Florida Keys

A homeless man fell into the water in public. It was a private death, police said

Friends of Scott Reis placed a memorial at the site where he died in Key West.
Friends of Scott Reis placed a memorial at the site where he died in Key West.

Scott Reis lived under the radar in Key West.

He also died that way, on Sept. 7, having fallen asleep on a seawall that is along the island’s busiest thoroughfare — North Roosevelt Boulevard — and fallen into the shallow water below, friends said.

Key West police were silent on how Reis, 67, met his end, even though the death happened in public. A spokeswoman characterized it as a family matter.

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Key West police officers arrived at a seawall to find a homeless man had died there. Richard Krzywinski

In some people’s eyes, it could be just one more homeless man who died in a city known for multi-million dollar homes, luxury resorts and celebrity visitors.

To those who knew Reis, it was heartbreaking news. It was circulated by several people on Facebook..

“Scott was a good guy,” Jessica Knoof posted on a thread. “He never hurt anyone but because he was homeless it seems that he didn’t ‘deserve’ any media coverage.”

Reis had multiple health problems, including diabetes and trouble with his heart, a friend says. He liked his drink, they added and would sometimes be seen sleeping in public.

“A lot of that had to do with his diabetes,” said Richard Krzywinski, who owns Key West Moped, a business located across the street from where Reis died. “A few drinks and he’d be done. He wasn’t supposed to be drinking.

But Reis wasn’t drinking the day he died, Krzywinkski said.

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A recent photo of Scott Reis, taken by a friend. Richard Krzywinski

Krzywinski said Reis in his youth had been quite the mechanic, having worked on British motorcycles, and that he had worked for another scooter business repairing the bikes.

“He knew what he was doing,” Krzywinski said.

Two days after Reis was found, another homeless man was found in the bushes outside the Wendy’s restaurant that’s right across the street from where Reis died, Krzywinski said.

“Again, nothing in the news, nothing mentioned at all,” he said

A police spokeswoman said the department doesn’t “sensationalize” accidental deaths.

“Accidental or natural deaths occur. We try to respect the family and friends, rather than sensationalizing them,” said police spokeswoman Alyson Crean. “It’s with the utmost respect for the dead and those close to them to allow the friends and family to share news of the death.”

The incident report provides no details other than that Reis was found in the water by workers at the nearby resort Ibis Bay at about 2:30 p.m. that Saturday. Ten police officers responded to the scene, which was cordoned off for hours, witnesses said.

The KWPD dive team helped remove the body. Police found an ID card identifying the man as Reis.

His friends held a small service for him on Sept. 8. Eight people showed up. They put up a memorial at the scene of his death, welding together two wrenches to make a cross - a reference to his career.

“RIP Scott,” the cross reads.

A candle and some flowers were also placed at the memorial.

Knoof grieves for her friend.

She wonders if Reis would have known how many people in Key West would do the same.

“Everyone deserves to be remembered,” she wrote. “And he will be missed by more people than even Scott himself realized.”

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