Car abandoned in D.C. rush hour lanes near embassy took a week to tow
Yet for a big sedan resting unattended in the nation's capital less than a mile from the White House and directly outside the building housing the Embassy of Djibouti it did not seem to be attracting keen official attention.
I'd been passing the Marquis every morning headed to the newsroom and every night headed back out and on Tuesday my curiosity finally got the better of me.
On the passenger side back seat, was a sheaf of papers and a diagram for what was titled "Petroleum Terminal Tank Farm Complex." A crumbled potato chip bag, a lone CD and an empty packet of Marlboro Lights were up front.
Nothing damning but enough to pique interest, I would have thought. And certainly enough to track the car.
The car faced southbound in lanes that all run northbound on 15th Street at evening rush hour on a busy commuter route, and for those of you who have been trapped in slogs home, that wrong-way car in the 1100 block of 15th has not been your friend. For a time, it had been snuggled up against a mountain of curb-side snow, but that mound had been cleared and in fine D.C. fashion, drivers eager to snag metered parking spaces had taken to driving around the marooned sedan and backing up into the parking spaces it was blocking.
Now the four-door with Texas tags sat as a giant, unmoving, unlit hulk in the middle of a major street in the middle of what I'd have thought was a spot where security would be heightened: big car, embassy, White House nearby.
Three parking tickets fluttered under the wiper: each from around 6 p.m. on Feb. 16, Feb. 17, Feb. 18. Each said a tow had been requested. Each carried a $100 fine.
It took one phone call to Fort Lee to get in touch with First Lt. Mohammad AlRomayan of Saudi Arabia's National Guard, whose car it is and whose name appeared on that base parking passon the dashboard.
He had reported his car stolen to District police on Feb. 13, he said and had a form and tracking number. He'd come to the District from Fort Lee, about 35 miles south of Richmond, where he is training at the quartermaster school. He had been shopping near 13th and M Streets NW and thought he'd been towed when he came back and couldn't locate his car, he said. He called the numbers listed on parking signs, he said, and when he had no luck, filed a stolen car report.
The fuel tank diagram, he said, was his and was something his class at Fort Lee studied as part of quartermaster training, which focuses on supply operations.
Mine was the first call he had about his car, he said Tuesday afternoon. "You have seen my car? Can you tell me where it is?"
In the middle of a downtown street.
"It is? I do not know your processes but would not someone call if that is so?"
His was a more elegant version of my question, which I then put to Assistant Chief Patrick Burke, who heads the Metropolitan Police Department's Homeland Security Bureau, and to Linda Grant, spokeswoman for the District's Department of Public Works.
Burke said he "would have to review" what happened and had put out calls on the car and its handling. "We do train both public and private sector on suspicious activity, and they may have run this for stolen or called it in - I would have to review," he said by email.
After the tow, Grant issued a formal statement. The bottom line: the department "acknowledges" someone in parking control did not follow procedures for contacting towing services and the incident would be used in future training. The department tows about 50 vehicles a day during rush hour, the statement said.
Nothing about threat assessment..
For his part, AlRomayan was driving with friends to D.C. on Wednesday afternoon to fetch his car.
-- Mary Pat Flaherty
Mary Pat Flaherty
February 25, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Mary Pat Flaherty , The District
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