- The Washington Times - Monday, May 19, 2003

The Metropolitan Police Department’s handling of someone’s firing shots outside a Metro Transit Police officer’s Northeast home has spurred Brookland and Woodridge residents to protest what they say is police mismanagement in their neighborhoods.

Residents, still reeling from the unsolved triple murder of three workers at Colonel Brooks Tavern April 6, plan to hold a candlelight vigil at 8 tonight. The vigil will be held outside the home of Metro Transit Police Capt. William Malone and his girlfriend, Sandy Nelson.

Last month, a gunman fired six high-caliber rounds into Capt. Malone’s 1987 Chevrolet Blazer parked in front of the couple’s $270,000 home in the 3600 block of 20th Street NE. The shooting occurred two months after Capt. Malone, 49, and Miss Nelson, 29, moved into their home. The gunman remains at large.

Regina James, an advisory neighborhood commissioner, called the latest shooting and the subsequent investigation “appalling.”

“It leaves us wondering, if this can happen to them, what can happen to us?” she said. “If they can’t get the help they need, how is an average citizen going to get it?”

The latest shooting wasn’t the first time a police officer’s family members were targets. Deborah Rosario, the wife of 5th District Master Patrol Officer Fred Rosario, was shot at in December 2000 as she and her 3-year-old son stood outside their house, which is 2- miles from Capt. Malone’s home.

She was shot at two days after she provided grand jury testimony in a homicide case. According to an investigative report obtained by The Washington Times, police officials downgraded the shooting to an “incident” three days after it occurred and closed the case.

Mrs. Rosario said she gave up pursuing the case. She provided a description of the shooter and said she sees the man in the neighborhood. She is scheduled to speak at tonight’s vigil.

Capt. Malone and Miss Nelson believe that the April 23 shooting was part of an ongoing attempt by neighborhood drug-dealing suspects to intimidate them. Three weeks before the shooting, Capt. Malone confronted several young men at a nearby house about racing motorcycles on the narrow street. Neighbors said the house where the young men congregate is notorious for drug dealing.

Miss Nelson, who works at home, said young men pace in front of her home and look through her windows while Capt. Malone is at work. She said she saw one young man write down her address.

“I was scared to death,” Miss Nelson said. “We hadn’t even lived there long enough to have shades on the windows. I felt like there was nowhere to hide.”

Capt. Essray Taliaferro, an assistant 5th District commander, visited Capt. Malone and Miss Nelson at their house April 2 and assured them he would issue a “special attention” bulletin at roll calls alerting patrol officers that a police officer living in the neighborhood was being harassed.

But that bulletin didn’t seem to work. Three weeks later, on April 23, Miss Nelson said she heard a series of gunshots fired outside her home at 11 p.m.

She called 911. That night, police officers told her they didn’t receive a warning from their supervisors that the couple was being harassed. They also told her they didn’t know that a police officer was living at the house.

A subsequent canvass of Capt. Malone’s neighborhood assessed the threat level to the transit officer as “high.” As a result, the detective who conducted the assessment offered the couple a spot in the witness-protection program. But three days later, without warning or explanation, the protective detail that watched the couple’s home was canceled.

Two weeks passed before Capt. Malone and Miss Nelson got in contact with a detective assigned to their case.

During a telephone conversation, assistant Fifth District commander Capt. Sonya Owens told Capt. Malone that his actions had upset police efforts in their neighborhood and that they were upsetting residents.

Frustrated by the lack of responsiveness and Capt. Owens’ “inappropriate” comments, Capt. Malone and Miss Nelson filed three complaints detailing the handling of the case.

Capt. Malone confirmed the accounts, but declined to comment for this story.

The day after the couple filed the complaints, Executive Assistant Police Chief Michael Fitzgerald spoke with Capt. Malone at a community meeting and set up another meeting with the couple to talk about the police investigation and their complaints.

According to a May 7 complaint, when Chief Fitzgerald left the community meeting, Capt. Malone said Capt. Taliaferro backed him against the wall in a hallway outside the room where the meeting took place. The complaint also stated that Capt. Taliaferro berated Capt. Malone for filing the complaints while Capt. Owens stood nearby.

Capt. Taliaferro did not return a telephone message seeking comment.

In a telephone interview, Capt. Owens said she attended the meeting but did not witness the confrontation. Other residents who attended the meeting said they heard a commotion in the hallway but did not see what had happened.

Fifth District Cmdr. Jennifer Greene, who also attended the meeting, could not be reached for comment, but police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile said the complaints are being addressed.

“The department, as it does in other cases of complaints by a citizen, will conduct a complete and thorough investigation and take what, if any, disciplinary action may be required,” Sgt. Gentile said.

Miss Nelson praised the patrol officers who provided protection, but said she wants Capt. Taliaferro and Capt. Owens transferred to another section until the investigation is complete.

Detectives identified Dominick Flowers, 18, of Northeast, as a suspect in the shooting, four days after making contact with Capt. Malone and Miss Nelson. Police say Mr. Flowers remains at large. Miss Nelson, however, said she has seen him at least once riding a motorcycle in her neighborhood since a warrant for his arrest was issued.

Community activists, some of whom are organizing tonight’s vigil, have long complained about a lack of police presence in their neighborhood. They said well-known pockets of drug activity have led to a series of homicides and armed robberies in recent years.

Neighbors said the vigil will also show the residents’ appreciation for the officers who live among them.

“Drug activity has had command of this community for a while,” said Joseph Dorsey, who has lived in the house next door to Capt. Malone and Miss Nelson for more than 30 years. “When we found out [Capt. Malone] was a police officer, it was one of those ‘hallelujah’ days.”

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