Three arrested in brutal August beating of man near Eastern Market
Investigators worked for more than a month to find the people responsible for the robbery and brutal beating of a man at Eastern Market, but it became clear Thursday – when three men were criminally charged in the case – that a key piece of evidence was right in front of D.C. police all along.
The iPhone belonging to Thomas “T.C.” Maslin was among the items officers confiscated when three men were arrested in a separate robbery several hours after the Aug. 18 attack on Mr. Maslin in Southeast, according to court records.
The men – identified as Tommy Branch, 21, Michael Moore, 18, and Sunny Kuti, 17 – were arrested after a robbery in the Dupont Circle neighborhood in Northwest and are now charged with robbery while armed in both cases. They were ordered held without bond Thursday during a D.C. Superior Court appearance.
Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier announced the arrests Wednesday night, saying that the men were charged in the initial case and released back onto the streets while awaiting their trials.
“I can’t say enough about how heartbreaking it is to see that something as simple as a piece of property or a cellphone will cause someone the type of injury and grief that these three individuals have cause the Maslin family,” Chief Lanier said.
Mr. Maslin, a 29-year-old husband and father, suffered severe head trauma when he was struck in the head with a BB gun and beaten to the ground while he walked home from a neighborhood bar to his Eastern Market home, according to information in documents filed in D.C. Superior Court. He remains hospitalized, having undergone four brain surgeries, has no feeling on the right side of his body, cannot walk or feed himself, and has lost sight in his left eye.
He was walking home when the three men spotted him as they drove around the area. Mr. Moore admitted to police that he pushed Mr. Maslin and said that Mr. Kuti, who is charged as an adult, was the one who struck him in the back of the head with what was referred to in court papers as a “fake-me-out BB gun.” Charging documents do not indicate whether a struggle ensued between the men and Mr. Maslin, who said, “All I got is my phone and my card” before he was struck. Mr. Branch then punched Mr. Maslin to the ground and took his cellphone and credit card, according to Mr. Moore’s account of the incident.
The men then tried to use one of Mr. Maslin’s credit cards at an Exxon gas station a short distance away from the 700 block of North Carolina Avenue Southeast where Mr. Maslin was found unconscious the next morning.
Surveillance video from the gas station proved crucial in identifying Mr. Maslin’s attackers. Police released video showing a silver Hyundai Sonata pull up to a gas station and attempt to buy gas at the pump. The car was later identified as belonging to Mr. Branch, who parked the car near his mother’s home in Oxon Hill and stopped driving it for fear of someone recognizing it after the surveillance video was released, court documents state. When police searched the car Wednesday they recovered several items, but court papers did not specify what those items are.
The men were arraigned Thursday, and preliminary hearings are scheduled for Oct. 12. The men’s attorneys could not be reached for comment by phone Thursday.
Preliminary hearings already have been held in the other assault, which did not result in serious injuries to the victim. The men were released under high-intensity supervision, according to court records.
That assault happened at about 3 a.m. in the 1800 block of 18th Street Northwest. Court documents filed in that case state that a man was walking through an alley while texting on his cellphone when he was accosted by Mr. Branch, who tackled him to the ground. The two men struggled, at which point Mr. Kuti again pulled out a BB gun and put it to the man’s head and said, “Try fighting now.” They took the man’s cellphone, and also held up two friends of the victim who walked into the alley to help him.
The robbery victims provided descriptions of their attackers to police, and officers found and arrested them after a short chase.
Among the items recovered from the group of men was Mr. Maslin’s cellphone, which was left in police evidence until Tuesday when investigators got a search warrant to look through the phone.
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