Yesterday I spoke to Mr. Mendiola at the Alameda County Coroner’s Office about the cause of death of the homeless man who was found dead in downtown Berkeley near the corner of Shattuck and Kittredge at about 7:30 a.m. on February 6, 2014. Mr. Mendiola stated that he died of “acute bilateral lobar pneumonia” and “coronary atherosclerosis”. In other words he died of pneumonia because he had been in the rain all night long and he had a bad heart due to lack of adequate medical care.
His name was David Simmons. His friends described him as a senior, in his 60’s in age, Caucasian, very quiet, kept to himself most of the time, did not speak very often, unassuming….a man who had been homeless for about a year. He was particularly vulnerable because of his age and, after being homeless for a year, his health had deteriorated. He should have been rescued, not persecuted. He should have been saved, not forgotten. He should have been driven to a shelter, not allowed to sleep in the rain, but he died of exposure to the rain and cold during the night.
His heart in combination with being in the rain killed David. Another cause is that we did nothing to help him. For that we should be ashamed.
The City of Berkeley has a program that allegedly is supposed to do “community outreach” to help people like David. But either that program has not been funded, OR all of its employees were at home on the evening of February 6, 2014, out of the rain.
The other employees Berkeley has around the clock are its police officers. Our police officers have taken an oath to “protect and serve” the people of Berkeley regardless of their station. In this instance a police officer had a legal obligation to pick David up, put him in their police squad car and drive him to a shelter where he would be able to sleep in a warm bed out of the rain. That would have saved David’s life. Instead David was left to die of exposure and nobody in Berkeley cared. Is that how we are supposed to treat the most vulnerable members of our community? Not on your life. We should all be ashamed.
Let there be a hue and cry to celebrate David’s life by changing the conditions in Berkeley that brought about his death. We ask you to join with us to demand the City Council implement its “community outreach program” and/or direct its police officers to actually do their job by protecting and serving people like David by taking them to shelters if it ever rains. In this way, David’s death will not have been in vain.