At approximately 12:15 p.m. Friday, August 24th off-duty federal law enforcement officer Xavier Agnelli Lesansky was on his scooter at the corner of Pennsylvania and Potomac Avenues SE only a hundred feet from Harris Teeter. As he waited at a traffic light, three young men approached him and began punching him in an attempt to steal his Vespa.
‘I’m a Police Officer!’
During the assault, Agnelli identified himself as a law enforcement officer.
“I kept yelling, I’m a police officer! Police officer! Stop!” Agnelli said, adding that his attackers only responded, “I don’t give a sh*t!” and yelled at him to release his hold on his Vespa. The suspects continued to assault him before they fled the scene.
The three young men did not succeed in stealing the scooter, but they did seriously injure Officer Agnelli. He suffered blows to the head, multiple internal contusions to his ribs and abdominal area, and cuts and scrapes to his legs and hands.
On Tuesday, MPD announced they had arrested two juvenile suspects in the case, 15-year-old and 17-year-old Southeast residents. A third is still at large.
Agnelli said that he believes more police resources are necessary in the area, including foot patrol and camera surveillance. “MPD is doing the best they can,” he said. “But they have limited resources that the Mayor’s Office is willing to provide to them for everything they have to patrol.” Agnelli wants cameras in the area, located near Potomac Gardens, and has requested a meeting with the Mayor’s office to discuss safety in the area.
MPD First District Commander Morgan Kane said that the First District has sufficient resources and officers patrolling the neighborhood, in addition to the DC Housing Police and their special police officers assigned to the housing facility. “They are highly visible and effective over there,” Kane said.
The two suspects were not residents of Capitol Hill, she added. The case is still under investigation. The suspects were captured by a surveillance camera and can be seen in the photos above.
The assault raises questions about what bystanders should do when they witness such an attack. Agnelli said the jacking took place over about a 3- to 5-minute period as 25-30 spectators watched but did nothing to help as he was assaulted.
Agnelli said that after the assault was over, he learned that two men had called 911 from their vehicles.
“I really needed someone to do something other than call 911,” Agnelli said. “Because unfortunately these things usually happen too quickly for law enforcement to arrive.”
He said even yelling and waving a cell phone would have been helpful. “If someone had just yelled out that that their camera phone was recording them and just yelled out ‘I have you on camera’ or if people yelled at them or really anything it could have broken their concentration and stopped the attack.”
Agnelli said that he hopes his story will motivate other witnesses to a violent attack to do something to help out their neighbors. “Don’t just sit there and watch,” he said. “Do something —whatever you’re comfortable doing.”
“Make the assailant know that they are seen and that the people they are attacking are not alone.”
Kane said that witnesses have intervened in apparent crimes on varying levels, from photographing suspects to actually subduing them, according to their abilities and personal judgment. “But I cannot in good conscience tell someone to intervene, or put someone in a situation where they can’t defend themselves,” she said.
“We always want to focus on being safe. Some folks will feel safe intervening, and some will not,” she said. “To intervene is the role of law enforcement.”
Kane said that at a minimum, she asks witnesses to call 911. “I have always advocated that if you can feel safe taking a video or a photo, please do that,” she said, noting that MPD will also canvas the neighborhood to look for surveillance footage from neighborhood homes and businesses.
Seeking Third Suspect
UPDATE: Police announced Wednesday morning that they had arrested a third suspect, a 19 year-old Northwest man, in the case.
Police still seek information on the third suspect. Anyone who can identify these individuals or who has knowledge of this incident should call police at (202) 727-9099 or text a tip to the Department’s Text Tip Line at 50411.
Crime Solvers of Washington DC currently offers a reward of up to $1,000 to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest and indictment of the person or persons responsible for a crime committed in the District of Columbia.