James Isom, a long-serving University Police Department officer, was found dead at his home Tuesday morning. He was 64 years old.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said Isom’s cause of death is unknown and the cause and manner of his death may not be available for 60 to 90 days.
University Police Chief Kevin Hay said the executive assistant chief of police was a dedicated member of the community.
“[Isom] dedicated 39 years of his life to protecting the students, faculty and staff of this great university,” Hay said.
A member of the University Police Department said officers are wearing black bands across their badges out of respect for Isom.
The officer said he was unsure how the University would replace Isom, as “he did everything” in the department, from handling discipline cases to security details at basketball games and the School of Media and Public Affairs.
“When he was in the hospital, so much didn’t go right,” the officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as officers have been instructed not to speak with the media, said.
Isom graduated from GW in 1969 with a degree in international relations, and came to the University through a football scholarship.
He was one of GW’s first black athletes and one of the last members of the football team before the program ended in 1966. The Chattanooga, Tenn., native also played club rugby as an undergraduate.
“I offer my heartfelt condolences to James Isom’s family and his fellow officers,” University President Steven Knapp said in a statement. “James spent almost 50 years at George Washington as a student, athlete and member of [UPD.] His legacy of service, commitment and hard work will live on in all those he trained and led.”
University flags will be lowered to half mast to honor Isom until Thursday.
Isom began his tenure with UPD as a patrol officer in 1972 following service in the U.S. Army and military police.
Little was known about Isom in the broader GW community until he was named the interim chief of police last year. He was promoted to the position in April 2010, a few weeks before former UPD Chief Dolores Stafford stepped down. He served as Stafford’s second-in-command for 8 of her 18 years as chief.
He led UPD from May 1, 2010, until UPD Chief Kevin Hay took office in September.
Before Isom’s term ended, he was named in two discrimination complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Questions about his role in the discrimination cases remain unanswered.
The complaints by a white officer and an Indian-American officer were filed with the EEOC, a D.C. agency that helps protect employees from discrimination in the workplace.
Isom is survived by a brother, Duane Caudle and two sisters, Adeline Williams and Donna Lynn Caudle, all of Chattanooga. Donna Lynn Caudle declined to comment. Duane Caudle and Williams were not immediately available for comment.