- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
A New Jersey man accused of killing his wife was captured yesterday after a police chase that briefly had him threatening to jump off the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
Prince George's County police got a tip that Jeffrey R. Thomas was at a home in Oxon Hill. Mr. Thomas took off when officers arrived, leading them onto the Capital Beltway, where they said he was weaving all over the road.
Mr. Thomas stopped his car on the inner loop of the bridge, got out and climbed onto a railing.
He held police at bay for about an hour before Cpl. Matthew Barba managed to distract him so other officers could grab him shortly before 2 p.m.
"Today it all ended safely, and we're certainly pleased and proud of that," acting Prince George's County Police Chief Gerald M. Wilson said.
"This gentleman clearly came across as desperate," said Chief Wilson.
"He said, 'Shoot me, I'm not going back to jail'," Cpl. Barba said.
Traffic on the bridge was stopped in both directions for 90 minutes, leading to major traffic jams on the Beltway and nearby roads.
Mr. Thomas, 42, is accused of stabbing to death Pearline Thomas, 41, his wife of seven months. Her body was found earlier this month inside the couple's Hackensack, N.J., home.
Hackensack Police Chief Ken Zisa said an informant tipped authorities that Mr. Thomas was in Prince George's County.
Investigators believed Mr. Thomas was in the Washington area last week. The Bergen County, N.J., prosecutor said that a detective approached a man found sleeping in a car parked at a Fairfax County motel early Thursday. Authorities said Mr. Thomas provided identification, but drove off when the detective returned to his car. Only later did the detective learn he nearly captured a man accused of murder.
Yesterday's Wilson Bridge incident caused far less disruption than a case in 1998, when an Alexandria man threatening to jump off the bridge stopped traffic for 5 hours before police shot him with a beanbag gun and he was forced to jump 75 feet off the bridge into the water.
Many commuters criticized the decision to keep traffic stopped. After the incident, police from Maryland, Virginia and the District met to discuss how to best handle such situations in the future, Alexandria police spokeswoman Amy Bertsch said.
"When you're talking about the apprehension of a murder suspect, it's in everyone's best interest to secure the scene," Miss Bertsch said.


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