Two District men and a Maryland woman died of drug overdoses late Monday and early yesterday in the worst rash of drug-related deaths since March, according to District police.
Two other overdose victims were treated at Greater Southeast Community Hospital and left against medical advice, police said. On Monday afternoon another person suffering from a drug overdose arrived at the hospital but left without receiving treatment, police said.
The dead were identified as Julius Knight, 40, of 3914 Wheeler Rd. SE and Donna Green, 30, of 5066 Silver Hill Ct., Suitland, both of whom died at Greater Southeast Community Hospital Monday night.
Early Tuesday morning Elton Coppedge, 33, of 2705 13th St. NE was found in his apartment and rushed to the Washington Hospital Center where he died, according to police.
During the first weekend in March, nine persons died after injecting heroin into their veins. Fourteen others were hospitalized in the largest and most devastating outbreak ever seen in the city.
Yesterday Camille Knight, the widow of Julius Knight, wept softly as she recounted the last hour of his life.
"I came home from Christmas shopping late Monday and my husband was here with the kids," she said. "He said he was going to use the bathroom and 20 minutes later I checked on him and there he was, lying on the floor. It was heroin. I know it was heroin that killed him."
Knight said that her husband had been a heroin addict but had joined a methadone program four months ago and stopped using the drug.
"I was surprised that he would go back to using drugs," she said. "Everything seemed okay."
Knight said that her husband had an 18-year-old son from an earlier marriage and was the stepfather to her eight children. The couple had been married seven years.
"He was a very good father," she said. "He tried hard to take care of his family."
Her husband, an Eastern High School graduate, had been unemployed for sometime, Knight said, adding that she also is jobless.
Dr. Michael Lippe, the emergency room physician at Greater Southeast who treated four of the five overdose victims, said the outbreak was typical of what happens at Christmas.
"They were all chronic heroin users," he said. "We see both alcohol and drug abusers over Christmas. Drugs abusers are no different than people who drink too much. They either decide that it is the holiday and they should party or they get depressed and take too much of a drug or mix it with other drugs."
Lippe thinks the current rash of overdose deaths is over.
"The way we see it, several people buy heroin that hasn't been cut enough and they die," he said. "The media does a story about the overdoses and that tells the dealer that he needs to cut his heroin some more and he does."
Police officials concur with Lippe's theory, saying that they have noticed the same cycle of events.
One police official, who did not want to be named, said that current thinking on this rash of overdoses is that dealers are trying to open new markets and find new customers after being forced out of established markets by the police.
"We figure that the dealer has to get the word out that he has good stuff so he purposely puts some hot dope on the street and sits back and waits for the overdoses," the police official said.
"Then when someone dies, all the junkies in town run to find him and buy the dope. They are always looking for the ultimate high, even if it means death. The dealer then sells properly cut heroin and he makes his money and has himself a new market."