Diane Marie White, known on the streets as "One Hand Diane," was arrested by D.C. police on heroin possession and drug paraphernalia charges last night after Mayor Marion Barry ordered an investigation into reported drug activity at the woman's Northwest Washington apartment.
The city's public health commissioner and a private doctor were called to White's apartment at 400 W St. NW after narcotics detectives and uniformed police officers armed with a search warrant entered the residence about 6 p.m. and found White seriously ill.
She was taken to D.C. General Hospital after Dr. Don Thomas of the Washington Hospital Center found that she had collapsing veins and that there was decaying flesh on the stump of her right leg, which was amputated along with her left arm several years ago.
The arrest came three days after activities at White's apartment, known on the street as one of the city's "oil joints" or "shooting galleries" used by addicts as hideaways to inject heroin, were described in a Washington Post story.
Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. said yesterday that Barry called him Sunday, the day the story was published, and told him, " 'That's one shooting gallery that has to be closed down immediately.' "
Undercover narcotics officers, led by Detective Alfred Lee McMasters, had worked since Sunday to obtain evidence for the search warrant issued yesterday, according to Inspector Kris Coligan of the morals division.
Coligan said he talked with Turner about the case on a "daily basis," but that it was more difficult to gather evidence for the warrant because the activities were taking place in a private residence, rather than in an abandoned building, as is more common.
A minister who has known White for several years, Tom Nees of the Community of Hope, said last night that she seemed almost relieved by her arrest.
" 'I guess this is it,' " Nees said White told him as she waited to be seen by a physician at D.C. General.
"She really wants to live, is very personable and has a radiant smile," Nees said. "She needs hospitalization. But she doesn't have any Medicaid or any way of getting care unless the police go into her apartment and arrest her. Then she can get care."
In addition to the drug charges, White was charged with failure to have an occupancy permit to conduct a business in a private residence. Coligan said surveillance of White's residence showed that between 20 and 30 persons visited each day, and that detectives who searched White's residence found a handwritten list of fees: $1 for entry, $2 or $3 for a disposable "set of works" consisting of a syringe and small heroin cooker, and $5 to prepare the heroin and inject it into a user's neck.
An officer leaving White's apartment carried a small white plastic bag of syringes.
Because of White's deteriorating physical condition, Public Health Commissioner Andrew McBride arranged for a fire department ambulance to accompany officers to her apartment and for a doctor to be called before she was moved.
White's daughter and another woman were in the third-floor apartment when police arrived, and the daughter admitted the officers, police said. They said White was found lying on a bed.
McBride arrived at the apartment a short time later and summoned Thomas to examine the 37-year-old woman.
Shortly after 7 p.m., fire department medical technicians strapped White into a wheelchair to move her down the stairs of the apartment building and then transferred her to a stretcher. Neighbors, meanwhile, gathered on balconies and in front of the building to watch as the woman was carried out.
She was wrapped in a white sheet that covered her body, except for part of her face and her right hand, which gripped the stretcher as she was lifted into the ambulance.
Police said the second woman in the apartment, Dorothy Willis McRae, 30, was charged in a separate warrant with violation of the federal bail reform act. She remained in custody last night.
Police officials and McRae said that McRae's husband, Leonard, is serving a 10-year prison term after pleading guilty to manslaughter in connection with administering a fatal heroin overdose.
White's daughter, who police said had been seeking medical help for her mother, was not charged.
The Community of Hope's Nees said that he first met White about three years ago when she was in Howard University Hospital for an amputation, and that he had subsequently remained in contact with her.
"I hadn't been able to get in [to her apartment] for the past several months," Nees said. "The people at the door wouldn't let me in." He said White had lost "a lot of weight" since he had seen her.
"I think she has a will to live, but she's got a habit and she's powerless over that," Nees said. "I told her that if she really wants to get rid of it that our organization will find her a place to live and give her the care she needs."
Coligan said that White "was known" to police. "When [the Washington Post article] came out, we knew what they were talking about. Mayor Barry and Chief Turner told us to find this place and put it out of business, and we did."
Coligan added, however, that White's arrest will have little impact on use of heroin in the city.
"In the whole big picture of the drug network in the District," he said, "I don't believe putting her out of business is much of a deterrent. But this place has been identified and as such needed to be shut down."
Annette Samuels, a spokeswoman for Barry, said last night that the mayor had been concerned about the Post's story on the apartment.
"It shocks all of us," Samuels said. "It's a terrible situation."