Man found dead in ventilation shaft most likely fell, D.C. police chief says

January 3, 2013

A Maryland man who was found dead 50 feet down a ventilation shaft after celebrating New Year’s Eve with friends in Adams Morgan most likely died in an accident, District police said Thursday.

“It appeared that he fell,” D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said. Earlier, police said in a statement there appeared to be no sign of foul play.

The discovery of Michael Steven Poe’s body on Wednesday night ended a frantic search by his parents and friends who blanketed Adams Morgan, Woodley Park and other neighborhoods in Northwest Washington with yellow fliers.

A resident of the 1800 block of Biltmore Street, just off Columbia Road and steps from the trendy entertainment district Poe had been patronizing with friends, recognized the missing man from a flier as a man she had seen walking along rooftops early Tuesday morning.

That led the woman and police to the body near the bottom of a wide duct that runs between a strip of four-story townhouses with common roofs and an apartment building at the end of the block.


Michael Poe

D.C. police said that Poe, 23, of Clarksburg in Montgomery County, was pronounced dead on the scene.

Authorities are awaiting an autopsy to determine a cause of death and are trying to learn how he ended up in the shaft, which measures roughly four feet by seven feet.

Montgomery County police said that Poe was last seen with friends at Shenanigan’s Irish Pub on 18th Street in Adams Morgan about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday. Police said the friends split up, and Poe never returned from the District. They said his last cell phone conversation was at 2:30 a.m.

D.C. police described in general the events that led to the discovery of the body, which confirmed reports from the neighborhood: A woman heard a commotion early Tuesday and saw a young man walking along the rooftops. Police confirmed that the man was alone.

It’s not clear how he got to the roof, though at least one of the houses on the block has a fire escape that reaches to the ground. The woman went back inside, then came out again and did not see the man.

But on Wednesday night, after seeing the flier, police said the woman got in touch with family members, who were still passing out fliers along 18th Street and Columbia Road.

She and another man went to the roof and found the body, which firefighters retrieved by opening a panel in the apartment building that leads into the shaft.

Poe’s parents did not want to speak about the death on Thursday.

According to the Gazette newspaper, Poe graduated from Poolesville High School in 2007, then enrolled at Virginia Tech. He graduated in May.

Daniel Camillo, a close friend of Poe’s, described him as a thoughtful and caring friend and teammate. The two played basketball together in high school.

“In terms of the community, he was one of the absolute best,” said Jim Brown, another friend. “He was always loving and taking care of his brother, Matt.”

Poolesville’s basketball teams are scheduled to observe a moment of silence at their games Thursday to remember Poe, an official at the high school said.

St. John Barned-Smith of the Gazette contributed to this report.

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