Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Two Local Must Read Pieces on the Death of Michael Kingsbury

The death of Michael Kingsbury has devastated our community. Kingsbury was a seven year old autistic boy who disappeared from his family's home around 9-9:30am Sunday. He was last seen wearing a red t-shirt, and a pull-up. I ask that you please keep his family and friends in your thoughts and prayers. What they must be going through is unimaginable. A vigil is in the works, and I will post info about it as info becomes available.

Michael's body was located at about 5:50pm on Monday. He lay on the backseat floor of an unused/unplated vehicle parked on private property (but not fenced off from the alley). Many have asked how searchers could have missed him in the car. The answer may be as simple as he was not in the car the entire time. MPD has said that dogs tracked his scent to an unoccupied house several blocks south of his own home (he lived in the 1700 block of West Virginia Ave). So it is possible that Michael may have roamed the neighborhood for a while before returning to his home alley and finding his death in the backseat of that hot car. Presumably because the heat accelerated decomposition, the autopsy was inconclusive as to the cause of death. Nor is the time of death currently known. MPD has stated that they are awaiting the results of a tox screen.

The good news is that they found no signs of trauma on young Michael's body. MPD has not yet ruled out foul play. It isn't yet clear when, or how, he came to be in the car where he died. But an MPD officer "searched" (quotation marks, because I don't know what exactly that means) Monday morning and did not see Michael in it. I'm assuming that means the officer looked in the windows, because no one seems to know if the car was locked the entire time Michael was missing. It was locked when they found him, and they had to break out a window to reach him. Michael was still wearing his red t-shirt, and his pull-up. MPD did say that the officer who actually spotted Michael's body had a hard time initially telling for sure if he was looking at a body (dirty windows?). So, we have some answers, but not enough yet.

My concern, and the concern of many residents, is about how MPD reacted in between the time the initial call came in, and the time when Michael's body was found. I saw a great deal of this conversation play out on Twitter.  The main issue is offline outreach (door to door canvassing, posting of flyers in public places, and MPD turning away neighbors who wanted to help). I was planning to write a long post on this, but I am instead going to refer you a really terrific timeline style post from the Titan of Trinidad.

I would also suggest that you read this excellent post from a local blogger (her blog is called Otters are Probably the Answer) who shares an alley with Michael's family. She writes about her personal thoughts and emotions about Michael, and his tragic death. I think she hits a lot of great points about how Michael's death has impacted many of us, even though we didn't know him. In my mind, we as a city failed Michael. He was one of the District's most vulnerable residents, and I don't think we did all we should have done to find him in time. Can we find it in ourselves to act in time to save the next Michael? I hope so.


Anonymous said...

Where has Chief Lanier been?

inked said...

She's been busy telling volunteers not to come out and help search, or pick up MPD printed flyers to distribute.

Below is a response from Cmdr And Solberg to a resident's request to assist in finding Michael:

"Anyone who would like to help can go to the command post at West Virginia Avenue and Raum Street and report to a supervisor.

Andy Solberg"

Four minutes later Chief Lanier overruled him with the following email:

"What we really need is everyone to get the word out to their neighbors. We have a flyer at this link: http://mpdc.dc.gov/release/missing-person-critical-michael-kingsbury . And yes checking your property, yards, etc, would also be a huge help. At this point, we have enough volunteers on sight - so spreading the word as widely as possible and calling 202-727-9099 if anyone has even the slightest bit of information is the best way to help."

While I agree that spreading the word is extremely important, it sounds like they could have used some help searching. I'm also unclear why MPD could not provide printed flyers for residents to post in public places, or distribute door to door. Many people in Trinidad are not online, and posting signs/reaching them in person is key in a case like this.

Anonymous said...

Where has the mayor been?

inked said...

That bit about checking your yard/shed/garage/car & reminding neighbors to do the same was something I suggested on Twitter during a discussion that included Jaime Fearer. Fearer then put people's ideas into an email, to which Chief Lanier responded. I'm unclear as to why MPD did not suggest such steps to residents earlier. If this kid was truly out walking the community, we might have found him in time.

I will also point out that MPD tweeted that the kid was last seen wearing a red pull-up. I'm not a parent, but I know what a pull-up is. When I saw a post of the website of the Center for Missing and Exploited Children that said he was last seen wearing a red t-shirt and a pull-up, I did some Googling and tweeting. I wasn't sure if MPD had made another Twitter mistake (they repeatedly said he was 5'3", when he was actually 4'3"), or if the kid was actually last seen wearing a red pull-up (I checked to see if they even made red pull-ups), or if he had just been wearing a pull-up & a red t-shirt. I thought that was important because a kid wearing basically only a diaper would stick out a lot more than a kid in a diaper, and a long red t-shirt.

H St LL said...

this shit so sad, got me and my wife messed up thinkin bout our 22 month old. horrible

Anonymous said...

I don't think all the MPD bashing is totally fair. Obviously there are a lot of questions to be answered... and mainly how in the world they missed that car.

I received the same MPD message saying they had enough volunteers on site. But I rode by anyway on Monday around noon since a local listserve said volunteers were welcome. Met by a female police officer and asked if I could help pass out fliers and drive the streets nearby. She was appreciative and handed me a huge pile of fliers. So they did have fliers,and they weren't turning people away. They had nearly 50 people+ (police cadets,etc) and dozens of police cars in the immediate area searching. I was greeted by 3 or 4 neighbors on street corners handing out fliers.

Not sure what the search was like on Sunday (when it mattered most) but Monday they really seemed to be doing everything they could.

Anonymous said...

The police bashing doesn't seem fair to me, either. Didn't his own family and neighbors also search that alley? If all those people plus a police dog couldn't find him, he must have been hidden in that car pretty well. If NOBODY could find him in the immediate area, it makes sense to focus on interviewing people to figure out where else he could be. This sounds like a horrible accident, not an example of police failure.

inked said...

It isn't yet clear that he was in the car the whole time. My issue is with MPD's outreach, was was inconsistent at best. They also spread, and confirmed, incorrect information.

pat said...

most likely the kid went for a walk, started coming home, got scared, hid in the car, locking the doors
and crawled down behind the seats.

Anybody else who came by, saw the locked doors and figured it's a closed space and stopped looking.

I doubt it's much more then that.

wylie coyote said...


You have no idea what happened. Stop speculating and let the police do their job.

pat said...


what you think some pedophile happens to find a vulnerable child, kidnaps him, molests/murders him, meanwhile as the police are being summoned, then sneaks the body into a convenient stash car, and sneaks off?

The simplest explanation is most likely correct.

the kids parent lost track of the kid, or the kid was playing hide and seek and it killed him.

tragic, unfortunate, but no different then any of a number of other accidental deaths.