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A man was pronounced dead at MedStar Washington Hospital Center early Sunday after being found “unconscious and not breathing” in a wheelchair on the 3500 block of 14th Street NW, the Metropolitan Police Department confirms.
Columbia Heights resident Marian Currinder was walking her two dogs shortly before 7 a.m. when she came across the shoeless man “slumped over the side of his wheelchair” with a blanket draped over him outside women’s clothing store Chickas, between Parkwood Place and Perry Place NW. Alarmed by his appearance at the early-morning hour and in 30-degree temperatures, Currinder says she shook the man, who appeared to be African American and about 60, on the shoulder and spoke to him. She didn’t recognize him but recalls that he was wearing blue hospital pants.
When he didn’t respond, Currinder says she asked a man and a separate group of women nearby for help, as she had forgotten her cell phone at home. They demurred, so she hurried back to her house and dialed 911.
A spokesman for D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services says the agency got a call for a patient at 7:08 a.m. An MPD death report for a “man down” corroborates the incident. The report says the man was pronounced dead at 9:01 a.m. A spokeswoman for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner says the cause of death has not been ruled and “it will likely take several weeks” for additional testing to occur. Currinder notes that a detective told her later Sunday the unidentified man died of hypothermia.
“I hope he knows someone tried to help him,” she says, still shaken by the incident. “It’s just a horrible way to die. No one deserves to die like that.”
After calling 911, Currinder bolted back to the scene and saw that an ambulance and a firetruck had already arrived. Responders were performing CPR on the man, who had been placed on the ground, his shirt removed and a “suction tube” down his throat. Then the ambulance transported the man to the hospital. Currinder says the detective told her the man did not have identification on him.
“There was just something about this guy, as soon as I saw him, the position he was in … he wasn’t just drunk or under the influence of drugs,” she says. “I’m used to seeing passed out people, but I’ve never seen a dead person like that.
“People say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to get involved,'” Currinder continues. “It’s not getting involved like going to court or anything like that. It doesn’t take much time out of your day to check on somebody. How can we just walk past people on the street who are in need, or dead, and just kind of go on with our days, and not even see?”
This post has been updated with comment from OCME.