Flyers seek answers to mystery behind DC woman’s injuries

WASHINGTON — Normally a flyer is posted to find a missing person — not to ask, “Do you know what happened to me?” But signs are posted in a D.C. neighborhood to help solve the mystery of how a woman was seriously hurt.

It was 10 a.m. May 16 when Cate Cowan began walking up Porter Street near D.C.’s Cleveland Park neighborhood toward 34th Street, commonly known as Reno Road.

“That is really the last memory that I have. I have no recollection of what happened to me,” Cowan said.

Cowan woke up in George Washington University Hospital a day later with a brain injury causing double vision, a broken arm and bruising. They are injuries her doctors told her are impact-related and consistent with being hit by a vehicle. But Cowan doesn’t know who hit her, and a D.C. police investigation is looking into if she were hit at all.

At 10:03 that morning, two 911 calls came into D.C. Fire & EMS reporting a “person hit by a car” and “an unknown woman down,” according to dispatchers’ notes. EMS records show the 63-year-old was injured in a collision with a car, but the D.C. police officer who responded to the scene reported he could not find evidence Cowan was hit.

“It was unclear how the individual sustained her injuries and it was classified as an Injured Person to the Hospital. If there is any additional information as to how she sustained her injuries, MPD will make the appropriate updates to the case,” D.C. police said in a statement.

Cowan said it’s hard for her to understand what happened.

“If I was hit by a vehicle, people had to come to my rescue. They had to come out into the street, because thank heavens I wasn’t actually run over,” Cowan said.

The incident raises concerns about pedestrian safety in the intersection, however Councilwoman Mary Cheh, D-Ward 3, said District Department of Transportation data show in the last three years, there have been 12 accidents in that intersection — only one involving a pedestrian. Those numbers at the intersection of 34th and Porter streets do not meet DDOT’s criteria for a high-hazard area that needs traffic mitigation, such as a speed bump or traffic camera.

“There are really no facts to think that this is a dangerous intersection for pedestrians but we can still look at it and see what, if anything, can make it even safer,” Cheh said.

She said she plans to ask DDOT to look at the intersection and assess if changes need to be made.

Cowan, who considers herself a law-abiding pedestrian, calls the notion that someone hit her and drove away “disturbing,” but said her hope is to learn what happened for her own piece of mind, and to find the passers-by who helped her.

“I’d really like to thank the people who called 911 and who protected my body when I was in the street. It’s a big thing,” she said.

Anyone who might know more about the incident can contact police at 202-727-9099. Additionally, information may be submitted to the TEXT TIP LINE by sending a text message to 50411.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2017 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

Federal News Network Logo

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up