BREAKING NEWS: Student found dead outside HOVA

Posted 7:20p.m. Sunday, April 18 A GW student was found dead Sunday night after falling from a Hall on Virginia Avenue balcony.

Metropolitan Police are unsure whether freshman Hasan Hussain’s 80-foot fall from a balcony on HOVA’s fourth floor was accidental or intentional. While declining to discuss the city’s investigation into Hussain’s death, MPD Lt. Robert Glover said there were no signs of “foul play.”

“Specifics to the death investigation will not be disclosed at this time,” Glover said.

“The cause and manner (of death) will be determined from the Medical Examiner’s office,” he added.

Hussain, 19, of Jacksonville, Fla., was pronounced dead at 6:30 p.m. immediately after MPD and University Police officers found his body lying on the Virginia Avenue sidewalk across the street from the Watergate. HOVA is located at 2601 Virginia Ave.

Junior Christopher Lee said he was walking toward campus on the HOVA side of Virginia Avenue when he heard a thud about 10 feet behind him.

Lee said he immediately called 911.

“It is just awful when you see something like that. It reminds you of all the piddly things you do everyday, and when you see something like that, it’s just a shocking experience,” he said.

Hussain’s body was carried away at about 8 p.m.

About 50 HOVA residents, many of whom knew Hussain, stood sullenly around the HOVA entranceway before being urged by Community Living and Learning Center staff to talk to counselors inside the building. MPD and UPD officials cordoned off the right side of Virginia Avenue for about 90 minutes while investigators examined Hussain’s body.

Hussain is the fifth GW student to die in the last five months. Three weeks ago, sophomore Philip Augustin drowned in the Tidal Basin in an incident still being investigated by MPD.

“We’re saddened by the loss,” said Matt Nehmer, assistant director of GW Media Relations. “Our thoughts go out to the friends and family of the student. This is a terrible tragedy.”

In a phone interview late Sunday night, MPD Det. Doug Carlson said he informed the Hussain family about Hussain’s death at 11:35 p.m. Carlson, who is investigating the death, added that an autopsy would be performed on Hussain Monday morning.

Lt. Glover said MPD would interview several students who witnessed Hussain’s death.

It is unclear how Hussain was able to open a sliding glass door to access the balcony. Since GW acquired HOVA several years ago, it has restricted access to the residence hall’s balconies by deadbolting the doors. While residents can open the doors three to four inches for fresh air, they would need to unscrew the deadbolt to walk onto the balcony.

“If you want to get out on the balcony, you have to jimmy the door,” Nehmer said.

Friends remembered Hussain as a quiet but friendly young man who would act out various antics at the HOVA entrance in something he called the “Hussain Show.” His friends would be able to see his performance on a surveillance camera whose feed is accessible through HOVA cable.

“He dressed up as a woman once, and then he would bring a huge basket of laundry down and ask people where the laundry room was,” freshman Kristen Hall said. “He was a fantastic and wonderful guy, absolutely hilarious.”

Hussain, an officer in the Islamic Alliance For Justice student organization, was a passionate advocate of religious freedom, freshman Will Donovan said. He was the moving force behind a “Freedom of Religious Expression Act” that the Student Association Senate passed several weeks ago.

“Hussain wrote the bill and managed to get across how important it is that we are all able to express ourselves,” Donovan said. “He was absolutely amazing — incredible, devoted, hard-working.”

-Gabriel Okolski, Mosheh Oinounou and Rachel Zavala contributed to this report.

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