A 64-year-old District man was found dead early yesterday near the locked doors of the Reeves Municipal Center and was presumed to have died from exposure to freezing temperatures, District officials said.
D.C. police said the man was taken to Howard University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Officials would not release the man's identity because his relatives had not been notified. They said he was not homeless.
An autopsy will be done today to confirm the cause of death, D.C. Public Health Commissioner Georges C. Benjamin said. Benjamin, whose office includes the medical examiner, said yesterday that even if hypothermia, or lowered body temperature, did not cause the man's death, it could have been a contributing factor.
The temperature in the city dipped to 32 degrees about midnight Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Health officials say the elderly are especially vulnerable to cold temperatures, and that anyone who sees a person suffering from the cold in the District should call the city's shelter hot line at 727-3250.
Carol Fennelly, an advocate for the homeless, said she found irony in the fact that the city's first death this winter due to presumed hypothermia occurred in front of a city building that used to provide emergency shelter in the winter.
The Reeves Center, which houses city offices at 14th and U streets NW, was the first public building to be opened for emergency shelter two winters ago, Fennelly said, after a D.C. Superior Court judge ordered the District to comply with a 1984 D.C. law guaranteeing shelter to anyone who requested it.
In June, the D.C. Council passed a bill ending that guarantee, and in last month's elections, a referendum to restore the guarantee failed.
Opponents of unlimited shelter said it was costing the city too much money.