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District of Columbia

Unexplained death of D.C. gay man caused by ‘acute’ alcohol intoxication

Partner of Washington Wizards chef urges police to continue investigation



Ernest Terrell Newkirk died on May 28.

A D.C. gay man whose body was found on a street in Southeast Washington around 3 a.m. on May 28 with his car, wallet, phone, and jewelry missing died of “acute ethanol intoxication,” according to a finding by the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

A spokesperson for the Medical Examiner’s office, who released the cause and manner of death of Ernest Terrell Newkirk, 55, in response to a request from the Washington Blade, said “ethanol” is a technical term for alcohol as used in alcoholic beverages.

In a brief statement, the Medical Examiner’s office told the Blade other significant conditions that contributed to Newkirk’s death were “hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease” and “end stage renal disease of unknown etiology.” Etiology is a medical term used for the cause of a medical condition.

The statement says the manner of death was determined to be an “accident” rather than an intentional attempt by Newkirk to take his own life or by homicide.

The disclosure of the cause and manner of Newkirk’s death came more than three months after an initial autopsy found no signs of injury. The Medical Examiner’s office says it normally takes about 90 days for the completion of toxicology tests to determine a cause and manner of death due to a large backlog of cases.

Newkirk’s domestic partner of 21 years, Roger Turpin, said neither the Medical Examiner’s office nor D.C. police, who have been investigating the death, contacted him to inform him of the finding of the cause and manner of death. He said he learned about it for the first time from the Blade.

Newkirk worked as a chef for several years at D.C.’s Capital One Arena for the Washington Wizards basketball team and operated a home-based landscaping and lawn care business.

On Saturday evening, May 27, Newkirk drove from his and Turpin’s home at 19 Anacostia Rd., N.E. to attend a Black Pride dance party held at the Ugly Mug bar and lounge in the Barrack’s Row section of Capitol Hill, Turpin told the Blade.

At about 12:30 a.m. on May 28, Newkirk called his partner on his cell phone to say he was leaving the Ugly Mug Black Pride event and would soon be on his way home, Turpin said. But he never made it home and did not answer Turpin’s repeated calls to find out where he was.

Unknown to Turpin at the time, D.C. police received a call at around 3 a.m. on May 28 about an unconscious man lying in the street on the 1100 block of 46th Place, S.E. A police report says the call was made by a man who was driving in the area, saw the unconscious man in the street, and attempted to provide CPR to revive the man before police and an ambulance arrived.

Police later told Turpin the unconscious man had no identification on him and after being pronounced dead was listed as a “John Doe” at the city’s morgue. It was only after Turpin filed a missing person’s report one day later and provided police with a photo of Newkirk that police identified the deceased man found on the street as being Newkirk.

Turpin said that around the time his partner’s body was found, he discovered calls were made on Newkirk’s cell phone from phone records he had access to. He learned a short time later from his partner’s bank and credit card records that someone had made purchases with his debit card and traffic tickets were issued to someone driving Newkirk’s missing car before it was found a little over a mile away from where Newkirk’s body was found.

When the car was eventually returned to Turpin, Turpin said police appeared uninterested in obtaining two bags he found in the car that did not belong to him or Newkirk. He said a police detective would not respond to his question about whether police attempted to obtain fingerprints from the inside of the car.

A D.C. police spokesperson told the Blade in July that the case remained under investigation and police were waiting for the Medical Examiner’s findings of the cause and manner of death. The spokesperson said an autopsy found no signs of injury on the body, which prompted police to rule out homicide.

The spokesperson, Paris Lewbel, also said there were no initial signs of “foul play,” despite Turpin’s belief that one or more suspects may have stolen Newkirk’s car and belongings as part of a carjacking.

The NBC News online LGBTQ news site called Out News did a follow-up story on the Newkirk case after learning about it from the Blade’s story on July 20. The NBC Out story reports that D.C. police disputed Turpin’s claim that police were not adequately investigating the case.

The NBC Out News story also reports that a friend of Newkirk told NBC that he spoke with Newkirk for about a half hour outside the Ugly Mug around midnight during the Black Pride event and that Newkirk appeared to be intoxicated.

But the friend did not know what Newkirk did after he left the Ugly Mug, according to the NBC Out story. The story also reports that the Ugly Mug’s owner said police never asked him to view the bar’s security camera footage to see if Newkirk may have left the bar with someone else. At the time NBC asked about the security camera footage, the owner said the video recordings from the time Newkirk was at the bar over Memorial Day weekend had been erased.

D.C. police spokesperson Lewbel, who told the Blade in July the case was still under investigation, did not respond to a Blade inquiry this week asking how or whether the finding of the cause of Newkirk’s death would impact the police investigation.

Turpin this week said he very much wants police to continue the investigation to determine what happened to his partner, even if the cause of death was alcohol intoxication.

“How did his body get in the middle of the street?” Turpin asked. “And his car was gone, his wallet, his phone, everything was gone,” he said. “They really should continue the investigation. They really should.”

Turpin acknowledged that his partner began drinking on the same day at another event before he attended the Ugly Mug event. Regarding the Medical Examiner’s finding of “renal disease,” Turpin said Newkirk several years earlier had one of his kidneys replaced after being on dialysis prior to the kidney transplant surgery. 


District of Columbia

Anacostia group honors LGBTQ advocate Pannell for 30 years of service

Oct. 5 celebration set for Ward 8 Sycamore & Oak retail village



Phillip Pannell (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC), an advocacy organization for D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood and surrounding areas east of the Anacostia River, is holding a celebration honoring LGBTQ rights and Anacostia community activist Phillip Pannell for his 30 years of service with the ACC.

The event was scheduled to take place from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 5, at the recently opened Sycamore & Oak retail village mall on the St. Elizabeth’s East Campus in Southeast D.C.

Pannell, 73, serves as the ACC executive director, a position he has held since 1995. He has been a member of the Anacostia-based nonprofit organization’s staff since 1993.
A longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights, Pannell has been credited with persuading many of D.C.’s LGBTQ organizations to reach out to LGBTQ residents who live in Wards 7 and 8 east of the Anacostia River.

He has also been credited with persuading African-American organizations, including organizers of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. memorial celebrations, to include and welcome LGBTQ people to their events.

“Join us for an evening of food, fun, and surprises,” an announcement of the event released by the ACC says.

ACC spokesperson Lamont Mitchell told the Washington Blade several community leaders and public officials who have known Pannell during his many years of D.C. community involvement were expected to speak at the Oct. 5 celebration. Among the expected speakers, Mitchell said, was former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt.

According to the announcement, the event is free and open to the public, but organizers requested that people register in advance at

The ACC event honoring Pannell was to take place about a month after the D.C. newspaper Washington Informer published a detailed article profiling Pannell’s career as a community activist and advocate for several important local causes and issues, including D.C. statehood.

“D.C. statehood is not just a political issue, it is also a civil and human rights issue because if D.C. were a state, we would be a state with the highest percentage of African Americans, basically a majority, minority state,” the Informer quoted Pannell as saying. “That’s one of the reasons a lot of right-wing Republicans don’t want to see D.C. become a state because we are going to elect progressive, Black Democratic senators,” Pannell told the Informer.

A statement on the ACC’s website says Pannell has received more than 100 awards during his nearly four decades of work in D.C., including the 2011 U.S. President’s Call to Service Award and the 2012 D.C. Federation of Civic Associations award for Outstanding President of a Member Association.

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District of Columbia

Pepco, Exelon announce $2.7 million in funding for four minority-owned businesses

‘It’s good business sense to bring more people to the table’



Pepco and Exelon held a press conference Friday to announce four recipients of $2.7 million in investments. (Photo courtesy Exelon)

Pepco and Exelon announced a $2.7 million investment in four minority-owned businesses on Friday.

“Today’s been a long time coming,” said Pepco Vice President of Governmental and External Affairs Valencia McClure.

Pepco’s parent company, Exelon, launched the Racial Equity Capital Fund (RECF) in 2022 to expand capital access to diverse businesses. This latest $2.7 million investment is just a portion of RECF’s $36 million in funding.

At the announcement, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser spoke about the other ways Pepco and Exelon have “put their money where their mouth is” through their partnership with the D.C. Infrastructure Academy. She reported that all 22 of the residents that graduated from the program last week have a job offer from Pepco.

“We know that is not just a job, but a career,” she said to the crowd’s applause. “We know that working together, we can invest in D.C. residents, provide opportunity, and ensure that our D.C. businesses are a part of D.C.’s growing prosperity.”

The four minority businesses that received funding were Gemini Energy Solutions, Public Sector Solutions Group, CJR Development Partners, and Escalate.

“It’s good business sense to bring more people to the table,” said fund recipient Nicole Cober, CJR Development’s Principle Managing Partner.

Gemini Energy Solutions, which is Black owned, received $1 million, the most of the four companies. Its mission is to equitably scale energy efficiency to marginalized communities. For the founder and CEO Anthony Kinslow II, this investment means that he is able to get paid and advance the work of his organization.

“We are now able to accelerate the work in our software and technology development,” he said. “What we were going to do in two years, we are now going to do in six months.”

For Escalate, a workforce development platform focused on frontline worker retention, the funding means that it will be able to double the pay for frontline workers.

Public Sector Solutions Group CEO Darryl Wiggins emphasized that this investment was not just ‘charity’ work, but mission-driven work.

“The principle and the intent is greater than the money we receive,” he said. Public Sector Solutions is Black owned.

Public Sector Solutions Group received a $600,000 debt investment; CJR Development, a minority and woman-owned small business, received a $600,000 debt investment; and Escalate, a majority Black and woman-owned company, received a $500,000 equity investment.

Exelon launched the RECF in partnership with RockCreek, one of the world’s largest diverse-owned global investment firms, in 2022. The RECF expands capital access to diverse businesses so they can create more jobs, grow their companies and reinvest in their neighborhoods and communities, according to a statement from Exelon.

New RECF applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Interested businesses may apply online or contact RockCreek at [email protected] for more information.

(Photo courtesy Exelon)
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District of Columbia

AIDS Healthcare Foundation celebrates opening of new D.C. healthcare center

Ribbon-cutting marks launch of state-of-the-art facility on Capitol Hill



AHF’s new healthcare center is located at 650 Pennsylvania Ave., S.E. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the world’s largest HIV/AIDS healthcare organization with its headquarters in Los Angeles, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 27 to mark the official opening of its Capitol Hill Healthcare Center.

The new center, which AHF describes as a state-of-the-art facility for the holistic care and treatment of people with HIV as well as a site for HIV prevention and primary care services, is located at 650 Pennsylvania Ave., S.E.  a half block away from the Eastern Market Metro station.

A statement released by AHF says the Capitol Hill Healthcare Center will continue AHF’s ongoing delivery of “cutting-edge medical care and services to patients regardless of insurance status or ability to pay.” The statement adds, “The site also features a full-service AHF Pharmacy and will host Wellness Center services on Saturdays to offer STI testing and treatment.”

The statement was referring to the testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. The D.C. Department of Health has said the highest number of STIs in the city have been reported for men who have sex with men.

Mike McVicker, AHF’s Regional Director for its D.C., Maryland, and Virginia facilities, said the Capitol Hill center began taking patients in October of 2021 as AHF transferred its operations from its facility on Benning Road, N.E. about two miles from the Capitol Hill site. McVicker said the Benning Road site has now been closed.

AHF’s second D.C. medical center is located downtown at 2141 K St., N.W. AHF operates three other extended D.C.-area health care centers in Falls Church, Va., Temple Hills, Md. and Baltimore.

“Our Capitol Hill Healthcare Center has no waiting room, so patients immediately are escorted to treatment rooms and serviced from a centrally located provider workstation,” McVicker said. “The goal is to maximize efficiency using this patient-centered model to improve health outcomes and increase retention in care.”

McVicker told the Blade the AHF Capitol Hill center is currently serving 585 patients and has a staff of 10, including Dr. Conor Grey, who serves as medical director. He said a separate team of five staffers operates the Saturday walk-in center that provides STI services as well as services related to the HIV prevention medication known as PrEP.

“I’m very excited to be a part of this team,” Dr. Grey said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was held in a courtyard outside the Capitol Hill office building where the AHF center is located. About 50 people, including D.C. government officials, attended the event.

“This is a beautiful thing to celebrate,” Grey said. “So, I’m very happy to enjoy the day with all of you, and looking forward to a bright, productive future working together and fighting a common enemy that has unfortunately been with us.”

Others who spoke at the event included Tom Myers, AHF’s Chief of Public Affairs and General Counsel; Toni Flemming, Supervisory Public Health Analyst and Field Operations Manager for the D.C. Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Administration (HAHSTA), and Dr. Christie Olejeme, Public Health Analyst for HAHSTA’s Care and Treatment Division.

Also speaking at the event was Japer Bowles, director of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

Bowles called the AHF Capitol Hill center “another pivotal resource” for the LGBTQ community as well as for the city.

“We know, as has been previously stated, a low-barrier HIV prevention support is pivotal to the mayor’s mission of eliminating HIV infections in the District of Columbia and the region,” Bowles told the gathering.

“So, I’m very excited to see more services specifically provided to those in the Southeast and Northeast quadrants of our District,” he said, referring to the AHF Capitol Hill center. “This is a great moment for our community, but also for D.C. as a whole.”

In its statement released this week announcing the official opening of the Capitol Hill Center AHF notes that currently, 11,904 D.C. residents, or 1.8 percent of the population, are living with HIV. It points out that HIV disproportionately impacts Black residents, who make up about 44 percent of the population but comprise nearly three-quarters of the city’s HIV cases.

AHF official Myers said the Capitol Hill center will join its other D.C.-area facilities in addressing the issue of racial disparities related to HIV.

“Our treatment model helps eliminate barriers for those already in care, those who may not know their HIV status, and those living with HIV who may not currently be in care,” he said.

AHF says in its statement that it currently operates more than 900 healthcare centers around the world in 45 countries including 17 U.S. states. It has more than 1.7 million people in care, according to the statement. Founded in 1987, the organization has also taken on the role of public advocacy for federal and local government programs in the U.S. to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, including efforts to lower the costs of HIV drugs.

During its work in the late 1980s and early 1990s AHF emerged as a strong advocate for addressing the special needs of gay and bisexual men who were hit hardest by HIV/AIDS at the start of the epidemic.

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