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Suspicious Tags Led to Arrest

Correction Appended

Three people were injured near Capitol Hill Monday morning, after a man fleeing a Capitol Police officer drove into a small bus and tipped it over.

Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said Marquis Johnson led police on a 10-minute chase from near Union Station to the intersection of Second Street and H Street Northwest, ramming into parked cars and the bus in the process.

After driving over a median and hitting more parked cars, he exited his compact sedan and fled on foot, only to be caught by police almost immediately at Second and H streets Northwest, Schneider said.

The driver and two passengers of the bus were taken to the hospital for injuries not considered to be life-threatening. Johnson was arrested and taken to jail, where he was charged with felony fleeing, no valid driving permit, fictitious temporary tag and reckless driving.

The chase began when a Capitol Police officer noticed Johnson’s suspicious tag, which resembled a dealer plate with a piece of cardboard concealing some of the numbers, Schneider said. But when the officer turned on his lights, Johnson allegedly hit the gas and began a four-block, erratic chase.

“Apparently the subject did not want to be stopped,” Schneider said. “We can see why, now knowing the litany of charges against him.”

Indeed, Johnson has an extensive criminal history for his 23 years.

Before Monday, he already had outstanding charges of assaulting a police officer and reckless driving, according to the D.C. Superior Court. He is due in court for those charges next week. In the past, he has been charged several times for carrying an unlicensed gun and was once convicted of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute. He has been in and out of prison during the past few years and was out on probation from a conviction for having an unlicensed gun outside a home or business.

Johnson also was charged with the unauthorized use of a vehicle, but that case was dismissed in 2004. Police do not know if the car that Johnson was driving on Monday was stolen, but it is part of the investigation, Schneider said.

Johnson was sent to the central cellblock on Monday and is expected to have his arraignment hearing today.

Monday’s chase was an unusual event for the Capitol Police; usually the Metropolitan Police Department handles traffic stops in that area, and car chases are rare. But while Capitol Police officers prioritize areas closer to the Capitol, they also patrol a wider jurisdiction. Johnson’s tags stood out to the officer as unusually suspicious, Schneider said.

“The average person is going to properly register the vehicle and make sure everything is in order,” Schneider said. Johnson’s allegedly tampered tag spelled trouble. “That’s where it all began today,” she said.

Correction: March 4, 2008

The article incorrectly noted that the car chase leading to Marquis Johnson’s arrest lasted 10 minutes. The car chase lasted about two minutes; another eight minutes elapsed before Johnson was apprehended.

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