Cancer doctor has concerns about District 5 police station

Cheryl and George Edmonds
Cheryl and George Edmonds
Kelly Mitchell and his brother, Damon Edmonds, discuss their parents in a recent interview. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Baker)
Kelly Mitchell and his brother, Damon Edmonds, discuss their parents in a recent interview. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Baker)
Dr. Olugbenga "Gbenga" Olowokure, UC Cancer Institute physician and UC Health oncologist. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Baker)
Dr. Olugbenga "Gbenga" Olowokure, UC Cancer Institute physician and UC Health oncologist. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Baker)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - For the first time, a cancer doctor is speaking out about the situation at Cincinnati Police District 5 headquarters.

The police union leader has said he believes there could be a connection between at least 25 District 5 officers diagnosed with cancer, including several who have died.

Six of the cases particularly trouble Fraternal Order of Police President Sgt. Dan Hils.

The officers were all in their 50s leading healthy lives when they were diagnosed with rare, late stage cancers that ultimately claimed their lives.

Cincinnati city officials conducted air quality tests at Hils' request last month.

Those tests, including mold and radon, gave it "pretty much a clean bill of health," according to City Manager Harry Black.

There also is no known link between the building and cancers.

But Dr. Olugbenga "Gbenga" Olowokure, UC Cancer Institute physician and UC Health oncologist, said more investigation may be needed.

He has treated two Cincinnati police employees who died of a rare form cancer they were diagnosed with on the same day in 2012.

Dr. Gbenga said he would have concerns if he had to work at District 5.

"Even though we may not be necessarily be able to pinpoint what's causing this, the fact that it's happening and at that frequency, I think the average individual, if given the opportunity to move, would choose to move.

"I would get very worried if, in this building, five of my colleagues were diagnosed with one malignancy after the other. It calls into question our existing knowledge with regards to what might predispose an individual to a particular malignancy and does not answer that individual question for those individual agents or individual people.

"The fact that so many have been diagnosed with this common building as the place they work at really heightens my suspicions to want to transfer out of that department if I could. It's certainly a red flag.

"I wouldn't be working there.

"Could there be some environmental factor at play here that has predisposed them because they are obviously not genetically related? So, this coincidence is almost beyond us."

Cheryl Edmonds' son, Kelly Mitchell, and George Edmonds's children, Danielle Edmonds and Damon Edmonds, have questions of their own.

"Did our parents die - did our parents get sick - from getting exposed or working for the city?" Damon Edmonds wants to know.

Cheryl Edmonds worked at District 5 for eight of her nearly 28-year-career as a civilian employee at Cincinnati police, personnel records show. She retired in 2007.

George Edmonds retired as a lieutenant in 1995. Personnel records indicate he was never assigned to District 5, however, his family insists he did work there for a time and it' s where he met the woman who would become his wife.

His daughter, Danielle Edmonds, said she distinctly remembers him taking her to the building and going to visit him there while he was working.

Dr. Gbenda said the couple told him they worked in the same office building for a year.

Three months after George Edmonds was diagnosed, he died Jan. 19, 2013, the day before his 67th birthday. His cancer ravaged his healthy 6'  body so swiftly, he used a walker to get around.

The pain was so bad, he finally couldn't bear it anymore. He asked his son if he would get mad if he just let go.

"I told him 'Why would I be mad at you?' And he said 'Because I am going to lave you guys.'

His son assured his father he just wanted him at peace.

"He called it quits," Damon Edmonds said.

"They took him to hospice that day and he died three days later.  And so those were my last conversations I had with the man I looked up to as a kid. He was my superhero. He was my strong man."

Cheryl Edmonds, 55, endured another 16 months before passing away on May 9, 2014.

"My favorite memory of my mom was how she always encouraged me that I could overcome any and all obstacles no matter how adverse the circumstances could be," recalled her son, Kelly Mitchell.

"She ultimately showed this in how she handled her sickness especially after Dad passed away. She was gracious and wasn't angry about her predicament. She didn't want me falling into despair as a result of the ordeal. She - they - showed me how to live even while dying."

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