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Man robbed on Capitol Hill was struck with BB gun

Sunday - 8/19/2012, 12:37pm  ET

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The block where Thomas Maslin was found. (Max Smith/WTOP)
By ERIC TUCKER
Associated Press

WASHINGTON - A man assaulted in Washington's Capitol Hill neighborhood last month was struck with a BB gun, punched to the ground and robbed of his credit card and cellphone, according to court papers filed Thursday that charge three people in the attack and that credit a citizen's tip with helping to crack the case.

The three suspects are also accused of robbing two other men in a separate neighborhood hours after attacking Thomas Maslin, who was assaulted near Eastern Market while on his way home from a bar after attending a Washington Nationals game with friends, police said. Authorities recovered Maslin's cellphone after that second robbery, but it was difficult to trace because the battery was dead and the "SIM card" _ a chip that identifies a phone to a wireless network _ had been removed, said Chief Cathy Lanier.

The robbery, shortly after midnight on Aug. 18, stoked neighborhood concerns in a bustling retail and residential area seen as family-friendly and generally safe. It also left Maslin, who was found unconscious eight hours later on the front porch of a Capitol Hill row house, with severe injuries: The married father of a young child was in a coma for at least six days, has undergone multiple brain surgeries, is blind in his left eye and remains unable to walk or feed himself, police said.

Police on Wednesday announced the arrests of 18-year-old Michael Moore of Landover, Md., 21-year-old Tommy Tyrone Branch of Fort Washington, Md., and Sunny Kuti, a 17-year-old who is being prosecuted as an adult. Lawyers for Moore, Branch and Kuti didn't immediately return phone calls seeking comment from The Associated Press. They were ordered held without bond following an appearance Thursday in D.C. Superior Court.

Maslin was walking by himself near Eastern Market when the three suspects confronted him. Kuti pulled out a "fake-me-out" BB gun and struck Maslin with it, while Branch punched him to the ground and took his cellphone and credit card, according to an account Moore gave to the police.

Detectives released surveillance video from an Exxon gas station where Maslin's credit card was unsuccessfully used just after he was assaulted. Last week, an unidentified tipster came forward with information that a Hyundai Sonata featured in the video belonged to Branch. Police found the same car this week in a parking lot near Branch's home and searched it. Branch and Moore admitted their roles in the assault during questioning this week, police affidavits say, and they were arrested along with Kuti.

About three hours after Maslin was attacked, the same suspects were arrested on charges of assaulting and robbing two other men in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. Police say the suspects were carrying the belongings of those two men when they were arrested, plus a black iPhone that didn't belong to any of them. Police obtained a search warrant for the phone and were able to determine that it belonged to Maslin.

"This case is one that is typically the most difficult to solve; no witnesses, no physical evidence on the scene, and no ability to interview the victim to gain additional information," Lanier said in a statement. "I am thankful that we brought this case to closure."

The three suspects were charged with armed robbery for the second assault but were released by a judge into a high-intensity supervision program.


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)