Investigation Underway Regarding Death

by Donald Whitehead

Though death is a reality for all that are born in the world, sometimes it seems that by some act of kindness, it could have just possibly been prevented. The nightmare of day-to-day existence for homeless individuals in this country is even scarier in the winter. The winter brings new demons to deal with and new dangers to avoid. Sometimes those demons catch up and the dangers are unavoidable.

On one evening in December, Mr. Ottoway Washington was discovered unconscious and bleeding in an alley by a security guard at Tender Mercies, a transitional housing facility for homeless individuals suffering from mental illness. The security guard flagged down a police car and informed an officer of Mr. Washington’s situation. The officer proceeded on his way, promising to check out the situation. Several hours later the security guard, making his rounds again, was shocked to find Mr. Washington lying in the exact same place in the exact same position. There was one difference, however; this time Mr. Washington was dead.

Mr. Washington’s death seems to have been, to say the least, preventable. The Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless has asked the Cincinnati City Council and the Safety Director for a full-scale investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Washington’s death and the conduct of the officer that received the report on his condition.

Our office received a response from Mayor Roxanne Qualls promising that our request for a full-scale investigation would be honored. At press time calls to the safety Director’s office were answered with information stating that the investigation was being handled by the internal investigations unit. More information will be provided in a future edition of the Homeless Grapevine.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published January – February 1997 Issue 19