A man working at a campus construction site last week allegedly assaulted and threatened the life of a Mount Vernon shuttle bus driver, according to a police report and interviews Wednesday.
James McCartney allegedly propositioned and, upon being rejected, struck the 25-year-old female bus driver early Friday morning, a Metropolitan Police Department report stated. The incident took place near the Marvin Center, a block north from where the mason worked on TONIC Restaurant, at 21st and G streets. University officials said the food venue, which was originally slated to open in January, should have construction completed by month’s end.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia has not indicted McCartney and does not have a case against him, as of Wednesday afternoon. MPD District 2 Commander Andrew Solberg said the suspect was arrested on charges of simple assault and felony threat.
Steve Rogers, the site supervisor for American Professional Masonry, said McCartney – whom coworkers knew as “Santiago” – wasn’t a full employee and that his only day working on campus was the day he was arrested.
“He’s like a day-labor kind of guy that you get from a 7-11,” Rogers said. “We use them because there was something we were trying to get up (quickly) … We’ll never use him again.”
He added that it’s a “common practice” to use day-laborers at construction sites throughout D.C., including at GW. Every worker the masonry company uses has to provide state-issued identification and a Social Security card, Rogers said.
The MPD report gave the following account of Friday’s incident: The victim went into her bus to evade the suspect, but he followed her inside and aggressively pushed her. When McCartney saw the victim attempting to call the police on her cell phone, he knocked the phone out of her hand, pushed her and said he’d kill her if she spoke to the police. The suspect left the victim, who sustained no injuries, and exited the bus.
Police officers apprehended McCartney on 21st and F streets after his description was broadcast over the radio. MPD transported him to the Second District station for processing before he went to the main jail downtown.
The victim’s name is being withheld per a Hatchet policy of protecting those reporting assault. The victim and her supervisor at International Limousine Company, which operates the Vern Express, both declined to comment. McCartney could not be reached for comment, and a telephone message left at a home listed under his name went unanswered as of press time.
The head of the company McCartney worked for on Friday said he was shocked by the news of the alleged assault.
“That’s hard to believe,” said Dave Myers, president of American Professional Masonry. “I’m not saying it’s not true; it’s just hard to imagine someone (doing) something like that.”
The foremen usually know most of the day-laborers the business hires, Myers said. He added that he will tell Rogers, the supervisor for work at TONIC, to only take on people he is familiar with.
Administrators are examining GW’s policies with contractors in light of the reported assault, said Matt Lindsay, assistant director of Media Relations. He said the University requires contractors to comply with federal and local laws but wasn’t sure if any were broken in this case.
Lindsay added that the situation didn’t escalate because of the police’s response, but that officials are “always reassessing needs and concerns” about campus safety.
Several students interviewed Wednesday said the reported assault in the heart of campus made them uneasy.
Rajiv Choudhry, a master’s student in the law school, said that hiring day-laborers for University construction is dangerous.
“Obviously the practice is not safe. The employers over here should have looked into the background of the person before having (him),” Choudhry said. “Just picking up a person off the street and asking him to work for the day and then whatever he does, they are responsible for that.”
He added that although he doesn’t feel completely safe, UPD is doing what it can to patrol Foggy Bottom.
It seems that there is more violent crime on campus, senior Chelsea Pritchard said. “It’s surprising and a little scary … It’s not something we’re used to really seeing.”
-Eric Roper contributed to this report.
This article appeared in the April 12, 2007 issue of the Hatchet.