A man described by police as being homeless was fatally injured Friday night under a portico in a courtyard of the St. Luke’s Mission Center in Northwest Washington’s Glover Park neighborhood, authorities said.
Joel Johnson, 53, was pronounced dead at the scene, said D.C. police, who responded about 10 p.m. to the church complex in the 3600 block of Calvert Street NW, near Wisconsin Avenue and the U.S. Naval Observatory.
No arrests have been made. D.C. police initially described the incident as a stabbing but in a statement issued later Saturday said only that Johnson was found unconscious and “suffering from visible injuries.” Police said the death has been ruled a homicide.
The mission runs St. Luke’s Shelter, a seven-bed, year-round facility that helps homeless men transitioning into jobs, housing and recovery programs. In 2008, the church merged with Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church, also in Northwest, and is where services are held.
The Rev. Charles Parker, senior pastor at Metropolitan, said the slaying occurred between the shelter and a condominium complex next door, in a church courtyard off Calvert Street. He said the area is often used by homeless people who visit the mission’s warming center during the winter. The warming facility is closed in summer months.
Parker said Johnson was not one of the people staying in the shelter. He said he did not know Johnson and that D.C. police have not provided many details of the case. Police said Saturday that they knew of no suspect nor motive.
The pastor said that none of the men staying in the mission shelter reported having contact with Johnson. He said staff members regularly walk through the area where the death occurred and try to help people staying there find some other shelter or get help.
The slaying, Parker said, “is a great tragedy and I think a real indictment of our community.” He said it is sad that people who need help “don’t have the resources available that they need. This is the kind of tragedy that inevitably results from our lack of providing an appropriate safety net.”
Parker said that if Johnson’s family does not come forward, the church will bury him, probably in a plot near the mission on Calvert Street.
The homeless, Parker said, “are people who are easy to overlook.”