City police make big arrests, stop a threat and have a picnic

PHOTO: Suspects Larlane L. Brown and Hussain Ali Zadeh, left, are charged with murdering Cecil Brown, right. Photos provided by Takoma Park Police Dept.

There have been a number of noteworthy police actions lately.

Two suspects were arrested May 28 in the Cecil Brown murder case. Brown, 73, was found in his Colby Avenue backyard August 4, 2014, slain by blunt force trauma.

Brown’s widow Larlane L. Brown, 68, and her alleged lover Hussain Ali Zadeh, 49, were both arrested at Baltimore Washington International Airport. Both are Takoma Park residents. Zadeh was detained at customs after returning from Jamaica and handed over to Takoma Park Police. Brown, who was there to pick up Zadeh, was also taken into custody at the airport.

They were each charged with first degree murder and conspiracy to commit first degree murder.

The arrests followed an investigation police characterized as “exhaustive.” Takoma Park police detectives combed records found in the home and on cell phones and computers. At a June 2 press conference State’s Attorney John McCarthy said suspect Brown had allegedly used her computer to research methods to kill someone, including use of a stun-gun. Once police had identified the suspects and developed their case they had to wait, keeping mum until Zadeh returned to the United States.

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Colby Avenue, Takoma Park, MD where the killing occurred August, 2014 is a quiet cul-de-sac a block south of Sligo Creek Parkway. Photo by Bill Brown

Takoma Park Police Chief Alan Goldberg told the city council June 1 that it had been difficult knowing who the suspects were but not being able to reveal them publicly, especially when trying to calm the anxious Colby Avenue neighborhood. He repeatedly told the public that while he couldn’t discuss the investigation he could assure the community that they were not in danger. He made that assurance at a Colby Avenue neighborhood meeting – which was attended by Larlane Brown, whom he knew to be a suspect. She got up and left the meeting shortly afterward, he said.

The two will be arraigned June 28. Bond was set for Larlane Brown at $5 million. Zadeh’s bond was set at $3 million.

Knife-wielding man threatens officers

There was another dramatic incident two days after that arrest.

May 31, around 9:30 PM, a Takoma Park Police officers had just made a traffic stop, when he noticed a man causing a disturbance across the street. He was on the 7600 block of New Hampshire Avenue. The man, Felenciano Sanchez, crossed the street and approached police officers.

A bystander shouted to the officers that Sanchez had a knife. The officer ordered Sanchez to stop. But Sanchez advanced, yelling at the officer. The police account says Sanchez yelled in Spanish, “matalo,” which according to the account means “kill him,” and “matame,” which means “kill me.”

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Felenciano Sanchez. Photo provided by Takoma Park Police Dept.

Police say the officer observed Sanchez holding an opened black folding knife with a 4 inch blade. The officer drew his firearm and ordered Sanchez to drop the knife. Sanchez, say police, ignored him and kept walking towards the officer with the knife.

Another officer also drew her weapon and commanded Sanchez to drop the knife. Eventually, say police, Sanchez dropped it but he would not move away from the knife when told to do so. Sanchez took a step towards the officer, so the officer, who had tactical training in such moves, knocked him down with one kick to the torso. Once on the ground Sanchez was handcuffed and taken into custody.

The report says Sanchez began complaining of stomach and chest pain an hour later. Fire and Rescue were called to the scene, but he declined to be hospitalized. Later, however, when the county detention center would not admit him because his body temperature was too high, he was taken to a hospital for treatment. Early the next day he was released from the hospital and processed without incident.

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Alan Goldberg, Takoma Park Police Chief. Photo by Takoma Park Police Department.

It’s not all arrests and karate kicks

Sometimes it’s a picnic – in the middle of an outdoor illegal drug market.

Drug dealers do their business outside 636 Houston Ave, Takoma Park, Md, said Chief Goldberg. Dealers live in the building and in the neighborhood, intimidating the other residents and making parents fearful their children will be recruited to run drugs.

So, Goldberg told the city council June 1, his officers had the idea to host a picnic event Friday evening, May 29. The police brought hamburgers and hot dogs, games, face painting, victim information, tip line information, litter clean-up information, prescription drug take back and a bike safety class. The county fire and rescue department brought a fire truck and ambulance – which was a big hit with the children, said the police. The Washington Adventist Hospital was also on hand to conduct blood pressure and carbon monoxide screening.

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Facepainting at the Houston Avenue event. Photo provided by Takoma Park Police Dept.

No picnic

Police work may be action-packed some of the time, but it all comes down to the paperwork.

The Takoma Park Police 2014 Annual Report was released June 2.

The report says crime rates were similar in most categories. There was 1 homicide each year, 2 rapes in 2013, 3 in 2014. Robberies (36/35), assaults (20/17) and burglaries 125/125) were about the same, but larceny increased by over a hundred from 302 in 2013 to 430 in 2014. Auto thefts were up from 42 to 53. In total the crimes added up to 528 in 2013 and 664 in 2014, a 26% rise.

Some of that rise may be due to residents’ increased reporting, encouraged by the police, of theft-from-auto crimes, says the report.

The police “saw a pattern emerge where a small group of criminals affiliated with a street gang quartered outside the City of Takoma Park, were linked to at least 19 of the more serious cases and suspected of many others.”

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Electronics, computers and cell phones are still thieves’ “in-demand items,” the report says. Photo by Bill Brown.

In the report Police Chief Alan Goldberg says that “cross border communication remains one of my highest priorities.”

He notes that “police agencies across the nation have been the subject of criticism from the press and others. It is a difficult time for our officers in this nation.”

He says “Calls for police reform and use of body worn cameras by officers have become the rage.” and the city police have begun a pilot body camera program. They are also beginning a Police Explorer Program and participating in the city’s summer jobs program.

“The Takoma Park Police is proud that they received high Resident Survey scores from the diverse population of the city. But we cannot sit on our laurels and must continue to build partnerships and trust with our constituents,” said the Chief Goldberg.