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Cat burglar's lives run out.

In 1997, David Washington was convicted for a series of aggravated burglaries in Memphis, Tennessee, and sentenced to 20 years in state prison. Washington was, however, released last February. He soon returned to his life of crime.

On March 11th of this year, Memphis experienced the first of what would become a three-month spree of residential break-ins. The elusive cat burglar would usually enter through a window and then take money, credit cards, purses, and even cars while his victims were sleeping. If confronted by a homeowner, he would flee through the same window through which he had entered. The July 13th Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that while he apparently did not carry a gun, and never attacked his victims, "he scared the daylights out of several."

Police suspected from the start that Washington was the culprit, but it was not until mid-April that one of his victims was able to identify him from a photo spread. The first of what would become a litany of warrants for his arrest was issued a few days later.

"By early June," the Commercial Appeal recalled, "Washington's picture was everywhere: on television, on fliers, in the newspapers. Detectives were combing South Memphis, where Washington had lived briefly with his mother after getting out of prison, and watching his haunts." The area was saturated with police dogs, undercover officers, and aviation surveillance, but to no avail. Even as police searched for him, "Washington kept slipping into homes, sometimes four or five a night. Nothing seemed to faze him."

The Commercial Appeal recounted the experiences of some of the victims. Jerome Morrison recalled: "He came creeping down the hall, and I saw a head stick around the bedroom door. I yelled that I was calling 911.... He scared the hell out of me."

In April, the cat burglar crawled through a window, walked in on a couple having dinner, hastily retreated, and dove out the same window.

A number of victims told police of waking up to find a man hovering over them. On June 3rd, for instance, a sleeping woman heard a noise and woke to find an intruder standing over her. Her boyfriend chased the interloper from the bedroom, down the stairs, and into the kitchen, where the man jumped through a window.

One night in May, the cagey thief was chased from two houses by homeowners armed with guns, only to commit three more break-ins later that night. Detective Daniel Barham of the Memphis Police Department's Burglary Bureau told the Commercial Appeal, "He was unique, the best I've ever seen. To him, it was a job, except it was 9 [p.m.] to 5 a.m. for him." Police eventually tied Washington to at least eight burglaries, attributed another 80 or so to him, and considered him a suspect in as many as 300.

Then, in the wee hours of one June morning, on Friday the 13th no less, Washington's luck ran out. His fatal mistake was breaking into the home of Memphis residents Christopher and Sharon Howard. Mr. Howard, a Memphis Fire Department investigator, grabbed a handgun and confronted the intruder. The two began struggling; and, as they grappled, Mr. Howard shot Washington, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Washington had sundry items stolen hours earlier in other burglaries. The Howards were not injured.

Burglary Bureau Major Billy Garret told the next day's Commercial Appeal, "I hate for someone to lose their life, but for all those innocent victims out there ... they don't have to worry about this particular guy." Detective Barham added, "He was a cat, and he utilized all his lives."

Authorities ruled the shooting a justifiable homicide.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Exercising The Right
Author:Lee, Robert W.
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 25, 2003
Words:610
Previous Article:Intruder subdued.
Next Article:And not a shot was fired.
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