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On Saturday, D.C. police arrested a person they believe is responsible for spray-painting more than 150 swastikas and other offensive messages throughout Union Station and nearby buildings. Geraldo Pando, 34, an unhoused resident, was arrested on charges of “display of certain emblems and defacing private/public property,” according to MPD. Amtrak Police and MPD are investigating the vandalism at Union Station to see if it’s partially or entirely motivated by hate or bias. The swastika and other graffiti were found the day after International Holocaust Remembrance Day. 

The suspect is believed to have painted the swastika on the station pillars and walls at around 12:45 a.m. Friday. Pando is also suspected of spray-painting the 400 block of L Street NW, 400 block of Massachusetts Avenue NW, and 900 block of 5th Street NW at around 4:25 p.m. that day. D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee said Friday that the suspect may be experiencing some mental health issues.

In Other News …

On Friday, police also arrested an unnamed 17-year-old boy from District Heights for the alleged carjacking of D.C. Council candidate and former shadow representative Nate Fleming. The individual was charged with carrying a pistol without a license, unauthorized use of a vehicle, and possession of an unregistered firearm, according to a MPD’s statement. The suspect was also charged with robbery following an investigation by the MPD’s Carjacking Task Force.  

Youth “disengagement” is in part to blame for the rise of carjackings in D.C. since the pandemic, Fleming said in an interview with WTOP following the arrest. He noted that many D.C. youth don’t have access to the same resources he had growing up, such as the Police Boys and Girls Club.

“Young people aren’t being engaged all day. Young people are not being provided with economic opportunities,” Fleming said. “That, … particularly for young people, and those of lower socioeconomic status as a result of the pandemic, have led to the rise of carjackings.”

Despite overall crime in D.C. falling by 19 percent from 2019 to 2020, there was a 153 percent increase of carjackings in D.C during that time, then another 18 percent increase from 2020 to 2021, according to MPD data in an Axios report. The number of juvenile arrests for carjacking also doubled last year, from 49 juveniles in 2020 to 100 in 2021. 

Carjacking Task Force officials have long cited multiple pandemic-related factors, such as the shift to virtual instruction and less legal accountability due to delays and disruptions in the criminal justice system. Law enforcement officials and youth advocates have also attributed the rise in carjacking arrests among juveniles to an increase in youth isolation, depression, and anxiety during the pandemic. 

The incident occurred on Jan. 15 in the 4200 block of Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue NE. Four masked individuals pulled up while Fleming was returning to his car from inside a gas station. Fleming has since leveraged his experience to discuss his campaign promises, such as investments in youth programs, to help reduce crime in the city. Police are still investigating the other individuals involved in the carjacking.

Ambar Castillo (tips? acastillo@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • To see today’s COVID-19 data, visit our coronavirus tracker.
  • Open enrollment period for D.C. Health Link closes today. [Twitter
  • A 4-year-old girl found alone in Northeast D.C. on Sunday was reunited with family. [WUSA9
  • The D.C. Public Library will rename the auditorium in the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library after Amazon co-founder Jeff Bezos. [DCist]

By Ambar Castillo (tips? acastillo@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • Mayor Muriel Bowser used her Friday newsletter to urge residents to “hold every part of the system accountable” for gun violence in the District. AG Karl Racine (and his preferred candidate for mayor, At-Large Councilman Robert White) accused her of merely passing the buck. [MMB, Twitter, Twitter]
  • Some activists are calling for a new memorial on the site of the Knickerbocker Theatre in Adams Morgan, commemorating a snow-induced disaster 100 years ago. It also happens to be the site of a development some of those same activists have been fighting for years. [Post
  • D.C.’s 911 call center is grappling with a massive staff shortage, officials there warned the Council last week. [WTOP]

By Alex Koma (tips? akoma@washingtoncitypaper.com)

Credit: Lisa Hagen

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