Georgetown doctor, Air Force colonel, says he was attacked by looters

By HANNAH NATANSON | The Washington Post | Published: June 2, 2020

WASHINGTON — Caesar Junker said he was heading out for a nighttime bite of pizza on Sunday when he saw them: more than 100 people in hoodies looting stores with abandon all along M Street, just around the corner from the Georgetown house where he has lived for 30 years.

Junker, a sports medicine doctor and a colonel in the Air Force, spotted police standing nearby, watching but doing nothing. He took out his phone and began filming, not necessarily intending to intervene, but lost his temper when the vandals began targeting Sebago, a footwear store whose owners he has known for years. It was around 11 p.m. on an otherwise balmy and beautiful night in the nation's capital.

"Stop!" he yelled. "What are you doing? What is the purpose of this?"

The vandals, almost all of whom wore masks and looked young, ignored him. Instead, more joined and began breaking into an adjacent sporting goods store, clambering out through the smashed-in windows with all the clothing and shoes they could carry. Junker kept filming, kept yelling at them to stop it. He kept urging the police to step in — and he kept hoping that someone else from the neighborhood would join him and help restore calm.

If enough people in his tightknit community would just stand up and tell the vandals what they were doing was wrong, Junker thought, they'd feel ashamed, remember they were human beings and quit it. He was going to stay outside, he decided, until they did.

There was momentary relief when more police showed up: the flashing lights and siren noises temporarily sent the vandals fleeing. But a few minutes later, without Junker realizing it, the police disappeared. The looters came trickling back. Suddenly, it was just Junker, alone on the street, and six of the looters — four women and two men — had started to pay attention to him.

They advanced and Junker, realizing their intentions, broke into a run. A woman yelled "Get him, get him!" Someone stuck out a leg, and Junker was suddenly sprawled on the pavement as fists and legs pummeled him from all sides. The men seemed especially determined to hit his face, and although Junker tried to repel them, something sharp split open his forehead and someone tore out the cartilage of his ear before Junker could scramble up and get away.

His memory of how he escaped is hazy: All he can really recall are the cries of "Get him!" and the feeling of being bludgeoned against hard concrete.

Adrenaline pumping hard enough to block out the pain, Junker ran toward where he'd last seen police, and eventually his pursuers lost interest and left him alone. He's still not entirely sure why they didn't just beat him to death.

Dazed, with blood streaming down his face, Junker sat in the road directly in front of Georgetown's 7-Eleven for what felt like ages — but was probably five minutes — until his head cleared enough for him to realize he should probably call a friend. Around when he picked up his cellphone, police finally arrived. Junker thinks an observer probably called them, possibly someone watching from the window of their house.

The officers spoke into their walkie-talkies to request an ambulance, gave Junker sanitizing wipes and asked him about the details of the assault. They promised an investigation and said they would phone with results in a couple of days. He told them that he thought the people who had assaulted him were still nearby — but he couldn't positively identify his attackers because they wore masks, so law enforcement officers were unable to arrest anyone, although they interviewed several suspects.

By the time the ambulance arrived, Junker had decided he would rather drive himself to the hospital.

He was released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center around 5 a.m. Monday, after receiving stitches on his forehead and surgery to repair his ear. Still wearing the T-shirt in which he was beaten up, now flecked with blood, he drove home and later dialed into a scheduled 9 a.m. work teleconference call.

Over the course of the day Monday, worried texts and calls poured in from friends and longtime clients. He had told a few people, and word seemed to have spread.

One of his patients, who also lives in the neighborhood, dropped by to bring him quiche and pastries. The owner of a clothing shop around the corner, passing him when he ventured outside around midday to buy lunch, gripped his arm and thanked him. Junker's brother called around 1 p.m.

"I just got back from the hospital," Junker said. "Yeah, I'm OK, man."

But he isn't. Not really. The city feels lawless, he said, and nobody is stepping up. His family and friends have told him he cannot go outside again over the next few nights if he sees more vandalism, but he is torn.

"I just feel like we should do something," Junker said. "It's so wrong to see these things happen."

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