Tuesday, November 1, 2005

A uniformed Secret Service agent subdued a man who police said slashed at four tourists with a utility knife yesterday morning in Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House.

The attack occurred about 11:20 a.m. in the northeast corner of the park, as hundreds of tourists and others enjoyed the sunny autumn day.

Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren identified the suspect as Stanley Battle and said he was charged with four counts of assault with a deadly weapon and four counts of assault with intent to kill.

A law-enforcement official said Mr. Battle is homeless and appeared to be mentally unstable.

Police said Mr. Battle used a roughly 2-inch-long blade that resembled a pocket knife and slashed at the group of tourists in rapid succession. The attacks appeared to have occurred within a 20-foot area.

Two men were taken to an area hospital, but their injuries were not life-threatening. Another man was treated at the scene for a superficial wound on the arm. A woman had her sleeve cut but was not injured.

A uniformed Secret Service agent on a bicycle was the first to respond to the group’s cries for help. Police said Mr. Battle was taken into custody without incident.

U.S. Park Police officers, who have jurisdiction in Lafayette Square, took Mr. Battle into custody, then transported him to their Anacostia facility in Southeast. Lt. Philip Beck said investigators have no motive for the slashings and that the location — near the White House — appeared to be a coincidence.

“We feel it’s a random thing and it’s not something that’s going to happen all the time,” he said. “It could happen anywhere.”

He said it did not appear that an argument had precipitated the attack.

Police cordoned off the northeast corner of the park for several hours so crime-scene technicians could collect evidence, while tourists and others, including workers on lunch break, continued to fill the park throughout the day.

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