- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2006

Rush-hour commuters on the Capital Beltway yesterday morning were forced to wait more than an hour for the Maryland State Police to wake up two persons inside a stolen car.

Troopers closed the Inner and Outer Loops of the Beltway at the height of the morning rush hour to deal with the slumbering occupants in a stolen Honda Accord. Traffic backed up for several miles and spilled onto the already packed Route 1 and other secondary roads, which blocked intersections more than a mile away.

Motorists said trips from Annapolis and Baltimore took hours, compared to the typical 45 to 50 minutes.

A trooper approached the Honda, on the shoulder of the Inner Loop near the Kenilworth Avenue exit in College Park, about 8 a.m. after learning it had been stolen Aug. 27 in Bladensburg.

Sgt. Russell Newell, a state police spokesman, said the trooper found a man and a woman asleep inside. The car’s hazard lights were blinking, so the trooper called for help because he thought the couple was faking, Sgt. Newell said.

“The pair refused to leave the car, prompting police to block the highway in both directions for fear they were armed,” he said.

Nearly an hour later, troopers dragged the couple from the car and arrested them. Some drugs but no weapons were found, Sgt. Newell said.

Police arrested Donnie Lee Amis, 50, of the District, and Cassandra Albritton, 44, of Mitchellville. They are charged with theft, auto theft, drug possession and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

The stolen Honda yesterday was discovered by a Maryland State Highway Administration worker who patrols the roads looking for stalled vehicles to clear during rush hours. Authorities think the car had run out of gas.

The delay was the second yesterday morning for commuters on the Beltway, or Interstate 495.

The Outer Loop was closed because of a multiple-vehicle accident about 6 a.m. at University Boulevard and reopened about 40 minutes later.

The standoff was similar to one in 2003 in which a disgruntled farmer drove a tractor into a pond at Constitution Gardens on the Mall. Dwight Ware Watson of Whitakers, N.C., told authorities that he had “organophosphate bombs” in a metal box mounted on a trailer he was towing.

The police standoff with the 51-year-old farmer lasted 47 hours — tying up traffic downtown and in Northern Virginia through four rush hours.

During that incident, thousands of commuters were inconvenienced by the closing of Constitution Avenue.

The incident occurred the same day the U.S. Department of Homeland Security raised the terror-threat level to orange, or high, and three days before the start of the war in Iraq.

Another significant traffic tie-up happened in June, when two early-morning accidents — including one involving a carjacked truck being chased by Prince George’s County police — stymied traffic in Northeast for much of the day. Delays stretched into the evening commute, frustrating thousands of commuters.

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