well-manicured lawns and tidy townhouses continues to harbor dealers and troublemakers.

Because Hope VI mixes homeowners with renters, there still exists a small but detectable division between both parties.  And recently there have been a rash of burglaries (stolen computers), cars broken into and stray bullets through windows and walls, sometimes within inches of homeowners.

For some reason that night, it maybe because the Nationals just played in a brand new ballpark just ten minutes away. I had just completed a killer workout. So in some ways I felt comfortable. I had been waiting patiently for a several years for the Nationals to call SE their home.

“Hello, how are you doing”, I said. I saw his eyes open in shock and I could see the whites in his eyes as they popped open. He seemed shocked as if saying hi to him was such a alien thing to do.
Personally I was taken back by how forthcoming and friendly I acted. Perhaps I was still riding high from my killer workout or feeling good about the new Nationals stadium.

Then I turned around and proceeded to the back of my house to retrieve my bicycle. I had not even taken one step back before I heard a bellowing voice. I turned around to see the barrel of his gun pointed straight at my face. Then he told me to get down
“Where’s your money at” he hollered, as he proceeded to reach deep down into my pockets. He did not feel my wallet or find any money; instead what he felt was the pad cushions from my bike shorts I wore under my sweatpants. Then he found my keys.
“Don’t move.”
I wriggled in my pants. I did not like anyone touching me, let alone a perfect stranger.
It didn’t matter whether I was about to take my last breadth. I was uncomfortable and my body twitched sharply.
I hated that feeling, even worse than the barrel of his gun against the back of my head.
“Where’s the money at,” he repeated.
“It’s in my car.”
He looked back at my driveway expecting to see a vehicle. He did not know that I had parked on the grass next to my neighbor’s car. I didn’t feel the urge to share.
“You lie. There’s no car parked back there. Now where’s the money at.”
“It’s in my house.”
“Go get it.”
I got up, the barrel of his gun now against my back.
“Raise your arms.”
“My arms raised.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another man walking directly across the street.
I saw him turn his face ever so slightly and then he continued walking as if none of this was a big deal.
Then I went inside with the robber behind me his gun still pressed hard against my back.
Outside, there was a witness who was of no help. Inside, whatever transpired was just between me and the robber.
“Now where is the money at?”
“Don’t turn around, or I’ll blow you away.”
“In my bag. Let me go get it.”
I reached into my briefcase and handed him a wad of cash. A bunch of twenties, some tens, a couple of fives.
“Let me have all that.”
“Run upstairs.”
“I’ll run, but with my briefcase, only.” I turned and for the first time got a good look at the robber.
I grabbed the bag and ran up to my room. Locked the door and called 911 on my cell phone.
Then I quietly ran down. The front door was partially closed. Did the robber run away or was he still lurking inside the house.
“What does he look like?” the dispatcher asked.
“Do you know which direction he headed?”
Questions were asked and questions went through my mind.
Did I do the right thing by not showing him where my car was parked? By taking the robber inside the house. By facing him and insisting that he would not leave with my briefcase.
But the biggest question of all -- why did I have to say Hello to a perfect stranger in the city in the middle of the night something people normally don’t do, something I’ve never done before, and something I would think twice before considering again.
** Lesson Learned: After speaking with investigators and several people in the community, I realized that what I did, although gutsy, was the right thing to do. I knew that there was no one inside my house, and since I did not have any money on me, my intuition told me that this thief wanted some quick cash before he would let me go. I also, once inside the house, informed the thief that I was in the Navy, which I believe alarmed him. Once he took the money, he gave me an opportunity to allow him to escape by ordering me to run upstairs while he proceeded to exit the house. The next day, I immediately changed the locks to my house as well as the locks to my car.
Note: It is still ok to say "Hi" to strangers who walk by your house, even at night. Obviously, use your discretion, and listen to your intuition.


  1. This is the craziest blog post I have read today. You are so lucky. I hope he gets caught.

  2. Cindy, Thanks for the note -- I really appreciate your reading and honesty. Yes, I'm sure he is behind bars by now. And yes, I'm very blessed to still be alive.