Suspect Says He Punched Man Who Asked Him for Money and Insulted Him

Update: The victim in this case has been identified as 57-year-old Benjamin Jennings. This post has been updated with his name.

Frank Lee Branding was released into high-intensity supervision Friday after his arrest Thursday. He is suspected of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the July 6 death of Benjamin Jennings.

Police found Jennings at around 10:06 p.m. unconscious and unresponsive, lying in the road of the 1200 block of Bladensburg Road Northeast. Jennings, identified in court documents as “John Doe,” died a day later at a local hospital, and police believe his death was caused by blunt force trauma to the head.

Charging documents say Blanding punched Jennings twice and drove away after Jennings asked him for money, called him selfish and threatened him with a butter knife.

Hours after the incident, in the early morning of July 7, Blanding told police he was driving a van with three of his friends earlier that night. When the van stopped at a traffic light, Jennings went to the front passenger side vehicle and asked Blanding’s friend for money, Blanding said.

When his friend replied that he didn’t have any money, Jennings walked around the front of the vehicle and asked Blanding for money. Blanding said that he did not have any, and Jennings told Blanding that he was selfish, Blanding said.

Blanding told detectives he was unsure if the traffic signal was green or red at that point, but Jennings continued to tell him he was “stingy.” Then Blanding said he told Jennings that even if he had a dollar, he wouldn’t give it to him.

At this point, the men began exchanging insults and curses, Blanding told police. Then Jennings said something to the effect of, “I’m gonna cut you,” and pulled “a silver knife” with part of the blade exposed from behind his back while standing on the median, according to Blanding.

According to another witness in the van, Jennings showed Blanding his butter knife while the traffic light was green. Instead driving away, Blanding got out of the car and struck Jennings twice in the upper body area with closed fists, the witness said.

Blanding told police he got angry and said something to the effect of, “You’re not gonna cut me?” The two stood face to face, and they insulted each other again.

When Blanding got back into the vehicle, Jennings said, “That’s what I thought.”

Blanding then left the van again and struck Jennings twice in the head, and Jennings fell, hitting his head the ground, Blanding told police. According to Blanding, when Jennings hit the ground, part of his body was on the island and the other part lay in the opposite travel lane.

Blanding said he got back into the van, waited for the light to turn green, and drove off.

A preliminary hearing in this case is scheduled before Judge Lynn Leibowitz on July 31.

Charging documents and a press release from MPD are below.

Arrest Made in Homicide: 1200 Block of Bladensburg Road, Northeast

(Washington, DC) - Detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department’s Homicide Branch have announced an arrest has been made in the homicide which occurred in the 1200 block of Bladensburg Road, Northeast.

On Sunday, July 6, 2014, at approximately 10:06 pm, police officers from the Fifth District responded to a call for an aggravated assault/unconscious person in the 1200 block of Bladensburg Road, Northeast. Upon arrival, they located an adult male unconscious and unresponsive lying in the roadway. DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services personnel transported the victim to a local hospital, where he was listed in critical condition.

On Monday, July 7, 2014, at approximately, 5:45 pm, the victim succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead.

On Tuesday, July 8, 2014, an autopsy was performed on the decedent and determined the cause of death to be blunt force injuries of the head. The manner was ruled a homicide.

The decedent has not been officially identified at the present time.

On Thursday, July 10, 2014, at approximately 4:00 pm, pursuant to a DC Superior Court Arrest Warrant, members of the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force arrested 20 year-old Frank Lee Blanding of District Heights, Maryland charging him with Involuntary Manslaughter in connection to this homicide.

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