D.C. hammer-attack suspect has history of mental health problems

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A 19-year-old man charged with two hammer attacks in Petworth, and now a similar attack that killed a tourist, has a history of mental illness and inquired multiple times about obtaining a gun in the week before the series of assaults, according to court documents filed Thursday.

Michael W. Davis, younger brother of two professional football players, was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder in the death of 66-year-old Denver tourist Gary Dederichs. Police found Dederichs dead in an alley in the 800 block of Emerson Street Northwest on April 24. He suffered blunt-force trauma to the head and investigators said his injuries were consistent with injuries from a hammer.

Linking Mr. Davis to Dederichs‘ killing is one witness who said he spoke to Mr. Davis near the alley where Dederichs body was found, according to a sworn police affidavit filed in D.C. Superior Court. The witness saw Mr. Davis walk into the alley holding a white plastic grocery bag with an unknown object inside. About 15 minutes later, the witness walked into the alley and saw Dederichs unconscious and bleeding on the ground. The witness told police that they did not hear any yelling come from the alley and also saw a vehicle pull into the alley about 15 minutes before he talked to Mr. Davis.

The same witness also told police that Mr. Davis repeatedly had asked about obtaining a gun in the week before the series of hammer attacks began and that Mr. Davis had a history of mental illness and PCP use.

An application for Mr. Davis‘ emergency hospitalization from 2011 states that Mr. Davis was tentatively diagnosed with schizophrenia and was having trouble caring for himself and taking medication. According to the evaluation, filed in D.C. Superior Court, Mr. Davis was “having auditory and visual hallucinations” and “his teachers and his parent are both afraid of him.”

The day after Mr. Davis was arrested, a woman whom several people in the neighborhood identified as his mother said that “Mike” might have forgotten to “take his shot.”

Police arrested Mr. Davis on April 26 as officers patrolled the Petworth neighborhood in response to a series of attacks, which all occurred within a 10-block radius and close to Mr. Davis‘ home in the 900 block of Emerson Street Northwest. A woman had just been attacked and police said they chased Mr. Davis from the scene and recovered a hammer from inside a bag that Mr. Davis dropped as he ran from officers.

Five people were attacked and struck in the head as they walked alone in the area over a three-day period. At this time, Mr. Davis has been charged in three of the attacks.

A mental evaluation hearing is scheduled for Friday to determine if Mr. Davis is competent to stand trial in the cases.

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