Memorial to Junius B. Slack
End of Watch: November 27, 1891
Rank: Mounted Officer, Badge No. 127
Age: 44 Years of Service: 11
Location of Death: Mount Pleasant Area
Duty Assignment: Eighth Precinct
Officer Slack, just returning home after checking off duty, was in the process to putting his horse in the stable for the night when his neighbor, Charles Myers came into the same stable to put his horse up for the night. Myers was intoxicated, loud and boisterous and very disorderly. Officer Slack returned home, but Myers only got louder Officer Slack decided he had to end this problem by taking Myers into custody. Officer Slack confronted Myers in the barn and was stabbed twice with a large butcher knife held in the hands of Myers. Despite being fatally wounded, Officer Slack used his club to subdue the subject until the arrival of responding officers.
Officer Slack’s wife witnessed the attack and used his police whistle to call for help. Other officers arrived at the scene and arrested Myers. Officer Slack was taken into his home, where he died two days later.
Charles Myers was arrested on the scene.
Officer Slack had served with the Metropolitan Police Department for 11 years. He was survived by his wife and five children. He was buried in Congressional Cemetery.
Articles from the Washington Post (Transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.)
HEREIN ARE TWO BRIEF NEWSPAPER MENTIONS OF OFFICER JUNIUS B. SLACK IN 1891, HIS DEATH AND THE TRIAL OF HIS KILLER.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED SEPTEMBER 19, 1891, PAGE 2.
APPARENTLY THERE WAS A REGULAR POST ARTICLE ABOUT THE POLICE ENTITLED: “NOT IN GENERAL ORDERS”
Chit-chat and Personal Concerning the Police
Not a man on the force has received as many ugly wounds as Officer Slack, of the Eighth precinct. His face bears evidence of this fact, but does not know what fear is.
(The rest of this article is not related to Slack)
Night Inspector Pearson during his connection with the force never had a complaint filed against him. He himself has done the bulk of the complaint filing.
The widow of Officer Constantine will receive a police pension of $20 per month and the two children $10 a month each until they are sixteen years old.
No department is more in need of a new building than that of the police.
Inspector Swindell is now an expert bicycle rider.
Officer Ed Murphy, of the Fourth precinct, is on duty at headquarters, Sergt, Burns being off on leave.
Lieut. Gessford, of the Eighth precinct, is the president of the Bronco Club.
Nothing has been seen of the Georgetown ghost recently.
“Red Bill’s gang”, one of the worst ever known to Georgetown, has been practically broken up.
Lieut. Teeple, of the Second precinct, is on duty, but he is still very feeble.
The Second precinct claims the prettiest and most intelligent pair of horses in the District.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED NOVEMBER 13, 1891, PAGE 1
BODY SNATCHERS FOILED
They Drop Their Ghastly Booty and Fire at Officer Morgan
Body-snatchers had Officer Morgan in uncomfortably close quarters last night just before midnight and fired several rounds at him. He forced them to drop the sack containing the body and take refuge in deep ditches.
Officer Morgan is one of the old members of the mounted force of the Eighth precinct, and last night while in the county of Brentwood road near Ivy City, two men with passing him in a buggy. He rode slowly along, intending to go back and follow them, but after going a short distance he saw three other men coming across a patch, one of whom had a large sack on his shoulder.
In a moment he knew the grave robbers were at work, and calling to them to halt the man dropped the sack, and as he did so several shots were fired at the officer. Before he could return the fire the men jumped into a ditch and ran off, shooting as they did so.
The officer dismounted and going to the sack found that it contained a body. He dragged it off into the woods, and, after waiting to see if the robbers would return, went to the box and sent in a call for the patrol wagon.
Officers Slack, Hendricks, and Hensey went out with the wagon and removed the body to the morgue. It was that of an old woman, evidently buried but a few hours.
Kate Tolston, a woman ninety years old, died of paralysis Tuesday, and it is believed that the body was hers. It was stolen from Harmonial Colored Cemetery, near where the body-snatchers were discovered.
A few nights ago Officer Slack’s presence in that vicinity frightened off some of the same gang of ghouls. (Edited)
It was nearly 3 o’clock before the officers and wagon returned to the station.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED NOVEMBER 27, 1891, PAGE 1
(NOTE: THERE WERE SEVERAL SPELLINGS ON THE SUSPECTS NAME IN THE BELOW ARTICLES)
SLACK’S WOUND FATAL
Death of the Policeman Who Was Stabbed by His Neighbor
HAD PENETRATED A VITAL PART
Story of the Prelude to the Affray Told by the Officer’s Wife
WITH A TWELVE-INCH BUTCHERS KNIFE
The Weapon Used by Charles H. Myers, Who Is Said to Have Had an Old Grudge Against His Victim–Tho Assailant Badly Battered.
Junius B. Slack, the policeman who was severely cut by his neighbor, Charles H. Myers, Wednesday night, died at 2 o’clock this morning. His wound was much more serious than it was at first thought to be. Myers used a butcher knife, the blade of which was nearly twelve inches long. Dr. J. Ford Thompson, by request of Maj. Moore, called at the Slack residence yesterday afternoon, and made an examination of the wound. He pronounced it a most serious one, but said that he did not think it necessarily fatal.
The police surgeons, Drs. McKim and Strickien, who had the case in charge, said they feared that the knife had pierced the lungs, in which event they did not think the officer could recover.
When a reporter called at the Slack residence in the evening he found a placard on the front door worded “No admittance, by order of the doctors.” He went to the rear of the house and was admitted by Mrs. Slack, who conducted him to the middle room, where the wounded officer lay. Mr. Slack was bolstered up with pillows, and he seemed to be unconscious. His breathing was irregular, coming in deep and labored gasps.
Mrs. Slack said her husband had been stabbed by Myers in the street in front of their residence.
“Mr. Slack, said she, came home as usual a little after 12 o’clock and rode to the stable to put up his horse. Meyers, who stable adjoins ours, had also just come in with his wagon and was unhitching his horse. He was considerably under the influence of liquor and used very violent language. He knew, I think, that my husband was in the stable and his language was directed against him.
“Mr. Slack, after putting his horse in his stall and bedding him, came into the house and said: “If I am spared until morning, I intend to obtain a warrant for Myers. Myers continued to curse my husband in a loud voice. Mr. Slack became angry, and said to me, “I believe I’ll run Myers in to-night and end the matter.”
“I tried to persuade him to wait till morning, but without success. He went out and I saw nothing of what occurred between them. I heard my husband cry out, “Maria, he has stabbed me; blow the whistle.” I blew the whistle, at the same time running to the front of the house, where I saw my husband and Myers wrestling in the street.
“Two officers heard the whistle and came running up. They separated my husband and Mr. Myers. Myers was taken into custody by the officers and Mr. Slack stepped into our front yard. Dr. Strickien was summoned and dressed my husband’s wound, which was in his left side, just below the heart. The thrust was evidently a glancing one, and the cut made a ragged wound.”
Myers, it is claimed, had a grudge against Slack for several months, because Slack was instrumental in having Myers son arrested. Each had been on the lookout for the other for some time past, and Myers upon several occasions attempted to provoke a fight. Slack had at all times, it is stated, avoided Myers, not wishing to quarrel with him. Myers, it is said, has been drinking hard of late, and has caused his neighbors considerable annoyance. He has been particularly outspoken in regard to Slack, and has been known to make threats that he would “do up” that officer.
Myers was quite severely injured in the fracas. His left arm was broken near the wrist, and his head was badly battered. His wounds were dressed at the Emergency Hospital by Drs. Hall and Atkinson, and he was returned to the Ninth precinct station. He was brought before Judge Miller yesterday, where he was confronted with a warrant sworn out by Policeman Warnell, charging him with attempted murder. Judge Miller refused to accept bail, and Myers was committed to jail to await the result of Slack’s injuries.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED NOVEMBER 20, 1892, PAGE 2
NOT GUILTY, THE JURY SAID
The Spectators Applauded and One Man Yelled “Hurrah”
END OF MEYERS TRIAL
The Verdict Acquitting the Defendant of the Charge of Murder Was One of the Most Popular Ever Rendered in the District–The Proceedings Once Dramatically Interrupted by the Murdered Mans Sister–Excitement of the Closing Scene.
Seldom is the verdict of a jury received with such a demonstration of approval as followed the acquittal of Charles J. Meyers last night. The people from the northeast section of the city who filled the courtroom gave a yell of delight in which no dissenting voice was heard. One man in the rear of the room climbed a chair, swung his arms, and cried, “Hooray!” wildly. Meyer’s wife and daughters embraced him together. After the first outburst the bailiffs kept a semblance of order until the judge had left the room. Then everyone struggled forward, trying to shake hands with Meyers and his lawyers. The crowd followed the group on the sidewalk, gave three cheers, and yelled, “What’s the matter with Lipscomb?” and “What’s the matter with Shillington?” for ten minutes.
The closing scene of the four days trial for the killing of Officer Junius B. Slack was a dramatic one. The closing argument of the district attorney was prolonged into the dusk, so that the two lamps on either side of the clerk’s desk, which are supposed to light the room in time of need, sent their dim yellow shafts a few feet into the room, leaving a black fog of gloom in the rear. It was 5:30 o’clock when the jury retired, and everyone expected it would return soon. An hour passed, during which Meyers began to grow nervous, although he had been very cool before, and the audience, which evidently hoped for an acquittal, began to have doubts. Justice Cox sent a bailiff to the jury room at 6:30 to inquire if they would soon reach a verdict. Immediately afterward the judge took the chair, the jury filed in, and there was an intense silence. Justice Cox admonished the audience that any demonstration of approval or disapproval would be a contempt of court. The foreman of the jury was Mr. Edward J. Hannan, and he answered the usual question by “Not guilty.” The court made no comment on the verdict.
This result was confidently expected by most of those who heard the evidence. It was foreshadowed by Justice Cox early in the day, when he gave his opinion that the attempted arrest by Slack was illegal, and that the verdict could not be higher than manslaughter.
There was a scene during the closing hours, when Slack’s sister rose in court and demanded to know whether they were trying a dead man.
When the proceedings began in the morning the government put Meyers on the stand again. In answer to questions, he denied that he had taken two glasses of whisky that night. He did not carry the knife which was used under the seat of his wagon. He did not a Mrs. Newman, nor did he remember that such a person once rode on his stage.
Mrs. Lucy M. Newman testified that she rode in Meyers wagon on the Benning road two weeks before the homicide and saw the knife under the cushion of the seat, which looked like the one in evidence. Mrs. Newman denied upon cross-examination that she was insane, although she had been sick a good deal.
Luke Carroll, swore that he saw Meyers drink two glasses of whisky in Miller’s saloon.
A young man, Elliot Welderman, said that he saw Mrs. Meyers and her daughters in the Slack house, and heard them say that they knew nothing about the matter. Ex-Detective Block bore testimony on the same matter.
The defense then called Lieut. R.B. Boyle, of the police force, who testified that he had arrested Slack for an assault before the latter was made an officer, and that Slack had kicked him.
A well-dressed lady created a sensation by rushing up to the judge and inquiring, excitedly, if she could ask a question.
“Are you a witness?” Judge Cox asked. “No, sir.” “She is Mr. Slack’s sister,” said Mr. Lipscomb. “I am,” said the woman, “and I want to know if you are trying a dead man. My brother is dead, If he was alive I would not care, but you ought not try a dead man.”
The justice told the woman to take her seat, and she did so.
The Government offered Slack’s club and pistol in evidence. Two empty cartridges were in the pistol and the chambers were loaded.
The defense called Mr. Joseph Harper, the deputy clerk of the police court, who produced a warrant which Mrs. Meyers had once sworn to against her husband.
When the testimony was concluded the counsel submitted their prayers. The Government wished the court to instruct the jury that Slack had a right to make the arrest and use reasonable force in making it. If the defendant resisted and used a deadly weapon he was guilty as indicted. If Slack used unnecessary force in the making the arrest, the defendant did not a right to kill him, or to use means of resistance greatly disproportionate to the attack. The character of the deceased could not be taken as a justification of the homicide.
In commenting upon the prayers Justice Cox said that Meyers profanity was only a misdemeanor and not a breach of the peace. He was under the impression that the arrest was illegal, and although the defendant had not a right to take life in resisting, the act could not be more than manslaughter.
The district attorney argued that officers of the law are directed by the statues to arrest anyone committing a misdemeanor or a breach of the peace in his presence. He claimed that it would have been a violation of the ordinance of the levy court if Slack had not made the arrest. The court said that he doubted the validity of the ordinance.
The opening argument was delivered by Mr. Howard Clagett, the assistant district attorney. Most of his speech was devoted to a review of the testimony. He referred to the difficulties experienced by policemen in making arrests and said that he had seen officers who would be where Slack was if they had not been quick in the use of the club.
Mr. Lipscomb spoke first for the defense. He said that Slack had met his death as everyone knew he would. He was a violent man, who went about picking quarrels and beating people on slight provocation. He used his brass buttons as authority to become a petty tyrant. It was not denied that the defendant stabbed him. He should have done it sooner; he should have met Slack at the gate and stopped his advances. Then Mr. Lipscomb described the quarrel between the men. To tell a police officer to mind his own business was sufficient cause to be “run in” in this district.
In his closing argument for the defense Mr. Shillington dwelt upon the freedom with which the police are accustomed to use their clubs. He referred to the order in New York depriving the police of their clubs during the Columbian celebration, and said that the authorities were afraid to trust the officers with weapons.
When district attorney Cole began his argument he scored Mr. Lipscomb for having reflected upon the officials. Mr. Lipscomb retorted: “I said there were lots of rascals on the police force, and I say it again; brutal men who ought not to be there.”
The taking of human life was never to be commended, Mr. Cole said; the question at stake was whether it could be excused in this instance. “The police force of the District of Columbia needs no defense,” he said. After handling the testimony at length the district attorney turned to Slack’s character and held that he was not a brutal man, according to the evidence, although perhaps a high-tempered, meddlesome man.
Justice Cox said in his charge that the ordinance of the levy court which forbid profane language was void. The arrest was illegal, and the defendant had a right to resist, although he had no right to kill the man to prevent being confined temporarily. If he unnecessarily took life he would be guilty of manslaughter. Had the arrest been legal under these circumstances he would be guilty of murder. He could not rashly conclude that his life was in danger, but if he did come to the conclusion that his life was in danger, or even that his limbs might be broken, he had a right to take the other’s life. The character of the assailant could be taken into consideration by the assailed in forming judgement as to his peril. If the assailant bore the character of a dangerous man he would be the more justified in thinking his life in danger.
The 1860 federal census finds 15 year old Junius B. Slack living in Fairfax, Virginia. His father was a school teacher.
The 1870 federal census lists Junius working as a carpenter, and living in Washington D.C.
When he was killed in 1891, his wife, Mary, applied for a civil war widow’s pension. Though born and raised in Virginia, the record state Junius served in the 5th U.S. Cavalry.
The 1900 census lists his two oldest sons working as jockeys.