Memorial to Harry J. McDonald

End of Watch: July 22, 1929
Rank: Officer, Badge No. N/A
Years of Service: 7 years
Age:  N/A
Location of Death: 300 block of Maryland Avenue

 

Circumstance:

On July 22, 1929, Officer McDonald caught two burglary suspects in an alley near 17th and Q streets, NW. Officer McDonald placed the suspects in the front seat of his scout car without handcuffs to try to locate a call box. Upon exiting the vehicle, he was shot in the chest at close range by one of the suspects. As Officer McDonald staggered backwards, he drew his weapon and killed one suspect and fired twice at the other. He died on the scene.

Biography:

Officer McDonald was a seven-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department and was survived by his wife and three small children.  He was a member of the American Legion posts of the District and was an active member of the Vincent B. Costello Post. Enlisting at Columbus, Ohio, McDonald was assigned to the Twentieth Company, Engineers, and saw 18 months service in France, where he participated in the major engagements at St. Mihiel.

 

Articles from the Washington Post – transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.
THE SHOOTING DEATH OF OFFICER HARRY J. MCDONALD ON JULY 22, 1929, AND THE COURT BATTLE THAT TWICE WENT TO THE SUPREME COURT.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JULY 6, 1929, PAGE 1
Brother of Slain Bandit Denies He Wounded Patrolman.

CONFESSES PRESENCE AT GUNFIGHT SCENE
Wandered About Streets for Day, Afraid to Eat, He Asserts.

FUGITIVE’S CAPTURE HAS DRAMATIC TOUCH
Passengers Are Excited as Officers Enter With Drawn Pistols.

Alfred Aldridge, 20 years old, the brother of Albert Aldridge, who was shot and killed early Friday morning by Policeman Harry J. McDonald, of the Third Precinct, after the policeman was seriously wounded, was arrested at 2:30 o’clock yesterday afternoon on a streetcar at Seventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW by Lieut. W.E. Holman and Detective J.L. Billman, of the Third Precinct.

The younger brother of the dead man, upon being taken to the Third Precinct, made a clean breast of the circumstances surrounding the dramatic early morning duel at Seventeenth and Q streets northwest, with the exception of the fact that he denied having fired the shot that penetrated the lung of the Third Precinct policeman. Police insisted that Alfred was prevaricating in connection with this part of the shooting, as the gun, gripped by the dead brother had not fired.

Alfred, after a grilling that consumed the greater part of the terrific heat of yesterday afternoon, was booked on a charge of investigation pending the outcome of the condition of McDonald. While the young man was sweating under the barrage of questions, other policemen from the Third Precinct was retracing the trail outlined by the arrested man.

Guns Found in Rooms.
This trail led to the room occupied by Alfred at 503 22nd, NW, where two guns were found. The police then followed the trail to 2037 L Street, NW, the room occupied by the slain brother. Four guns were found at this place. The gathering of this evidence presented the finishing touch in the grilling of young Alfred. When he discovered how much the police had learned he confessed his part in the affair, but cling to his assertion that he had not fired the shot that wounded McDonald.

Alfred told police that after fleeing the scene of the shooting, he found temporary refuge in a vacant house at Eighteenth Street near Q Street. He said he remained at this place all day Saturday, not daring to go out to get food. All Saturday night he wandered the streets, slinking into dark corners when he saw police, he said. Late yesterday morning he returned to his room at 503 22nd Street.

Landlady Is Suspicious.
The woman who owned the rooming house had become suspicious Alfred told police, and hastened his decision to move away as rapidly as possible. It was after this flight from his rooming place that Alfred’s efforts to elude the law drew to their close. Word came to the Third Precinct from a patrolman from Ninth and Pennsylvania Avenue that a suspicious looking man was hanging in the vicinity.

Lieut. Holmes and Detective Billman rushed to the scene, picking up Traffic Policeman Boss at Fourteenth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue on the way. Within a few minutes it was learned that Alfred had boarded a streetcar. The streetcar, headed for Seventeenth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, was boarded by the police at Seventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Upon entering the car, Lieut. Holmes and Detective Billman drew their guns. The streetcar was fairly crowded and the dramatic entrance of the police with drawn guns created a commotion. Both entrances to the streetcar were guarded and Alfred was cornered.

Admits Entering Pharmacy.
The arrested man also told police that he broke into the Kenneth Pharmacy, at the corner of Seventeenth and Q streets, and that his brother remained outside. The then related the story up to the time that McDonald caught the two in an alley several blocks away. He admitted getting out of the car with his brother when McDonald went to telephone, but denied firing the shot, insisting that the dead brother did this.

McDonald, at the time that he shot the older brother fired at the younger and believed that he struck him. An examination of Alfred, however, revealed that there was no wound on his body.

The older Aldridge, just before his death, said his name was Williams. Police records brought to light his real identity, showing that he had escaped from prison in Massachusetts. Alfred told police that he had escaped from a reformatory school in Massachusetts. The two had been wandering the country, spending a few weeks in each large city. They came to Washington from Baltimore three weeks ago, it was learned.

Policeman McDonald was reported to be improving at Emergency Hospital last night.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JULY 7, 1929, PAGE M1
BULLET OF BANDIT MAY KILL OFFICER
One Gunman Escapes in Early Morning Pistol Duel with City Patrolman.
ANOTHER IS SHOT DOWN
Policeman Harry J. McDonald neglected to search two armed bandits and by that failure unwittingly paved the way for an early morning gun battle yesterday that seriously wounded him and claimed the life of one of his assailants, Albert Aldridge.

The second gunman, whose 32 caliber bullet may prove fatal to the popular Third Precinct policeman successfully eluded police after racing away from the crime at Seventeenth and Q streets northwest at 4:30 o’clock.

Authorities had only a sketchy description of the escaped man and no trustworthy name as a starting clew after Detective Sergt. Fred Sandberg, chief of the identification bureau, had finger-printed Aldridge to prove that at least the major portion of the dying man’s confession at the hospital had been a falsehood. A few minutes before he succumbed at Emergency Hospital in the late afternoon, Aldridge gasped out his own name as William Williams, 30 years old, of 1242 East Baltimore Street, Baltimore, Md. He identified his escaped companion as his brother, James Williams, 38 years old, of the same address.

Bertillion measurements revealed that Aldridge, whose address is unknown, escaped on May 9 from the Massachusetts State Penitentiary in Charleston, while serving an eight to ten years sentence imposed in Dedham, Mass., in 1928, for having assisted another prisoner to escape with him on August 24, 1922, from the Deer Island House of Correction in Boston Harbor. At the House of Correction he was serving a six-month sentence for carrying concealed weapons. Massachusetts authorities posted a $100 reward for his capture.

McDonald, who was shot in the right lung, wavered between life and death at Emergency Hospital after rallying momentarily after a blood transfusion performed by Dr Daniel L. Broden and Dr. James J. Kilroy, of the police and fire board of surgeons, assisted by Dr. J.E. McLain, of the hospital staff, with blood furnished by Policeman M.L. Gates, of the First Precinct.

The fusillade of pistol shots climaxed the prowling’s of the two bandits during the early morning hours in the vicinity of the shooting. Shortly before the rain of lead, the two men had been detected hiding in a tree on Church Street near 17th Street by Edward Beach, of 1708 Wisconsin Avenue, a milk wagon driver for the Chevy Chase Dairy.

Saw Men in Tree

“I was walking on Church street to make milk deliveries when suddenly a man opened an apartment house window and shouted, “Look out, there are two men up in the tree. They are going to jump on you,” Beach declared. “I looked up and saw two men, poised and ready to leap. When they saw they were detected, they jumped and ran in one direction and I ran the opposite way.”

Beach then gathered several other milkmen and the party arrived at Seventeenth and Q streets in time to see one of the marauders climb from the window of the Kenneth Pharmacy at the corner and join his companion, both of whom fled at sight of the dairymen. Beach said he summoned police in the meantime and that a few minutes later McDonald arrived in one car and both Privates R.C. Pierce and C.E. Kelly, of the Third Precinct, in another machine.

AS the men separated to broaden the search, McDonald apprehended the runaway pair in the alley nearby and forced them to accompany him on the front seat of the automobile to the drug store corner, where he intended telephoning from the police box for the patrol.

Gets Man After Being Shot
“McDonald stopped his car across the street and the men got out,” continued Beach, who had remained there. “The policeman crouched to get through the door and had his face down when one of the men raised his arm and fired. McDonald lurched out of the machine and staggered. He steadied himself a moment, leveled his revolver and fired two shots, which brought down one of the men. McDonald fired twice at the other man, both bullets apparently missing. The man ran to Corcoran Street and disappeared.”

The two companion officers returned a few minutes later, after failing to hear the shots, to find the policeman lying helpless on the pavement, bleeding from a wound below his right collarbone that had penetrated to his lung, and Aldridge also wounded nearby. Beach removed the policeman to the hospital and the two policemen followed with the wounded suspect.
According to the report of the officers, they found Aldridge clutching in his hand a revolver which had not been fired. They also found at the scene a battered black fedora hat bearing the initials, “M.P.K.”

McDonald, a resident of 202 Fourteenth street northeast, has been on the police force for about seven years and had several meritorious cases to his credit. He has a wife and three small children, Margaret, 6 years old; Harry, 5 years old; and Patrick, 2 years old; and his mother, Mrs. Margaret McDonald.

 

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JULY 25, 1929, PAGE 10
Alleged Policeman Killer Faces Jury
Rites for Gunman’s Victim Are to be Held Today in Capital.
Alfred Aldridge, who is said by police to have fired the bullet which caused the death of Policeman Harry J. McDonald, of the Third Precinct, was held for action of the grand jury yesterday by a coroner’s jury following an inquest into the death of the policeman.

Funeral services for McDonald will be held at 8:30 o’clock this morning with high officials of the police force and its ranking members as the chief mourners. Services at the residence, 202 Fourteenth street northeast, will be followed by mass at the Holy Comforter Church, 14th and East Capitol streets, at 9 o’clock. Burial will be in the Fort Lincoln Cemetery. McDonald is survived by the widow and three small children.

Special services at the cemetery will be conducted by the American Legion posts of the District, the policeman having been an active member of the Vincent B. Costello Post. Enlisting at Columbus, Ohio, McDonald was assigned to the Twentieth Company, Engineers, and saw eighteen months service in France, where he participated in the major engagements at St. Mihiel. In his honor, the legion will fire a volley and a bugler will sound taps as the casket is being lowered.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED FEBRUARY 28, 1930, PAGE 1
POLICEMAN’S KILLER FOUND GUILTY; TO DIE
Verdict Against Aldridge is Reached After Less Than Hour’s Deliberation.
SAYS BROTHER SLAYER
Alfred Scott Aldridge, will go to the electric chair for the murder of Policeman Harry J. McDonald, unless his attorney, James Reilly, is successful in obtaining a new trial or executive clemency.

Aldridge was found guilty, without recommendation of mercy, of first degree murder yesterday afternoon by a jury in Criminal Division No. 1 of the District Supreme Court. Justice Peyton Gordon reserved sentence. The jury was out less than one hour.

The trial was the second, the first having resulted in a hung jury. It lasted for two days. Assistant United States Attorney’s Walter M. Shea and James R. Kirkland represented the Government.

Aldridge took the verdict without the slightest quiver of a facial muscle, and eyed members of the all-male jury intently while Deputy Clerk Lee Ashford, at the request of Attorney Reilly, polled the group.

The case went to the jury after Aldridge in his own behalf had testified that his brother, Albert Aldridge, had shot the policeman. McDonald was killed last July 6 in a gun duel with Alfred and Albert Aldridge. The latter was mortally wounded in the encounter. The man convicted yesterday was arrested on a streetcar several days later, after detectives had found the pistol from which the bullet that killed the policeman had been fired.

Aldridge, on the stand yesterday, declared that his brother had been in several prisons and that he had asserted he would never be taken back to prison alive. Aldridge declared that when Policeman McDonald arrested him and his brother on the morning of July 6 his brother opened fire on the policeman. After McDonald had fallen and in turn had shot Albert Aldridge, the latter dropped his pistol. Alfred Aldridge stated that he then picked up the gun, put it in his pocket and hurriedly left the scene.

Sergt. John H. Fowler, of the Police Department, was the principal Government witness yesterday. The sergeant testified that the bullets which killed Policeman McDonald had been fired from the pistol found in the defendant’s room.

The trail opened Wednesday, and the first day was featured by the collapse of Mrs. Alice McDonald, wife of the slain policeman. Mrs. McDonald, as in the previous trial, fainted when shown the bullet which the Government alleged caused her husband’s death.

 

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MAY 7, 1932, PAGE 20
ALDRIDGE EXECUTED FOR MURDER IN 1929
Slayer of Policeman Twice Appealed His Case to Supreme Court.
Alfred Scott Aldridge, 28 years old, paid his life yesterday for the murder of Policeman Harry J. McDonald in 1929. He was put to death in the electric chair at the District jail shortly after 10 a.m.

With a group of newspapermen as witnesses, Aldridge, who for three years was the subject of a bitter legal battle, walked calmly to the chair, keeping time with his hands as he chanted a hymn. His case, which twice went to the Supreme Court, was decided last June when his attorney, James F. Reilly, failed to win his plea for a presidential commutation. Policeman McDonald was a fatally shot July 6, 1929, when he surprised Aldridge and his brother, Albert Aldridge, attempting to break into a drug store at 17th and Q streets, NW. En route to the patrol box the policeman was shot in the chest, but lay wounded on the sidewalk he succeeded in firing a shot that killed Albert. Alfred escaped, but was later captured as the attempted to leave town.