Pregnant, about to give birth and pleading for help, Priscilla Jones was lying in what police would later term a "tree-box base."
It was there, just west of D.C. General Hospital, that Sgt. Joseph Goodwin and acting Sgt. Patricia Newkirk spotted her. They radioed for help, then went to attend to the homeless woman.
"Moments later," the police report on the incident says, "before the ambulance could respond, the woman began giving birth to the child."
The delivery of Kenneth Antonio, 3 pounds 4 ounces, occurred almost two hours after an ambulance picked up Jones in front of Sarah House, one of several shelters in Northwest Washington run by Luther Place Memorial Church.
What happened next in the early morning hours of Sept. 9 is the subject of two separate inquiries, one by the ambulance service and one by D.C. General, where Jones was taken before she gave birth on the street. Both have declined to comment, saying only that the matter is under investigation. Aside from the brief police report, there is no official account of what happened that morning.
But the 43-year-old Jones, who became a mother for the first time, has told relatives that she was kicked out of the hospital. Those who know the heavily built woman said her pregnancy was not evident, even at almost six months, and that it is possible that doctors did not believe Jones when she said she was pregnant.
Workers at the shelter said they have no doubt that Jones was in labor when she was picked up by the ambulance.
"We know that she went with the emergency squad and that she was delivered to the hospital," said Erna Steinbruck, chairwoman of the Luther Place shelter ministries committee. "What happened in the emergency room, we don't know."
For shelter workers who have known Jones for almost a decade, the birth came at a time when they were scrambling to have her committed to St. Elizabeths Hospital. Jones has a history of mental illness; Her family said she has been diagnosed as schizophrenic.
Steinbruck said Jones was an outpatient at a community mental health center, which responded to the shelter's request and began the process to have her committed. The irony, Steinbruck said, is that the order was delivered Sept. 10, the day after the baby was born.
"We felt she was unsafe on the street. It's unfortunate. The whole thing is unfortunate," said Steinbruck. "Had she not gone into labor, we would have gotten her into a hospital."
Steinbruck and others who worked closely with Jones described her as "treatment resistant," prone to angry outbursts and at times so difficult to handle that she had on occasion been barred from the shelter.
So far, the only account of what happened in the emergency room has come from Jones herself, who first told her story to Mary Lisbon, coordinator of Bethany Women's Center, a Luther Place facility on N Street near 14th Street NW.
In her account, Jones said a security guard grabbed her by the neck and ushered her out. Lisbon said it is unclear whether the hospital staff was told that Jones was in labor, whether she was simply shown out the door or escorted off the hospital's premises.
Jones named the baby and visits him regularly at D.C. General, where he is still being treated. The woman's mother and sister are trying to get custody.