September 5, 2018 at 11:50 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Check It vandalism suspect arrested, released
Check It Enterprises, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. police released video of a woman they suspect vandalized Check It Enterprises in Anacostia on Aug. 28. (Photo courtesy of GoFundMe)

D.C. police on Sunday arrested a 24-year-old District woman for an Aug. 28 incident in which she allegedly used a brick to smash the large plate glass window and damage the door of the storefront building in Anacostia occupied by the LGBT youth organization Check It Enterprises while yelling anti-gay insults.

Charging documents filed in D.C. Superior Court show that police charged Dwanna Cobbs, a resident of the 1400 block of T Street, S.E., with destruction of property in connection with the incident.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, told the Washington Blade a judge released Cobbs during a court appearance on Monday, Sept. 3, on the condition that she stay away from the 1900 block of Martin Luther King Ave., S.E., where the Check It building is located.

To the dismay of Ron Moten, Check It’s adviser and longtime mentor to its youth members, Cobbs returned to the area of the Check It building at 1920 Martin Luther King Ave., S.E. around 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, Moten told the Blade.

Moten said he immediately called police. But he said officers who arrived on the scene told him they had no authority to stop Cobbs because D.C. Superior Court records had not yet been updated to show a judge issued a stay away order prohibiting her from coming to the street where the Check It building is located.

However, D.C. Police Lt. Brett Parson, who oversees the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, told the Blade police now have a record of the stay away order and have taken a report from Moten about Cobbs’ violation of the order. Parson said police would notify the court and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the violation and that Cobbs would be arrested again for contempt of court if her whereabouts become known.

An updated police report listed the incident in which Cobbs allegedly smashed the Check It building’s window and damaged its door as a possible anti-LGBT hate crime. The possible hate crime designation was based on an account by a witness who reported hearing the then unidentified woman yelling anti-gay insults while walking away from the Check It building.

Cobbs’ arrest for the Check It vandalism incident followed the release by police of a video of a woman later identified as Cobbs walking toward the Check It building with a brick in hand and striking the window and the building’s front door with the brick.

In a development that has troubled Moten, Court records show that Cobbs was also arrested and released for an unrelated incident in which she allegedly used a brick to smash the front window of a Subway sandwich shop at 3950 Minnesota Ave., N.E. on Wednesday, Aug. 29, one day before she allegedly damaged the Check It building, which is located near the Subway shop.

Court records show Cobbs was arrested at the scene of the Subway incident and charged with destruction of property after someone called police and witnesses identified Cobbs as the person responsible for the damage. The court records show that a judge released Cobbs on Aug. 30, one day after her arrest for the Subway incident and three days before her arrest for the Check It incident.

As of Monday, she was scheduled to appear in court for a status hearing for both arrests on Sept. 19.

Moten, a longtime community activist who serves as an adviser and mentor to Check It’s Youth members, said he was concerned that authorities, including the judges who released Cobbs, may not be arranging for her to receive mental health services that she badly needs. He said people from the neighborhood where the Check It store and offices are located who know Cobbs have told him she has a history of mental health and substance abuse issues.

D.C. Superior Court records show she has been arrested several times on misdemeanor and felony charges since 2012, when she was 18 and first charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle. The records show that between 2012 and 2014 she was charged with multiple probation violations and at one point a judge ordered that she undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

The video released by police shortly before her arrest for the Check It incident shows she was wearing what appeared to be only a large white diaper and a bra-like garment on her upper body.

“My concern is she isn’t getting the care she needs,” said Moten.

Check It members are comprised mostly of LGBT youth of color who formed the organization from what had been known as the Check It street gang. Members, who vowed to end their status as a gang, formed Check It Enterprises with assistance from Moten out of their interest in fashion and building a combination community center and business to produce and sell clothing, including their own line of T-shirts.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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