Memorial to John A. Conrad
End of Watch: May 21, 1918
Rank: Officer, Badge No. N/A
Age: 35 Years of Service: 13 years
Location of Death: 76 I Street, NE
Duty Assignment: Fifth Precinct
Officer Conrad was assisting Charles County Sheriff McParlan serve a Witness Summons on Herman Copeland of 76 I Street, NE. Unbeknownst to the officers, Copeland was wanted for murder in South Carolina. Upon entering the house, Copeland shot Officer Conrad in the chest and the Sheriff in the neck, both died of their wounds.
After shooting the two officers, Copeland fled to 1500 Carrollburg Place, SW, where he was confronted by Lieutenant David Dunigan. During the ensuing shootout Lieutenant Dunigan was also fatally wounded and the suspect was wounded but survived. The suspect later surrendered after running out of bullets and having been shot four times.
The suspect escaped but was recaptured and hanged on January 22, 1925 after claiming 12 murders, including a Chicago Policeman.
The deaths of these two police officers led to the creation of a fund supported by the citizens and business community of the city to build a police memorial in honor of these two officers and all officers of the Metropolitan Police Department. The fund raised $10,000. It took the U.S. Congress 10 years to approve those funds to be used to build the memorial on DC Government property. The memorial still sits in front of DC Police Headquarters, now known as the Henry J. Daly Building. Read more about the amazing history of the Metropolitan Police Memorial Fountain.
Officer Conrad had served with the agency for 13 years and was assigned to the 5th precinct. He was survived by his father and sister.
Articles from the Washington Post – transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.
Note from Dave: Washington Post article dated May 21, 1918 – I have edited this article to avoid the term, negro, that was used during that time to identify black individuals.
THE DEATH OF JOHN A. CONRAD
Herbert L. Copeland shot and killed D.C. Police Lieutenant David T. Dunigan, Officer John A. Conrad, and Charles County Deputy Sheriff Lawrence McParland, on May 21, 1918. Copeland survived four gunshot wounds received during his capture, later escaped from D.C. Jail and wasn’t recaptured until 1924. Copeland confessed to twelve murders including a Chicago policeman before his hanging at D.C. jail in 1925. His hanging was the subject of the third article.
Washington Post article dated May 21, 1918 (I have edited this article to avoid the racial term, negro, that was used during that time to identify black individuals.)
“SUSPECT” KILLS SHERIFF AND CITY POLICEMAN
J.A. Conrad and L.H. McParland serving summons.
MURDERER MAKES ESCAPE
Leaps From a Second Story After His Victims Fall.
JUST MISSES THIRD MAN
Fires at Supt. Niles, of Indian Head Construction Company, who had brought McParland here to get suspect as witness in embezzlement case—officers slain so quickly neither had time to draw his pistol—police arrest six men and five women.
John Conrad, 37 years old, policeman at the sixth precinct police station, and L.H. McParland, deputy sheriff at Indian Head, Md., are dead as the result of a fight at 76 I Street, NE, early this morning. The officers had gone there to serve a court summons on H. Copeland, wanted as a witness in a case which the Austin Company, constructors, were pressing against another subject.
McParland Falls First
The two men left the automobile in which W.H. Niles, superintendent of construction for the Austin Company, had driven McParland here and picked up Conrad. As the two officers entered the building a subject who has not been positively identified opened fire. The first shot is believed to have killed McParland. The shot entered his neck. Conrad was shot through his chest. Neither officer had time to draw his pistol before overtaken by death.
Takes Shot at Niles
The second shot is believed to have been the one that fatally wounded Conrad. He died within a short time. Seeing that both his victims were fatally wounded the subject opened a front window on the second story of the house and shot once at Supt. Niles, who had remained in the car, while the officers entered the house. Niles was not hit.
Escapes From Window
The subject then ran to the back of the house, and, jumping from a second story window, made his escape.
Detectives from headquarters and police detectives and policemen from the Second and Sixth precinct were hurried to the house.
One Dead, One Dying
When policemen had entered the hallway to the house, they found McParland dead and Conrad dying. Neither officer had ever had a chance to draw his revolver. In McParland’s left hand was clutched tightly the summons he had gone to serve on Copeland.
Pullman Takes Charge
Maj. Pullman was called from bed and personally took charge of the case. He ordered all reserves from the Second and Ninth precincts to the immediate neighborhood of the house. Every policeman in the city was awakened and ordered on duty. Every sheriff and constable in nearby counties and the Baltimore police were notified.
Maj. Pullman characterized Conrad as one of the best policeman Washington ever had, and recalled that he had made some creditable arrests in the face of danger.
Policeman John A. Conrad, who was killed by one of the shots, was regarded as one of the most efficient and trustworthy of the force in the Fifth precinct.
Washington Post article dated May 22, 1918 (Note prior edit comment)
SUSPECT MAY NOT LIVE
Copeland, Who Killed Three Law Officers, Desperately Wounded
BODY OF DUNIGAN AT HOME
Police Lieutenant Had Daringly Attempted To Capture Fleeing Murderer, Meeting Death—Yields When Gun He Used Becomes Empty—Said To Have Record
Heavily guarded by the police and suffering from four wounds, Herbert L. Copeland, the 35 year old suspect, who shot and killed two Washington police officers and a Maryland deputy sheriff, lies in Casualty Hospital. His condition is serious, but Drs. Nolan and Rawman, who are attending him, state that he has a chance to recover.
The bodies of L.H. McParland, the deputy sheriff from Indian Head, Md., and John A. Conrad, policeman of the Sixth precinct, both of whom were shot dead by the suspect when they attempted to serve a summons on him at his home, 76 I Street northeast, are in the city morgue. The body of Lieut. David T. Dunigan, whom he shot later in the morning and who died within a few minutes at Casualty Hospital, has been removed to his Kalorama road home.
Came to Serve Summons
The shooting started shortly before 8 o’clock yesterday morning, when McParland came from Indian Head to serve a summons on Copeland to appear as a witness in an embezzlement case against another subject employed as a cook by the Austin Company, government contractors at the new Navy Department proving ground.
McParland, who came to Washington with W.H. Niles, superintendent of construction for the Austin Company, went to the Sixth precinct stationhouse to find the address of the subject, was told to cooperate with Policeman Conrad, whose beat led past the house.
Conrad led the sheriff to the house and waited outside while the Indian Head official entered and demanded that Copeland, who was in bed, rise and go with him. The subject refused, and McParland left the house and joined Conrad, waiting with Niles in an automobile.
Decide to Enter House
Conrad and McParland decided to enter the house and bring the subject out by force, if necessary. They ascended the steps, and as they did so Copeland appeared at the door and warned them to keep out. Ignoring the threat, the two officers went to the door, opened it and entered.
Niles, who was waiting without, stated that he believed the subject stepped back after they entered the house and opened fire. McParland, who was leading, is believed to have been the first to fall. A “dum-dum” soft nosed bullet from Copeland’s weapon, a colt 45 caliber automatic, of the type used in the American army, struck the sheriff low in the neck, killing him almost instantly.
Shot in the Chest
Conrad was shot in the right side of his chest, the bullet penetrating his lung. He died within a few minutes.
After shooting the two officers, Copeland went to the window in the front of the house and shot at Niles, who crouched down in his seat. The gunman turned and made his escape through the rear of the house.
When other policemen arrived a general alarm, rousing every member of the police and detective forces in the city on duty, and sending all nearby reserves to the I street house, was sent out from police headquarters. Maj. Raymond W. Pullman, superintendent of police aroused from his bed, took personal charge of the man hunt for the slayer.
A house to house search for the fugitive started in surprisingly short time. Four men and as many women, occupants of the house where the shooting occurred, were arrested as witnesses. Copeland’s wife and a young man volunteered to lead the police to the home of his half-brother at 1400 Carrollburg place.
Start in Pursuit
Lieut. Dunigan, Lieut. Brammerman, of the Second precinct, Detective Sergeant Beckley, and Policeman Truce and Davis entered an automobile with the men and started for the house. Detectives from headquarters and policemen from the Fourth and Sixth precincts armed with Krag-Jorgensen rifles also sent.
Lieut. Dunigan, Lieut. Bremmerman, together with Detective Sergeant Beckley ascended the front stairs and forced the door. Dunigan leading, the trio entered the house and shouted to the occupants to surrender. Copeland, who was standing in a rear room, answered by firinga shot hitting Dunigan in the groin. The Lieutenant sank to the floor shouting to Beckley, who was at his side, “I’m shot in the leg, Beck, go get him.”
Meanwhile, Copeland rushed from the rear of the house, firing as he ran. Leaving the place by the back door, he bolted for a gate in the fence, only to find it guarded by Policeman Waller, of the Fourth precinct. Waller emptied his revolver at the subject, while the shots from the rifles and revolvers of the other officers rang out, driving the subject back into the house.
Police Draw Cordon
For a few minutes everything was quiet, the subject had stopped firing, while the police drew their cordon tighter about the building.
Acting Night Inspector of Detectives Weedon ordered 100 gallons of gasoline sent to the scene to set fire to the house and drive the subject into the open if need be.
Inspector Grant called to any women and children who might be in the house to come out, as the police planned to fire a volley of shots through it. The only one to respond was a 3 year old girl, the daughter of Barnes, who said that a man was under her bed “all bloody”.
Precinct Detective Wright, of the Sixth precinct, volunteered to go in and get him, if someone would accompany him. Lieut. Bremmerman of the Second precinct, stepped forward as did Bicycle Policeman Flaherty, who carried a light. As they entered Copeland fired the last shot from his automatic as he lay under the bed, and called weakly, “Don’t shoot, boys, I’m through.”
Overturn the Bed
Bremmerman rushed to the bed and overturned it, while Wright flung himself on the subject, pinning his arms. Then he was taken from the house and rushed to Casualty Hospital, where he was found to be suffering from four wounds, one in the center of his chest, under his heart, one in the front of each shoulder, and one in the back. One of the wounds is believed to have been made by Lieut. Dunigan, who fired as he fell; the other three are said to be the work of Policeman Waller, who barred Copeland’s escape through the rear gate.
Although the summons McParland attempted to serve on Copeland was only to appear as a witness in a case of embezzlement, it is believed by the police that he feared arrest on more serious charges, as he is believed to have committed murder in Galveston, Tex., and also in Alabama. Barnes, his half-brother, states that Copeland had boasted that he had committed murder and had “got away with it.”
Lieut. Dunigan had been a member of the police force since 1875 and had risen to a lieutenant from the ranks. He had the reputation of being absolutely fearless, often having entered houses sheltering desperate characters rather than allow men under him to take the risk. He is survived by four sons, David J, Francis S, Raymond I, and Walter A.
Policeman John A. Conrad, known to his friends as “Big Jack,” had been a member of the police force since 1908. He is the son of John H. Conrad, of 2511 North Capitol Street. He was well known as a champion amateur wrestler.
Was Traffic Superintendent
L.H. McParland, who was a traffic superintendent for the Austin Company, in addition to being a deputy, was a resident of Buffalo, N.Y., and came to Indian Head a few months ago. He had not yet occupied a house there and his wife and 12 year old daughter were sleeping in a tent at the time he was killed.
A Colt automatic pistol, the duplicate of the one used by Copeland, was found in a trunk in the street house, together with a supply of ammunition. In the Carrollburg house, a loaded shotgun and a loaded 38 caliber revolver were taken by police.
Washington Post article, page 5, dated June 23, 1925.
400 SEE COPELAND HANGED AFTER HE ADMITS 12 MURDERS
SLAYER, IN CONFESSION, BARES DETAILS OF ESCAPE FROM THE DISTRICT JAIL
HIS GETAWAY A COUP BY WARDENS ENEMIES
INSPECTOR GRANT, TRUE TO HIS OATH, WATCHES SLAYER EXPIATE FOR CRIME
Herbert Copeland, one of the most coldly desperate killers in the District, was hanged yesterday at the District jail.
Copeland went to his end on the gallows grinning a wide, nervous grin, but with no hesitancy. He was hanged just a few months short of six years after he murdered two policemen and a deputy sheriff of Maryland in May 1918. The killer died in the presence of 400 persons. Policeman Groves, of the traffic bureau, fainted in the rotunda while Copeland was walking to the gallows.
Neither Copeland’s wife or child, nor any of his relatives came to visit him Wednesday, nor did they witness the end. His wife did not visit him after he was placed in the death cell corridor.
Copeland left behind a confession that his escape from the District jail a few months after his arrest had been aided by jail attendants who wished to ruin L.F. Zinkham, at the time superintendent of the jail, and who was subsequently removed.
Money Paid by Friends
Money was paid by friends to the attendants, Copeland told Maj. W. L. Peake, superintendent of the jail, Wednesday night, and the guards opened his cell door and carried him, still weak from the pistol wounds of his battle to prevent capture by the police, to a waiting taxicab. They took him to a hiding place and returned to the jail in the taxicab, Copeland told Maj. Peake.
He refused to name the guards who assisted him or where he had been hidden while waiting to get out of the city. He did not know of the sawed cell and window bars through which he was supposed to have escaped until told of them when recaptured and brought back to be tried.
Copeland’s escape caused a sensation at the time. He had killed Policeman John A. Conrad and Deputy Sheriff L.H. McParland, of Indian Head, Md., who attempted to serve him with a summons as a witness in a larceny case against another. Copeland feared police discovery of his past murders in Texas and other southern states, but of which the police knew nothing, and killed the two as they stood at his door.
Discovered a few hours later in the home of relatives, he shot and killed Police Lieutenant David T. Dunigan at 1400 Carrollburg Place southwest. There he was shot five times and captured. His recovery and escape followed.
In another confession which C. Lucien Skinner, connected with a colored newspaper here, said had been given him Wednesday, Copeland admitted twelve murders, one of them a colored policeman in Chicago. His capture by District police was the result of an unremitting search that continued for five years until he was found in Akron, Ohio, employed in a rubber factory.
Copeland’s story of his escape will be laid before District Attorney Peyton Gorgon today by Inspector Clifford L. Grant, chief of the detective bureau. What will be done, Inspector Grant said, he could not forecast, because Copeland, the principal witness, is dead.
The hanging yesterday cleared death row of its last inmate. It had housed someone awaiting the gallows since 1919. Copeland’s death probably will be the last death on the gallows in the District. Congress has passed a law providing for electrocution as the means of capital punishment. The president yesterday asked the commissioners if the measure had their approval, and they told him it had. He probably will sign it today.
Lost His Appetite
Copeland ate his usual meal Wednesday night, but yesterday morning he had no stomach for food, waving aside a breakfast of steak, hot rolls, potatoes and coffee with the injunction to “take it away, I don’t even want coffee.”
The Rev. John Roberts, 74 year old colored pastor of St. Paul’s chapel, witnessing his fifty-seventh execution, preceded Copeland, and behind him came a woman singing “The Savior Is More Than Life to Me, I am Clean, I am clean.”
“Go light on the singing,” Copeland had urged his spiritual advisor before the death march began, and only a bar of “Nearer, My God to Thee” was sung before he died.
A guard was on either side of Copeland, and he was walked quickly down the thirteen iron steps to the death corridor and up the thirteen steps to the gallows.
As he passed down the corridor, filled with seated witnesses, he saw Inspector Grant and greeted him with “Well, There’s Mr. Gordon,” evidently mixing the detective chiefs name with that of the district attorney. Inspector Grant had told Copeland that he would see him hung. The hanging yesterday was the first he ever saw.
Guards Remove Shoes Copeland said nothing else as he approached the noose, except “Please take off my shoes” as he stood on the trap. One guard removed them while others strapped his feet and legs, adjusted the cap and noose and the trap was sprung, just one minute and 17 seconds from the time Copeland began his death march. The trap was sprung at 10:06. His neck was broken. He hung motionless for a few seconds and then his body twitched. He was pronounced dead officially at 10:16.
His body was turned over to John T. Rhines and Company, 301 M Street, SW, undertakers, who took charge at the request of the killer’s sisters. Copeland will be buried tomorrow afternoon at 1 o’clock from the undertaking establishment.