String of Assaults on D.C.’s Metro Has Common Thread: Teen Suspects

Marissa Horn, USA Today, February 18, 2016

A recent string of violent attacks in D.C. has officials searching for suspects, following at least eight attacks since late November at Metro stations and bus stops, most involving small gangs of teenagers and young adults.

The most recent attack occurred early Wednesday close to the Rhode Island-Brentwood station on the Red Line when four teens allegedly set off a fire extinguisher and smoke bombs in a Metro car, according to a rider’s Twitter account.

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At least seven assaults took place on Metro lines, while another occurred close to a Metro bus stop.

The first attack happened less than a week before Thanksgiving leaving a 43-year-old Gaithersburg man in the hospital with head trauma. Joseph Cowart and his partner, Calvin Lawrence, 48, were traveling to their home in Gaithersburg Nov. 22 at around 1 a.m. on the Green Line, when Cowart was attacked by as many as a dozen teenagers.

“When I first noticed something was going on, they were taunting [Cowart],” Lawrence said. “The girl hit him in the head and the boys came out of nowhere–I ran in the middle of those 12 kids to help him up and they dispersed.”

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Another attack occurred on Dec. 21 during the evening rush along the Red Line between Union Station and the NoMa-Gallaudet University stops. Lori Kaplan, the wife of the victim, said her husband suffered a broken jaw and traumatic brain injury from the apparent attempted robbery.

Kaplan, senior director of audience insights at NPR, said she and her husband usually met on NoMa’s platform after work, and he had texted her about the group of kids prior to the attack. He has yet to return to work and has not taken the Metro since the attack, Kaplan said.

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But the most recent Metro related attack did not occur on the Metro, but close to a Metro bus stop on Michigan Ave. near Trinity Washington University. University President Patricia McGuire said a female graduate student was attacked by six to eight girls on Feb. 4 at around 6:30 p.m.

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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser recently proposed a bill that would create stricter penalties for those convicted of violent crimes on Metro trains and buses with perpetrators facing 50% more in fines and 50% more jail time. {snip}

But, McGuire said the best way to fix the issue of youth gang violence is start at the root.

“As an educator I want to get out to these kids and teach them a better way to live, instead of them being hauled off to jail,” she said. {snip}

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