Man stricken at store was drunk, had heart Disease

October 27, 1990|By M. Dion Thompson

James Drumwright, who died of a heart attack after employees carried him out of a West North Avenue market because they thought he was only drunk, was intoxicated when he died, the state medical examiner said yesterday.

Mr. Drumwright, 57, had a blood alcohol level of .20 at the time of his death Thursday, said Dr. John E. Smialek, the medical examiner. The legal level of intoxication is .10. Mr. Drumwright also had chronic heart disease and showed signs of chronic alcoholism, Dr. Smialek said.

"He had very advanced heart disease, and it's impossible to say whether he could have survived with [immediate] emergency assistance or not," Dr. Smialek said. "When you have advanced heart disease, there's no way to predict when that might

induce a heart attack."

Mr. Drumwright, who lived in the 2400 block of Druid Park Drive, serviced oil burners and home furnaces for a living, and had relatives in New Jersey, said Linwood Bean, a friend of Mr. Drumwright.

"He was a nice person. He worked every day when he was working," Mr. Bean said. "Everybody knew him and liked him."

The incidents surrounding Mr.

Drumwright's death exposed long-standing tensions between Korean- American merchants and parts of the African-American community. The owners of the B&M Market, where Mr. Drumwright collapsed, are of Korean ancestry. Mr. Drumwright was black.

Early yesterday, angry residents picketed the market in the 3100 block of West North Avenue but dispersed after a meeting with the store's owners, area businessmen, community leaders and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke calmed tensions.

Jin Kang, the market's owner, closed his store for the day after the meeting and agreed to some demands by community residents, including temporarily removing his son, Kenny Kang, who was supervising the store when the incident occurred; joining the community and merchants' associations, and stocking products made by black companies. Mr. Kang also said he would make a public apology to the community and apologize to Mr. Drumwright's family.

"I'm terribly sorry about this situation. They didn't know he had heart attack. We thought he was intoxicated," the elder Mr. Kang said. "I feel deep sympathy for his family, and I will go to see them."

After the meeting, Mayor Schmoke told area residents the incident would be investigated fully and that serious efforts would be made to improve relations between Korean- American merchants and the African-American community. The topic will be discussed at an upcoming summit on race relations, scheduled for Nov. 30, Mayor Schmoke said.

"We recognize there is a problem," he said. "We want to work on solutions. We don't want this thing to get out of control."

Mayor Schmoke also applauded community and business leaders for their help in defusing the situation.

"There has just been some underlying tension and this thing just brought it out," he said.

Thursday morning, the market's employees found Mr. Drumwright collapsed over the meat counter, a liquor bottle in his back pocket. The employees said they tried to rouse him, then carried him outside where he could get some fresh air. The employees, who are black, said it is not uncommon to find someone intoxicated in the store.

"There are a lot of people who say it's a prejudice thing, but I think if it would have happened anywhere else, it would have gone down the same way," said Marcus Gaffney, the store's manager. "If I'd have known the man was having a heart attack or a stroke or something, I never would have carried him out."

Rhonda Byrd, an area resident, said turning the incident into a racial issue overlooked a crucial point -- the treatment of a human being.

"It's not about race," she said. "It's about a human life. It was an inhumane thing to do."

She and others in the area said

the store's owners or the employees should have left Mr. Drumwright in the store and called paramedics. A fire station is across the street from the market.

Kenny Kang, the owner's son, said he had never seen Mr. Drumwright before and didn't call police because he thought police would arrest Mr. Drumwright. Kenny Kang said he dialed 911 after going outside

to check on Mr. Drumwright.

Though passers-by and area residents say Mr. Drumwright was left on the street for at least 20 minutes before paramedics were called, store employees put the time closer to five minutes. "My biggest concern is we feel really bad the man had to die," Kenny Kang said. "I don't really want to get into racism with this because it was really an accident."

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