Emmanuel Dugger was on his way home from a cigar run in Northeast Washington just before midnight Sunday when he spotted something on his neighbor’s stoop that stopped him cold. It was a small object wrapped in a brown-and-red-striped towel.
There was no movement, so he hoped it was nothing more than “a doll baby.” But something in his heart told him otherwise, so he ran inside to grab his father for help.
The two men together made the startling discovery — a tiny baby girl, naked, unconscious, and bleeding from the nose and mouth, left on the step in the middle of a freezing night. She couldn’t have been more than a week old, Dugger thought.
“I literally felt like jumping out of my body. I was just in shock. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing was a child,” said Dugger, 35, an unemployed contractor. The two took the baby inside their home and tried to warm her stiff limbs as the younger Dugger called 911 and the elder Dugger began to pray.
“I was just asking for God’s gracious mercy on the child, hoping He would give life back to her,” said Eugene Dugger, 63, the presiding bishop of the Victory Pentecostal Apostolic Church of Christ in Prince George’s County.
But it was not to be. D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services personnel and police arrived at the scene in the 3000 block of Channing Street NE a short time later and took the baby to Children’s National Medical Center. The unidentified infant was pronounced dead at 2:21 a.m. Monday.
D.C. police said Monday that they are continuing to investigate the circumstances of the death of the baby, described as an African American infant less than 1 week old, and are awaiting autopsy results.
Lt. Robert Alder, a homicide supervisor, said detectives hope they can speak to the parent or parents of the child.
“This is a tragedy, an infant left out in the cold at night,” Alder said.
Temperatures at Reagan National Airport dipped below freezing between 9 and 10 p.m. Sunday, and at the time the baby was found before midnight, temperatures were hovering around 28 degrees, according to National Weather Service records.
Police said that if the child’s mother realized she couldn’t care for the infant, she could have left her with authorities without risk of legal trouble. In 2009, the District enacted the safe haven law, which allows parents of unwanted babies less than a week old to drop them off at hospitals and fire or police stations without risk of prosecution, except when there is actual or suspected child abuse.
Police said it was unclear Monday why the baby was left at that doorstep on Channing Street, but Emmanuel Dugger said the home belongs to a schoolteacher with children of his own.
The Duggers said they were devastated when they learned that the baby girl had died.
“I was heartbroke. Still kinda torn to pieces,” said the younger Dugger. As he stood and watched the still body being taken away in the ambulance, he felt a powerful sense of grief: No child should be alone like that, with no one to be with her in what were to be her last moments.
“It took something from me,” he said.