"We are committed to having it be a safe place for all riders, runners, walkers, baby-stroller pushers, and so on.  We encourage people to use the Trail, because the more people who use it, the safer it will be.  We have been very aggressive in trying to make this a safe environment, and I think the near-absence of crime along the Trail speaks to the success of our efforts." Commander Solberg, MPD 5th District (file photo, MPD)

“We are committed to having it be a safe place for all riders, runners, walkers, baby-stroller pushers, and so on… I think the near-absence of crime along the Trail speaks to the success of our efforts.”
-Commander Solberg, MPD 5th District, March 2013(file photo, MPD)

From several area listservs and Eckington NextDoor, a local resident informed others of coming across a man yesterday who had been savagely beaten by a group of teenagers in broad daylight during evening rush hour:

Hi neighbors-
As I was biking home on the Metropolitan Branch Trail today I came across a biker on the trail near R St NE who was severely beaten. Apparently he was beaten by a fairly large group of African American teenagers that I passed on the trail near the bridge near Florida Avenue. Apparently they beat this biker, a Caucasian male who looked to be in his 50s, for no reason. Cops swarmed the scene and took the man to the hospital, and tried to track down the kids but as far as I know they have not been caught. I share this with you to strongly encourage you to use caution on the trail. This incident occurred in broad daylight and the biker did nothing wrong. I spoke with one of the cops at the scene and he says there are incidents on the trail all the time, day and night. I for one will no longer be using the Metropolitan Branch Trail — please stay safe everyone.

Notably, this was not a robbery; the group of teenagers apparently just attacked and beat this man on the trail without any obvious motive other than to beat him.  The Post reports that the man was covered in blood with his eye swollen shut.

According to U.S. Department of Justice Training on Hate Crimes for law enforcement, a violent assault with “no clear economic or other motive”  is one of 8 key indicators of a possible hate crime.  MPD has not yet stated whether it is investigating a possible hate crime, but below is MPD’s response to citizens’ concerns raised to the MPD-5D list to assure people MPD is patrolling:

We are not installing cameras. The Trail is maintained by DDOT and I have not heard of any plans they have for cameras.

Our officers patrol the Trail every day on bikes, segways, foot, and motorcycles. We urge anyone using the Trail to call 911 at the first sign of any potential danger.

Andy Solberg
Commander, 5D

Of note, MPD did not send out an alert on this incident via Twitter or area listservs, and provided the brief statement above only after local residents asked about the attack.  Had a local resident not informed us of this incident, we probably wouldn’t know about it.

But security and safety concerns on the trail are not new, and DDOT did install 3  cameras on the trail a long time ago.  Not that it’s helped; In 2011, an Urban Institute study showed cameras have no effect on crime in DC, and MPD was seemingly unaware of the existing cameras (if they’re still working).  For years, residents have pleaded with police for focused crime reduction on the trail- many assaults or other incidents go unreported, and many that occur aren’t solved.

Just a day before this week’s savage beating, a Ward 5 resident informed local listservs of MPD units zipping on an off the trail to use it as a shortcut rather than patrolling:

yesterday, at aprox. 5:20pm, i followed a police car onto the met brach trail underneath the franklin st. bridge.  i thought someone’s had an accident, etc., but it didn’t put it’s lights on, no siren, nothing.  i followed it all the way to r st., where it turned onto the road & proceeded away from the trail.  i stayed right behind it the entire way & we were going 20 mph (according to my computer) & it barely slowed down to pass a motorized wheelchair which had stopped next to 2 young girls on bikes.

is this a good idea?  i’m still a little flummoxed as to why it was there.  is this trail now considered a “short cut” by the mpd to get to where they’d like to go?  it didn’t make any sense, since again, no lights, no sirens, to announce it’s presence.

And, of course, we reported earlier this year of a police sergeant warning residents to not use the trail alone and that the city refused to make repairs to ensure security.  Afterwards, MPD said it was a communications misunderstanding, and reassured us that “the near-absence of crime along the Trail speaks to the success of our efforts.”


UPDATE: MPD released the following more than 20 hours after the incident:

Fifth Police District Detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department are aggressively investigating the aggravated assault of an adult male that occurred along the Bike Trail, 300 R St NE within Patrol Service Area 502.

On June 11, 2013 at approximately 5:35 PM, Fifth District Patrol Officers responded to the Metropolitan Branch Trail just east of the 300 block of R Street NE for the report of an aggravated assault. On the scene, they met with the complainant, who advised that he was biking along the path when he was struck multiple times by a male suspect, who then fled southbound on the trail with a large group of juvenile subjects. Nothing was requested or taken from our complainant and we do not believe that Robbery was a motive.

Fifth Police District Detectives are relentlessly following up on all leads and evidence in this unprovoked attack and ask that anyone who believes they know the identity of the male suspect involved or members of the group of young people he was with to contact the Metropolitan Police Department on 202-727-9099 immediately.

Based upon this offense, we have received a number of questions concerning the MBT. Allow us to address your concerns here.

1) MPD has continuously patrolled the MBT on foot, mountain bike and on Segway’s.

2) The majority of folks who utilize the MBT have felt comfortable on the Trail and in/around the neighborhoods leading to the Trail and we encourage users to continue to use it. It is safe.

3) This was an unprovoked assault by a lone individual and not a pattern connected to other criminal offenses that were reported to MPD

4) We are committed to exploring every investigative lead in bring this offender(s) to justice