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DC Police Ticketed Deceased Victim of City’s Negligent Snow Removal

Joseph Brown might be alive today if the District of Columbia had cleared the snow from the sidewalks on the John Phillip Sousa Bridge across the Anacostia River last week. Instead, Brown celebrated his 61st birthday in the hospital after being struck by a pickup truck driver, then succumbed to his injuries on Monday. How did DC police respond? They gave Brown a ticket for walking in the street, reports Greater Greater Washington.

Joseph Brown, 61, was on his way to a doctor's appointment when we was killed. He had been walking in the street to avoid snowy sidewalks. Image: NBC Washington
Joseph Brown, 61, was on his way to a doctor's appointment when we was fatally struck. He had been walking in the street to avoid snowy sidewalks. Image: NBC Washington
Joseph Brown, 61, was on his way to a doctor's appointment when we was killed. He had been walking in the street to avoid snowy sidewalks. Image: NBC Washington

Brown was on his way to the Potomac Avenue Metro station, bound for a doctor's appointment, when he was struck.

Instead of ticketing Brown after his death for walking in the street, Matt Johnson at Greater Greater Washington says it might have been more appropriate to pursue action against the party that failed to maintain the sidewalks along the bridge where Brown was struck. DC law requires property owners to clear snow from the sidewalks, and as Johnson notes, there are no adjacent property owners on a bridge:

In this case, the responsibility for clearing this sidewalk rests with the District government, and the Department of Public Works does actually work to clear bridges. But at the time of Mr. Brown's death, less than 24 hours after the snow ended, they hadn't yet cleared the Sousa Bridge sidewalks.

Laws regarding sidewalk clearance aren't generally enforced in the DC region, according to Johnson. "When tragedy strikes, it's far easier to simply blame the victim," he says. "After all, he's the one who walked in the roadway."

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