Mayor Marion Barry said yesterday that city officials are giving up on their search for an unidentified 8-year-old heroin addict whose life style, including daily injections of the drug, was the subject of a Washinton Post article last month.
"We are kind of giving up on that," Barry said when asked about the comprehensive search for the youth, known only as "Jimmy." Barry said that city officials decided that the boy's life would be endangered if the heroin dealers and users who frequented his home thought the boy might talk to authorities.
"Unfortunately, the focus has been in the wrong place," Barry said at a press conference. "It has been on the alleged 8-year-old. It should have been on the heroin epidemic in this city."
Assistant Police Chief Maurice Turner confirmed yesterday that the search had been curtailed. "We are not actively looking for "Jimmy," he said. "If somebody calls, we'll pursue it."
Audrey Rowe, acting commissioner of social services in the Department of Human Services, said yesterday that her department has also called off actively responding to leads called into the agency's hotline telephone number. a"We can't [give up the search] until we can prove there's no Jimmy," Rowe said. "We have an open case right now."
Barry said that he and police department officials are convinced that the Post report, including a description of the boy being injected with heroin by his mother's live-in lover, is at least part fabrication.
"I've been told the story was part myth and part reality," Barry said. He said that after talking to police narcotics officers, and from his own personal knowledge of the drug world from his days as a community organizer, "We all have agreed that we don't believe that the mother or the pusher would allow a reporter to see them shoot up."
Washington Post editors said yesterday that the newspaper stands by its story.
The article, written by reporter Janet Cooke and appearing in the Post's Sunday, Sept. 2, editions, told of a Southeast Washington youth who began sniffing heroin at age 5, became addicted six months later, and now receives daily injections from "Ron," his mother's boyfriend and a heroin pusher who the boy idolizes. The boy's mother, a heroin addict herself, was quoted as saying she accepts the child's drug use, and the house itself was described as a "shooting gallery" where addicts go to buy their fixes and often shoot up on the premises.
The story sparked both a chorus of community protests and a wide-ranging search for the boy, involving District police youth division, theree police district precincts in Northeast and Southeast Washington, and a separate investigation by the city's largest social service agency.
That hunt for "Jimmy" became stalled when a Howard University psychiatrist and drug abuse counselor, Allyce Gullatte, claimed to know a child who fit the description of the boy in the story, but then refused to cooperate with investigating authorities. Saturday, Gullatte said the unidentified child addict she knows is already being treated.
Rowe said yesterday "One of the suspicians we have is that the child is now in the treatment program Dr. Gullatte operates."