Memorial to John Jacob Smith

smith_j_editEnd of Watch: July 7, 1904
Rank: Officer, Badge No. 93
Age: 62  Years of Service:  34 years
Location of Death: Aqueduct Bridge (2D)
Duty Assignment: Seventh Precinct 


Officer John Smith was shot and killed by a soldier from Ft. Meyer during the 4th of July fireworks display.

Three soldiers were creating a scene on Aqueduct Bridge and Officer Smith asked them to move on. A struggle ensued between Officer Smith and one of the soldiers. During the struggle a second soldier fired with a .38 caliber handgun, striking Officer Smith in the stomach.

He succumbed to his wound three days later. The suspects were eventually apprehended. The gunman was tried and acquitted on April 12th, 1905.



Officer Smith was assigned to the 7th precinct and had served with the Metropolitan Police Department for 34 years. He was survived by his wife, six children, and his mother, and is buried Mount Olivet Cemetery, Washington, DC.


Articles from the Washington Post – transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.


John J. Smith Probably Fatal Wounded
Unprovoked Attempt to Kill Aqueduct Bridge Officer—Told Party of Soldiers From Fort Myer Not to Block the Passage, and the Shooting Followed—Suspect Denies Firing the Shot.

Policeman J.J. Smith, detailed for duty on the Aqueduct Bridge, is at the Georgetown University Hospital with a bullet wound in his abdomen which may prove fatal. He was shot last night by a cavalryman from Fort Myer. Samuel Young is detained at the First precinct police station on suspicion of doing the shooting. Smith is sixty-two years old, and has been on the force for over thirty years. He was formally stationed at the White House.

The shooting occurred shortly before 9 o’clock. Three shots were fired, but little excitement was caused owing to the Fourth of July noise, and the running away of the several soldiers in the party would have attracted little attention, as many were running to a fire which had just broken out in Georgetown. Smith was shot at the southern end of the truss over the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.

The wounded man staggered to the patrol box at the end of the bridge and turned in a call for the patrol wagon. The wagon was at the fire, and the injured officer, with the assistance of James Moody and Arthur Hillary, walked to the Georgetown University Hospital on the hill.

Fired When Told to Move On.
The provocation the soldier had against the aged policeman was the latter’s request to move on. It appears that three soldiers were obstructing the walk across the bridge. On account of the repairs in progress, it is necessary to keep the walk free from congestion. After being twice requested to move on, the smallest of the three soldiers stepped to the roadway and covered the officer with his pistol. The men maneuvered a few feet apart, the policeman with his baton in hand and the soldier with his pistol, supposed to have been a small pocket pistol, and not an army pistol. Upon the third shot, according to one witness, the policeman cried out that he was shot, and the soldiers fled.

Sam H. Stride, a boatman of Sharpsburg, VA, was close to the soldier when he fired, but Stride lost no time getting down the steps, which led from the bridge to the canal. Tom Graves, a laborer, was on the bridge several feet away, but he cannot say which of the men did the shooting. He believes they ran toward Rosslyn, on the Virginia side of the bridge.

Ran Into Key Mansion.
James Waddell, who keeps a place of business near the end of the bridge, saw a soldier run into the Key Mansion, he says, just after he heard Smith cry out that he was shot. The occupants of the mansion admitted that a soldier entered by the front door, ran through the house, and down the rear steps in the towpath along the canal. Another rumor was that two soldiers had been seen changing their clothes at a boathouse just above Jack Heath’s after the shooting. Policemen and detectives were watching the Virginia shore and Fort Myer all during the night in an endeavor to get trace of the man who did the shooting.

Policeman Smith told the story of the shooting to Capt. Swindells, of the force, just before being operated upon. He said: “I was standing at the end of the truss, and asked the three soldiers standing in the footpath to move on. I then went toward the end of the bridge and dispersed some blacks who were obstructing the way. When I came back the soldiers were still there. I again told them they were obstructing the way and asked them to move on. “I think you’ll wait till I roll a cigarette,” or something like that, a big soldier said to me. I told him that I wouldn’t wait, and, taking him by the arm, I shoved him.

Don’t You Pull Your Gun.
“Then the smallest of the group stood in the wagon way and pointed a pistol at me. He said: “I’ve got you covered; don’t you pull your gun.” I tried to get at him with my baton, and was shot. I guess it is all over with me this time, captain.”

Smith’s wife and daughter came to the hospital from their home at 3016 Cambridge Place just before an operation was performed to locate the bullet.

Dr. Vaughan examined the wound. The bullet had entered the abdomen, near the median line, just below the navel. The surgeon believed no intestines had been pierced, and closed the wound.

The account given of the fight by Smith is corroborated by Stride. He heard the soldier tell the policeman not to raise his baton. He saw the soldier point the pistol at the policeman and heard the shots as he was hastening down the steps. He was unable to give a definite description of any of the soldiers. The only description obtained last night was that given by Smith. He said his assailant was small, and wore no leggings, although he was dressed in khaki uniform. At the Key mansion the police were told that the soldier who darted through there wore no hat.

Arrest of Young.
On the strength of the meager description, Policeman Mellen, stationed at Fourteenth and Pennsylvania Avenue, arrested about 10 o’clock a soldier in khaki who was coming from Georgetown without hat or coat. He had no leggings on, and his shoes were covered with mud, as would probably have been the case had he run along the canal. He boarded the street car at Twenty-fourth and G streets, and admitted that he had been in trouble. He would not say what it had been. He had been drinking. He was detained at the First precinct station overnight. The name he gave was Samuel Young, of the Fifteenth Cavalry.

Stride was brought to the station during the night. Although he got only a glimpse of the soldiers, he feels sure that Young is not one of the men. If Smith is able he will be asked to identify Young at the hospital this morning.

Energetic efforts were made by the police to apprehend the three soldiers. Detectives and policemen went into Virginia, several to the fort. Mounted men guarded the Chain Bridge, and a patrol was kept on the river last night.



Trooper Young Proves to Be Officer Smith’s Assailant.
Surgeons Say if Wounded Man Lives Two Days Longer He May Recover—Companions of Young Held as Witnesses—Conductor and Motorman Given Credit for Capture of Cavalryman

Samuel B. Young, the young soldier of the Fifteenth Cavalry, stationed at Fort Myer, who was arrested on Monday night soon after the shooting of Policeman John Jacob Smith, on the Aqueduct Bridge, on suspicion of having committed the crime, made a confession yesterday to Capt. Boardman, of the detective force, setting up as his defense that he thought he was firing blank cartridges, and that he was drunk and did not know what he was doing. At the Georgetown University Hospital it was stated last night the aged officer was doing well as could be expected of such a seriously wounded man, but the surgeons said they could not promise that he would live until morning. If Smith lives for forty-eight hours more, it is stated, more hope would be held out for his recovery.

In his confession Young outlined his movements before, during, and after the crime, saying that on the morning of the Fourth, he participated in the exercises at Fort Myer, heard the reading of the Declaration of Independence, and then, securing leave for the day, went with some companions to the home of a mutual friend, a Mr. Carter, where a half barrel of beer was opened.

Loaded Shell Among the Blanks.
“From there,” Young continued, “I went back to quarters and picked up a handful of what I thought were blank cartridges. I had saved them from drill practice, and intended using them to celebrate the Fourth. How a loaded shell got in with the blanks I do not know.”

Before he went to the Aqueduct Bridge Young said he had many drinks, and that he was so drunk he did not remember all that happened. He said he fired at the policeman as a bluff, thinking that he was shooting blank cartridges, and that when the officer cried that he was shot, Youngfelt that something was wrong, and his one thought was to escape. His description of the route through the old Key mansion and thence along the towpath confirmed the discoveries of the police, who were able to track Monday night and yesterday morning and found Young’s coat in the canal, where he had thrown it.

Young named Corp. Shaw and Acting Sergt. Littlefield as his companions on the bridge when the shooting occurred, and they, when taken into custody, confirmed Young’s story. The weapon with which the shooting was done was not found up to a late hour last night, and Young said he did not know what he did with it, unless he threw it away in his flight.

Lieut. Jordan’s Report.
Lieut. Jordan, in command of the Seventh precinct, reported to the Commissioners yesterday the circumstances of the shooting of Policeman J.J. Smith. As to the arrest of Young on the street car, Lieut. Jordan says: “The conductor, J.B. Talbert, and motorman, J. Fought, noticing the soldier’s excited manner, suspected he was the man wanted for shooting Smith, and turned him over to the first officer, Private Mellon, they saw. He was locked up at the First precinct station under the name of Samuel Young. About 3 o’clock this morning Sergt. Kramer found a soldier’s khaki blouse in the canal, and in the pocket was the name “Samuel Young,” the name given by the soldier under arrest.”



Result of Autopsy in the Case of Policeman Smith.

Doctors Certify That He Died from Shock and Hemorrhage, and Developments Seem to Bear Out Trooper Young’s Claim That His Pistol Was Loaded with Blank Cartridges When He Fired.
John Jacob Smith, the veteran policeman, who was shot in the abdomen by Samuel R. Young, a cavalryman, on the Aqueduct Bridge, on the Fourth of July, died at 7:15 o’clock yesterday morning at the Georgetown University Hospital. Mrs. Smith and her six children were summoned from their home, 3019 Cambridge St, NW, as soon as the surgeons realized that the end was near, and they were at the bedside when the end came.

Coroner Nevitt was informed as soon as Smith died, and he directed Deputy Coroner Glazebrook to perform an autopsy immediately. Announcing the result last evening, Dr. Glazebrook confirmed the previous diagnosis of the case by declaring that the general character of the wound indicated that it was not made with a bullet. Careful search also failed to bring a leaden missile to light. This, said Dr. Glazebrook, would indicate that the wound was made with a wad, and although no bits of paper or pieces of the wad were found, it might have been that they were washed out with the blood clots when the wound was cleaned.

May Have Dissolved.
There also remains the hypothesis that the wad which killed Policeman Smith was made of paraffin, as stated in yesterday’s Post, and that trace of it was lost by the wax melting from the natural heat of Smith’s body. Death resulted from hemorrhage and shock.

Coroner Nevitt will hold an inquest in the case at 11 o’clock this morning at the new morgue, at which Samuel R. Young, self-confessed slayer of Smith, will be present. Young was committed to jail from the Police Court on Tuesday, and he will be brought up from his cell for the inquest, only to be recommitted for the action of the grand jury. Assistant United States Attorney Bingham will probably represent the government at the inquest. The two cavalrymen who were Young’s companions at the time of the shooting will be the principal witnesses, and it is also likely that Young’s signed confession will be admitted as evidence. J.W. Kinsley and Clayton G. Emig will appear as counsel for Young.

As the case stands, the declarations of Young that his pistol contained blank cartridges on the day of the shooting would seem to have been born out, and it was said in local circles yesterday that for this reason, if for no other, Young would never be convicted of murder in the first degree.

Young Much Depressed.
At the District jail last night it was stated that Young had been greatly depressed ever since being told that Policeman Smith was dead.

Only one new fact developed yesterday, namely, that Patrolman Smith did not have his revolver in his pocket at the time the shooting occurred, It is conceded that the aged officer would not have had to draw the weapon to defend himself before Cavalryman Young fired the three shots, one of which caused the fatal wound, and, consequently, there would have been the same termination. Smith’s revolver was found later in the watch box at the Georgetown end of the Aqueduct Bridge, where he had left it soon after going on duty on the Fourth of July evening. The reporting of this phase of the case at headquarters resulted in a general order from Maj. Sylvester yesterday that all men going on duty shall have their revolvers inspected by the commanding officer.

Policeman Smith had served on the Metropolitan police force for nearly thirty-five years, thirty-three years ago he was married to Miss Barbara Ochenreiter, and their six children surviving are Frank A., John Jacob Jr, Loretto, Erith, William, and Edward.

The funeral will be held at 8:30 o’clock on Saturday morning, with services in Holy Trinity Church, and interment at Mount Olivet Cemetery.



Verdict of “Not Guilty” Frees Soldier from Manslaughter Charge.

Cavalryman, Discharged After Trial for Death of Policeman Smith, Will Rejoin His Troop.
Samuel R. Young, trumpeter of Troop H, Fifteenth United States Cavalry, was yesterday acquitted by the jury in Criminal Court No. 1 which tried him upon an indictment for manslaughter in connection with the death of Policeman John Jacob Smith last July. The courtroom was crowded when the jurors entered to return their verdict. Young stood pale and motionless awaiting the foreman’s words, and showed relief when the verdict of “not guilty” was pronounced. He immediately addressed the court, and said: “Judge, I thank you and the gentlemen of the jury for their very just verdict,” to which the justice responded, “You are discharged.”

Young and his attorneys, James B. Archer, Jr., and John Lewis Smith, were surrounded by their friends as they left the courtroom and were showed with congratulations. When they reached the courthouse portico Young kicked his hat down the steps and ran after it, laughing like a child. Securing his hat, the young soldier excused himself with the remark: “I’m going to telegraph my mother.”

He ran down John Marshall place until he reached a telegraph office, where he wired his parents that he had been acquitted. Young expects to proceed to Fort Ethan Allen, Vt., where the Fifteenth Cavalry is stationed, to resume his duties with his troop.

Members of Miles Camp, United States Spanish War Veterans, who took charge of Young’s case after his arrest and employed his counsel, declared themselves delighted at the outcome of the trial.

Attorney Smith yesterday morning continued his argument, begun the day before, in Young’s behalf. He contended that the government had demonstrated beyond all cavil that the shot which caused the officer’s death was fired with the muzzle of the revolver against the body of the deceased, while all the witnesses in the case placed Young at a distance of twelve feet from the policeman when he fired.

Attorney Archer made the closing argument for the defense. He declared that the case was a “most singular one,” as the government was “put to the extremity of asking the jury to believe that Policeman Smith died from loss of blood that came from nowhere, so far as the doctors can tell, and that the defendant shot a man twelve feet away with weapon that would not mark at five feet or tear a coat at three inches.” In concluding the appeal for his client, Mr. Archer asked the jury to free him “to serve his country in the profession of arms, and to gladden the hours of those far-away parents who were listening with their hands on their hearts for the jury’s verdict.”

Assistant United States Attorney Turner made a strong appeal to the jury, in which he contended that the case had been proven against the defendant and that he should be convicted. Justice Wright then instructed the jury, delivering what was commented upon as an admirable exposition of the law, in which he defined the different degrees of homicide and discussed the various phases of the case. The jury retired about noon and returned its verdict shortly after 2 o’clock.