Waliyatou Amadou was 2 years old when she accompanied her parents and siblings on the 5,200-mile trip from their home in western Africa to the District. Her father was the chauffeur for diplomats from Togo, and the family lived in the basement of that country’s embassy.
The mother returned to Togo in 2010; the father stayed behind. His embassy duties were over, but his daughter struggled with mental-health issues and needed help. He remained in the United States until 2013, the year his daughter turned 20. Amadou did not want to return to Togo with her father, the family said, choosing to stay in Washington with her two sisters and brother.
A few minutes after 8 p.m. Sunday, D.C. police found Amadou, 23, unconscious and suffering from multiple stab wounds, in a common hallway of a four-story co-op apartment building in the 1400 block of W Street NW, authorities said. It is just a few blocks from the home of one of her sisters, who had repeatedly been rebuffed when she offered to open up her home to Amadou.
Amadou died at Howard University Hospital at 8:35 p.m., becoming the District’s third homicide victim of the new year.
She had moved around the streets along the U Street corridor, sometimes staying with family, a boyfriend or acquaintances, sometimes on the street. D.C. police have not discussed a possible motive and have not revealed details of the crime. No arrests have been made.
“We don’t really have any information right now,” said Amadou’s sister Falila Agoha, 31, who lives in Northwest Washington and is a registered nurse. “It’s hard to help someone when you don’t know where she is, or she’s not willing to help herself. If you knew her, she was a very kindhearted person. She was going through a lot. She didn’t deserve what happened.”
Members of Amadou’s family said they did not know whether she knew anyone at the four-story redbrick co-op building at 1424 W St., between two other co-ops known as Capital Manor and the Hamilton. That block of W Street had once been an open-air drug den; the co-ops helped stabilize the street along the U Street corridor, though the building at 1424 retained its rough-and-
tumble reputation as the area gentrified.
Some tensions remain with luxury apartments now side by side with those occupied by lower-income residents. But Deborah Thomas, the former co-op president of Capitol Manor, said the 1424 building “had calmed down a whole lot” in recent years.
Relatives said that Amadou had been troubled for a long time but that her condition had worsened in recent years. She had some problems with the law, and court records show there was an effort underway to get her screened for mental health issues.
In March 2016, police said, she “became combative and began kicking at officers” who were trying to move her from a station house to a transport van after an arrest. One officer suffered a dislocated thumb; another was bruised on her arm. Amadou was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
In December, police charged Amadou with assault and destruction of property, alleging that she burst into an apartment where she was living at the time in Brightwood and threatened to kill her roommate and the roommate’s child with a knife. Court documents say officers struggled to put her in handcuffs.
Amadou was released pending trial but had been ordered to get an outpatient mental health screening that was scheduled for Tuesday. A full mental health hearing in court was to occur in February.
Agoha, the sister, said that Amadou refused to stay at her house and that “she did not want to be controlled.” It was, Agoha said, “the path she chose to go by. We’ve been trying to get her help. She just doesn’t comply.”
Amadou’s mother, Tayibata Amadou, 50, said she doesn’t know what happened to her daughter. Interviewed by phone from Togo, she said she thought her daughter had gone to school and might have been taking college courses to be a nurse, but she wasn’t sure. Court records show the daughter completed high school.
“We really don’t know much,” her mother said, adding that she last talked to her daughter by phone about a month ago. And even that was a struggle. Though her sister encouraged Amadou to call her mother, she did not immediately reach out. When mother and daughter finally talked, Amadou said she had found a job at a fast-food restaurant.
“She don’t want nobody to bother her,” Tayibata Amadou said of her daughter. “She needed help. She didn’t want help.”
Ade Anounkou, the outgoing financial attache for the Togo Embassy, said he knew Waliyatou Amadou when she was little. He confirmed that the family lived in the embassy basement when they came 19 years ago. He also said that after returning to Togo in 2013, Amadou’s father returned to Washington to try to help his daughter. He said the father did not go into detail at the time.
Anounkou, who has been in touch with the victim’s family in Togo, said Amadou will be buried in the Washington area. A funeral date has not yet been set, pending coordination with officials in the District, police and the embassy.
Tayibata Amadou said that “all of my children were just crying” on learning of her daughter’s death. “When we talked on the phone, we talked about everything that she was going to do. We prayed for her.”
Julie Tate contributed to this report.