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Police charge man in killing of Ethiopian taxi driver in DC

By Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post

Sometime late Wednesday, a man flagged down a cab, ordered the driver, Tekola Bekele, an immigrant from Ethiopia, to a quiet street, shot him in the back of the head, pulled his body to the pavement and drove away, police said yesterday.

At first, Prince George’s officers had no suspect in the homicide, the county’s 102nd this year, just the body of the cabbie.

But yesterday morning, county police say, an alert patrol officer six miles away spotted a cab matching the description of the one missing from the crime scene. When the officer tried to stop the car in Suitland, the driver fled and a high-speed chase ensued.

With the help of a woman who awoke to the sounds of a man breaking into her home, police caught Christian E. Brooks of Landover in a wooded area nearby.

Brooks, 25, of the 7700 block of Merrick Lane, was wanted on first-degree assault and attempted-murder charges in a recent shooting in the District, police said. He is charged with first-degree murder in Wednesday’s slaying.

Yesterday, cabdrivers and the manager of District Cab Associates, where the taxi driver had worked since 1982, remembered him as a friendly, responsible man who drove his silver 1996 Crown Victoria around Northwest Washington almost every night.

Ariel Emata said Tekola Bekele was the victim, adding that he last saw him Tuesday morning at the company’s Benning Road office, when he stopped by to pay his weekly $48 insurance charge — early, as usual.

“He came in and said, ‘My man, my man,’ ” Emata said. “He called all of us ‘my man, my man’ because he doesn’t know all of our names,” Emata said, chuckling as he recalled his brief visits with Bekele, 53, of Silver Spring.

“Shorty,” as he was known to fellow drivers, had trawled Georgetown and Dupont Circle for fares for more than 25 years.

Emata said Bekele owned his cab and was never required to report where he was working. Prince George’s police say they don’t know where the driver picked up his last customer Wednesday night, but they think the customer was carrying a black and silver semiautomatic handgun when he slid into the back seat. They recovered it when they arrested Brooks and planned to test whether it was used to kill the taxi driver.

Law enforcement sources said that about 11:23 p.m. Wednesday, along the 700 block of Avanti Place, a quiet residential street in Landover not far from FedEx Field, Brooks shot the cabdriver in the head at close range and then left his body on the street. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Prince George’s Officer Patrick Marron spotted the cab six miles away in Suitland and gave chase. According to police, Brooks bailed out of the cab in the 3600 block of Maywood Lane and fled into a wooded area.

About 1 a.m., a 911 call came from a woman who awoke and found a glass panel of her front door shattered. Luckily, she said, the deadbolt held.

“I heard a noise and thought my cats were creating some kind of commotion,” said the woman, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisal. “Honestly, I must have been brain-dead. I didn’t even think about burglary.”

The woman said she thought one of her three cats had gotten outside.

“I was about to go outside, where the guy was,” she said. “It was terrifying. When my brain kicked in, I called 911. ”

It was unclear yesterday whether a public defender had been appointed for Brooks. Attempts to locate family members were unsuccessful.

District and Maryland court records show a number of arrests for Brooks from 2001 to this year on drug and firearm possession, assault and theft counts.

Douglas Wood, an attorney for Brooks when he was acquitted in Prince George’s in May on charges of possessing a handgun, PCP and marijuana, said the case against his client then was weak.

Brooks had been arrested when police responded to a call of someone selling drugs, Wood said. Police did not see the activity but frisked Brooks and found keys to a car in a parking lot nearby. In the glove compartment, which Woods said was searched without a warrant, police found the handgun.

“They took DNA tests from the gun but never bothered testing it,” Wood said.

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