- The Washington Times - Monday, October 30, 2006

Evidence of gross negligence in the response to the fatal beating of journalist David E. Rosenbaum languished on the desk of the fire department’s second in command, even as officials complained that their own personnel had misled them in their investigation, D.C. fire officials said yesterday.

Two special reports written three weeks after the incident each say that the fire department’s medical director, who was working in the emergency department at Howard University Hospital the night Mr. Rosenbaum was admitted, expressed concerns to them that the patient had a more serious medical condition than emergency workers had indicated.

However, he later told investigators that he only saw a small bump on the back of Mr. Rosenbaum’s head.

The reports, written by an emergency medical services lieutenant and captain, also contain firsthand observations about blood visible on the back of Mr. Rosenbaum’s head and right ear and unresponsive and dilated pupils.

The reports were not turned over to Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby until July — a month after the investigation was completed.

Mr. Rosenbaum was robbed and beaten as he walked near his Northwest home Jan. 6, and he died two days later at Howard University Hospital. An inspector general’s report cited numerous errors on the part of first responders, who thought Mr. Rosenbaum was drunk.

Also in the report, no fire department personnel or hospital employees told investigators that they saw blood on Mr. Rosenbaum’s head or in his ear, and department medical director Dr. Amit Wadhwa stated that he saw only a “quarter-sized bump” on the back of Mr. Rosenbaum’s head.

The special reports were made public last week by the city’s Office of the Inspector General along with an August letter to City Administrator Robert C. Bobb expressing “concern” about Dr. Wadhwa’s statements.

“I am concerned that [Dr. Wadhwa] may not have been fully responsive to our investigators and may have made misleading statements during an official investigation,” the letter says.

D.C. fire department spokesman Alan Etter said fire officials concluded after the release of the initial inspector general’s report in June that Dr. Wadhwa had misled them. However, no reprimands were levied against the medical director, who resigned in August.

It remains less clear why special reports that documented Dr. Wadhwa’s initial concerns and would have alerted fire officials to the seriousness of the incident were not acted upon.

Mr. Etter said fire officials ceased their investigation into the incident and turned over all relevant documents when the inspector general began an independent investigation Jan. 19.

He said the reports from the lieutenant and the captain, dated Jan. 28 and Jan. 29 respectively, were requested by fire officials as part of a separate investigation into how Mr. Rosenbaum’s Form 151, which documents a patient’s condition, was leaked to the public.

Mr. Etter said the special reports were forwarded to Assistant Chief of Operations Douglas Smith, the department’s second in command, who took leave a month later in March for personal reasons.

“He received the report, it went into a file, and because of future distractions, it just got overlooked,” Mr. Etter said.

For whatever reason, no one in the fire department concluded that the reports contained any information relevant to the Rosenbaum investigation until July. Mr. Etter said Chief Adrian H. Thompson was reviewing the files and realized their importance.

“It is regrettable it came out this way, but there was no effort to withhold any information,” Mr. Etter said. “Chief Thompson is the one who discovered these documents and, with our general counsel, took them to the inspector general.”

However, the inspector general’s account, contained in the letter to Mr. Bobb, indicates that the inspector general requested the documents from the fire department.

Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat and chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, which oversees the fire department, said he was never given a copy of the two special reports. He said that on Jan. 24, he asked fire officials for all reports relating to the case.

“I think it was all in the spirit of what I was asking for,” he said. “I thought I had all the internal memos in January. Clearly, the inspector general thought he had all the memos when his report came out in June, and he did not.”

Mr. Etter said there are no plans for any further investigation.

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