Police Honor Georgetown Student

By Tim Haggerty Hoya Staff Writer

Georgetown student and Burleith resident Michael Johnson (FLL ’00) was honored by District police and the Burleith Citizens Association after his actions helped capture a burglar who had been preying on Burlieth homes. At press time, the D.A. could not reveal any details of the case.

When the man appeared at Johnson’s Burleith home on the morning of Jan.25, he seemed suspicious, Johnson said. According to Johnson, the man was walking around the house and looking into windows. Johnson’s roommate, Terry Rod (COL ’00), went outside and asked what the man was doing, and the man said he was looking for “Mike Johnson.”

Rod then told Johnson someone was looking for him. Johnson did not recognize the stranger, nor did the stranger did recognize Johnson. According to Johnson, the man said, “You are not the Mike Johnson that I was looking for.” He then said that someone else gave him Johnson’s T Street address, Johnson said.

Though he remained suspicious, Johnson ended the conversation and immediately discussed the situation with Rod. At that point, Rod realized that the man had been to the apartment a few weeks ago. At that time, he told Rod that he needed to use the phone. Johnson then realized what the man’s intentions were.

“He was casing the house,” Johnson said. Johnson decided that he needed to do something immediately.

He left the house without a clear intention and with a cellular phone. His first priority was to find the man, who had since disappeared. Johnson thought that he would call the police when he found the man.

Eventually, Johnson spotted the man near Safeway, about 30 minutes later. When Johnson tried to call the police on the cellular phone, the phone did not work. However, the man spotted him, and, angry that Johnson had followed him, approached the student with a brick.

“We then had an altercation,” Johnson said. “It stopped traffic and everything.”

Someone called the police, who arrived within about two minutes, Johnson said. He gave a report and the man was detained.

The police were able to link the man to several Burleith home burglaries thanks to a positive identification in a police line-up, Lt. Tommie Hayes of the District police said. Hayes is the police’s liason with the Burleith community.

At a Burleith Citizens Association meeting, Johnson received an “alert neighbor” plaque and congratulations from the police. However he did not take any of the credit.

“I give all the kudos to them [the police]. They had the presense of mind to make the connection,” said Johnson.

Johnson said that growing up in a rough neighborhood in Chicago allowed him to easily recognize what the burglar was doing. “It’s the basic way they’ll case the joint,” he explained. First, the would-be thief goes through mail or papers or identifying objects to get a name. As they look around, thiefs can claim to be looking for the name they have chosen. He said that some people might call him “streetsmart” for recognizing the burglar’s plan, but growing up in Chicago, in a neighborhood that is “not the best,” it was a way of life to be suspicious, he said.

He said that following the man was necessary. “He backed me into a corner. He showed up at my house, he used my name. I didn’t know what he would do next, and I didn’t want to leave the element of surprise to him.”

He called his tactic a “pre-emptive strike,” in order to “efficiently and expediently handle a situation that I did not ask for.”

Hayes, however, said that Johnson’s actions were dangerous, especially considering the man’s attack with a brick.

Johnson agreed that his actions “might be considered dumb in the overall sense.”

Johnson downplayed the entire situation. “This wouldn’t be a big deal at home or to my friends,” he said. Johnson said he has confronted criminals in the past in Chicago, and if this happened again, he “would have to” do the same thing again.

However, Johnson has not told his mother about his actions or his recognition: “she would be too worried.”

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