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NEW: Another inmate has died at the Arlington County jail

Jail entrance at the Arlington County Detention Facility (file photo)

A 73-year-old woman died this morning at the Arlington County jail.

Abonesh Woldegeorges was found unresponsive in her cell around 7 a.m. and, despite resuscitation efforts, later pronounced dead, according to Arlington County police.

Per scanner traffic, she was found bleeding on the floor of the cell, potentially after falling out of bed.

Woldegeorges was in jail after being arrested for trespassing by Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police on Aug. 13. She “was being held at the Arlington County Detention Center awaiting transport to Loudoun County, Virginia for a Failure to Appear charge in relation to a prior Trespassing incident with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office,” ACPD said.

“Ms. Woldegeorges’ family was notified of her passing,” said a police press release. “Our condolences go out to her family and loved ones during this difficult time.”

“The Arlington County Police Department is conducting a death investigation and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine cause and manner of death,” the press release said. “Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact [email protected]. Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).”

Woldegeorges is the eighth person to die in the Arlington County jail over the past eight years. Her death comes despite heightened attention on jail deaths and efforts to update health check protocols at the county lockup.

Prior to today, the last death at the jail happened on Feb. 1, 2022. Including Woldegeorges, all but one of the people to die at the jail over the past eight years have been Black.

Last year the Arlington branch of the NAACP called for a federal investigation into the ongoing series of deaths. In a statement Sunday night, the organization renewed its call for an investigation.

The Arlington Branch of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, responds to the news of a Black woman detained at the Arlington County Detention Center.

We are devastated and saddened to learn that another loss of life has occurred at our county jail and we send our most heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones. In recent years, 8 people have lost their lives at the county detention center. All of them have been people of color. It is well-established that Black people are policed and arrested at significantly higher rates than their peers in Arlington, Virginia.

While Arlington is only 9% Black, the jail population on any given day is over 65% Black. “It’s unimaginable that a 73-year-old woman being held on trespassing charges would ultimately lose her life while in custody. Unfortunately, we have seen a pattern and practice of blatant disregard for basic care at the Arlington county jail and it is leading to deaths at an alarming rate,” said Michael Hemminger, President of the NAACP Arlington Branch.

After the seventh death in seven years, a $10M wrongful death suit was filed in Arlington County and the NAACP Arlington Branch called for a Department of Justice Investigation into the detention center. The Branch has reached out to government officials to discuss this incident and is currently awaiting a response. “Arlington County Sheriff’s Office and other county leaders have, again, failed to properly address the root problem, and another person has tragically lost her life,” said Hemminger. The NAACP will ensure a thorough and proper investigation is completed, and the organization will ensure that any civil rights violations are met with due accountability and justice.

The jail has been under new leadership since January, when long-time Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur stepped down and Chief Deputy Sheriff Jose Quiroz became the interim Sheriff. Quiroz won the Democratic primary for Sheriff in June, after running on a pledge of improving inmate well-being, and will be the sole candidate on the ballot in November.

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