The Washington Post

Widow of slain D.C. sanitation worker sues city, alleges negligence

The widow of a District sanitation worker who was shot last year at a Department of Public Works site has sued the city, saying it failed to put in safety measures recommended for the facility just months before the killing.

The Oct. 13, 2010, shooting of Larry Hutchins, 51, of Suitland, remains unsolved but is “active,” a police spokeswoman said. Hutchins was killed in the trash truck lot of a DPW site at 1241 W Street NE in a volley of almost two dozen shots that also wounded another worker. He was preparing for his route when he was killed.

At the time, police said witnesses reported the gunman had been wearing a uniform of some kind.

In a suit filed Friday in D.C. Superior Court, Shadone Taylor-Hutchins claims the city was negligent because the site lacked functioning security cameras and had not stationed a 24-hour guard at an entrance gate nor had it improved lighting, repaired fencing or trimmed trees at the perimeter.

Those items were noted in a security review done in March and April 2010 for the W street facility that is included in the court filing. If the recommendations had been followed, the suit asserts, “Mr. Hutchins would still be alive today.”

Linda Grant, spokeswoman for DPW, declined comment on the suit or on the 2010 safety review. “It is an umbrella no comment,” she said.

At a District council hearing held nine days after Hutchins’s death, DPW Director William Howland said security cameras at the site had been out of service for several years and that the security budget for the department as a whole had been cut nearly in half in 2010, video recordings of the council meeting show.

Howland also said that he had never seen the safety review report or known it existed until after the Hutchins shooting and media mentions of the report. Howland also told the council that the review had not been done at the request of his department.

But the review included in the lawsuit states that it was conducted by the District’s Protective Services Police Department and “performed for” DPW.

The security review had been prompted by an earlier fatal stabbing of a city worker outside the facility about a year before Hutchins’s death and an incident in which a supervisor “brandished a shotgun” inside the workplace after a dispute with another employee, the suit says.

Hutchins was a a 24-year public works employee who worked on trash trucks and was about to begin his collections at about 6:15 a.m. on the day of his death.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier was angered by the shooting and vowed to catch the killer.

“Whether this is workplace violence or some other type of attack . . . DPW is part of our Metropolitan Police Department family, and we’re going to work around the clock to bring the person responsible to justice,” Lanier said at a news briefing that day.

Mary Pat Flaherty works on investigative and long-range stories. Her work has won numerous national awards, including the Pulitzer Prize.


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