Memorial to Ernest T. Wessells

End of Watch: April 23, 1939
Rank: Private, Badge No. N/A
Years of Service: 7
Age: 29
Location of Death: Piney Branch and Butternut Street, NW

 

Circumstance:

Officer Ernest Wessells, a motorman, was responding to a false Code One assignment when his motorcycle struck a street car. He was thrown from his bike and died on the scene.

 

Biography:

Motorman Wessells was married and father of one child.

 

Articles from the Washington Post – transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.
SOME INCIDENTS IN THE CAREER OF ERNEST T. WESSELLS

PARTIAL WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED APRIL 24, 1938, PAGE M10
POLICEMAN DIES AS MOTORCYCLE RUNS INTO TRAM

OFFICER WESSELLS WAS ANSWERING UNFOUNDED EMERGENCY CALL.
Motorcycle Policeman Ernest Thomas Wessells, 30, of the Sixth Precinct, was killed yesterday when he crashed head on into a street car while responding to an unfounded emergency call.

The accident occurred at Piney Branch Road and Butternut Street, NW. Wessells machine was telescoped and the force of the impact bent the undercarriage of the heavy street car.

The policeman was taken to Walter Reed Hospital in an Army ambulance. He died on the way.

MOTORMAN RELEASED
Wessells, father of a 7-year-old son, responded to a call from headquarters reporting that a mail man was the victim of a hit-run driver in the 7000 block of Eastern Avenue, NW. He was speeding with siren open when his motorcycle struck the street car practically in the center. James H. Peck, 56, 5835 Colorado Avenue, NW, motorman on the street car, said he saw the policeman approaching and tried to clear the intersection.

Peck was released in custody of a company attorney to appear at a coroner’s inquest.

D.C. TOLL NOW 29
Wessells lived at 651 Hamilton Street, NW, and had been on the force since January 1931.

 

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED APRIL 26, 1938, PAGE X1

HOLD STREET CARS TO TRAFFIC LAWS, POLICE HEAD SAYS.
After a coroner’s jury blamed a streetcar motorman for the death of a motorcycle policeman, Maj. Ernest W. Brown, chief of police, ordered stricter enforcement of traffic regulations against operators of streetcars and buses.

James H. Peck, 56, 5835 Colorado Avenue, NW, streetcar motorman, was held for police court action yesterday, under the negligent homicide act for the death of Motorcycle Policeman Ernest Thomas Wessells, 30.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MAY 19, 1938, PAGE X3

MOTORMAN FAILED TO HEED SIGN, PECK WITNESSES DECLARE.
Six witnesses yesterday testified in Police Court that James H. Peck, 56, motorman, failed to halt his streetcar at a “stop” sign at Piney Branch Road and Butternut Street, NW, where Traffic Policeman Ernest Wessells crashed to hid death April 23.

Peck testified he stopped at the sign and waited several seconds before proceeding. He denied hearing the policeman’s siren until after he had entered the intersection.

Wessells was killed when he crashed head-on into the streetcar while answering an emergency call. Judge John P. McMahon continued the case until today.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MAY 20, 1938, PAGE X3

MOTORMAN CLEARED IN OFFICER’S DEATH IN TROLLEY CRASH.
A Police Court jury yesterday pondered ten minutes and acquitted James H. Peck, 56, of negligent homicide in the death on April 23 of Motorcycle Policeman Ernest T. Wessells, 29, 651 Hamilton Street, NW.

Defense witnesses testified the officer was traveling at high speed when he crashed into the streetcar operated by Peck at the corner of Piney Branch Road and Butternut Street, NW.