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Traffic Officer Struck in Georgetown Dies of Injuries

Volunteer Officer Joseph Pozell was injured Saturday when he apparently stepped into the path of an SUV while directing traffic in Georgetown.
Volunteer Officer Joseph Pozell was injured Saturday when he apparently stepped into the path of an SUV while directing traffic in Georgetown. (By Rich Lipski -- The Washington Post)

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By Martin Weil and Allan Lengel
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Joseph Pozell, the volunteer traffic officer who was struck by a sport-utility vehicle Saturday in Georgetown, died last night at George Washington University Hospital, D.C. police said.

Pozell, 59, a well-known figure in the Georgetown area, had been in grave condition since being struck while directing traffic at Wisconsin Avenue and M Street NW.

He died at 9:47 p.m. with his wife, Ella, his son, Joseph Jr., and other relatives at his bedside.

"Joe put up one heck of a fight," said Ed Solomon, a close friend who was at the hospital last night. "It will take a long time to recover from this."

Sgt. Brett Parson of the police department's family support unit, who served as a family spokesman, said Pozell had been on life support, but his "heart just gave out."

Parson said family members asked him to "express their undying gratitude and appreciation" for the support and prayers of the community and for the efforts of Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey and his department to provide aid and comfort.

Parson said officials are planning a "full police funeral for a line-of-duty death," to be held at Washington National Cathedral. A date has not been set.

For many years, Pozell had been superintendent of the historic Oak Hill Cemetery on R Street NW, where he and his wife lived in quarters on the grounds.

A candlelight vigil held for him at nightfall Monday, at a park near the cemetery, drew the mayor and other officials in addition to many police officers and community residents.

They recognized him as the embodiment of public spiritedness, a man concerned with helping others, who saw work that needed to be done and decided to do it himself.

In his case, it was the job of directing the frenzied, tangled flow of automobiles and pedestrians at Wisconsin and M, one of the busiest intersections in the metropolitan area.

By all accounts, Pozell was an artist at his task, spinning and whirling, waving his arms and issuing blasts from his whistle to impose order at the chaotic crossing in Georgetown.

He was struck about 3:40 p.m. when he apparently stepped into the path of a Honda CR-V that was turning west onto M Street from Wisconsin Avenue. He was struck with great force, and his head hit the pavement.

Police called the death an accident and said the 19-year-old McLean woman who was driving the vehicle had a green light.

In interviews and in remarks at the vigils, formal and informal, police and others pointed to him as someone who could not do enough to contribute to the community in which he lived and to the welfare of his fellow residents.

For a long time he had been a civilian volunteer with the police department, frequently answering telephones or performing other such tasks that freed uniformed personnel for street duties.

But police Capt. Patrick Burke said Pozell "always wanted to do more and more." He became a reserve officer three years ago, which permitted him to direct traffic, and subsequently took command for long stretches at Wisconsin and M.

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