A 33-year-old Massachusetts engineer was found dead of alcohol intoxication yesterday in a car in Georgetown about six hours after D.C. police arrested the driver for drunken driving but left the engineer in the car and took his keys, police said.
Police officials are investigating whether the police officers involved in the incident should have taken Dennis Hoosack, who died after choking on his vomit, to a hospital or a detoxification center rather than leave him in the car, according to a police spokesman.
"Each situation has to be evaluated based on its individual merits, but ordinarily one of three options should be used," said Capt. William White III, a police spokesman. "An officer handling an individual who is intoxicated in public . . . can either take or send the person home, to a private health facility or a detoxification center."
Hoosack was a passenger in a blue Ford Thunderbird he rented Sunday when the car was involved in a minor accident at Wisconsin Avenue and P Street NW about 9 p.m., police said.
Police arrested Randy Freeman, the driver of the car, shortly afterward, charged him with drunken driving and driving without a license, and took him to police headquarters. A police officer parked the car in the 3200 block of P Street and left Hoosack -- the only passenger -- in the vehicle, according to White.
"After conferring with the intoxicated man, the officer chose to leave him there with the car and give him the opportunity to stabilize his condition and regain his composure," White said.
When the officer returned to the car nearly six hours later at 2:45 a.m., he found Hoosack unconscious and slumped over in the front seat. Hoosack was taken to George Washington University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead about two hours later.
Preliminary autopsy results indicate that Hoosack died of acute alcohol intoxication with aspiration.
Hoosack, who was hired in June as a design engineer for Raytheon Co. in Bedford, Mass., had arrived in Washington Sunday for business, company officials said. He was described yesterday by company officials as a "low-level employe" who was working on a "very small segment of a new missile program" and was on "a very routine trip."
Police found photocopies of documents, initially thought to be sensitive and classified, in the car, which Hoosack had rented. Gerald P. O'Neil, Raytheon's director of security, said that Hoosack was not carrying classified documents.
Raytheon, which manufactures Amana Appliances and Speed-Queen washing machines, does 50 percent of its $7.3 billion in annual sales with the federal government, including the Defense Department and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Barbara S. Wallace, spokeswoman for the FBI Washington field office, said agents are investigating the incident along with the D.C. police to determine whether the documents, which have been returned to the company, are classified.
Freeman, the driver of the car, told police he is unemployed and has no fixed address. Freeman apparently met Hoosack Sunday night at Wisconsin and M streets NW and the two men went drinking together, sources said. Police later found an empty bottle of liquor in the car.
Freeman slammed Hoosack's rented car into the rear end of a vehicle at a red light, police said, but no one was injured in the accident and minor damage was caused to the front bumper and grille of Hoosack's car.