Police charge 5 for string of robberies, sex assaults on Washington’s National Mall since May
WASHINGTON – U.S. Park Police have charged five people in a string of violent attacks on tourists near national landmarks, authorities said Friday, crimes that prompted police in the nation’s capital to declare a citywide crime emergency.The suspects, who were arrested over the past two weeks, are accused of taking part in five different attacks on three nights in May and July. Authorities said they stole cell phones, cash, credit cards and other items from victims, and a 17-year-old girl said she was raped during a robbery in a dark corner of the National Mall.Working in groups of two or three, officials said the suspects chose dark spots at night on the heavily visited Mall, a broad expanse of grass and trees that stretches from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, bordered by museums with the Washington Monument in the middle.Wielding a gun, they forced their victims, including a family with two children, to the ground before robbing them, authorities said. In several cases, women were groped, according to charging documents filed in D.C. Superior Court.”These five young men targeted our National Mall as a hunting ground for victims,” said Kenneth Wainstein, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.Park Police arrested Zachary Bright, 19, Ryan Newman Jr., 17, Trayvon Thomas, 18, Michael Bright, 16, and Marcus Brown, 22. All five are from Washington, and the Brights are cousins.According to court documents, Thomas pleaded guilty Aug. 7 to charges that include sexual abuse for a rape on May 27, robbery and other offenses. He could be sentenced to 120 years in prison.Also, three other men were charged with conspiracy to commit theft for using credit cards stolen in the robberies.An attorney for Michael Bright declined to discuss the case. Attorneys for the other suspects could not be reached Friday afternoon.Officials said they believe they arrested all of those involved in the attacks.”The Mall is safe,” said Dwight Pettiford, park police chief.U.S. Capitol Police joined park police for stepped up patrols last month following the Mall attacks, a measure that will last until September, Pettiford said.In response to the Mall assaults, along with murders in Georgetown and other parts of the city, District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey declared a crime emergency July 12. The declaration, which allows commanders greater flexibility in assigning officers to high-crime areas, remains in effect.