Memorial to Mortimer P. Donoghue

End of Watch: December 20, 1919
Rank: Detective, Badge No. 610
Age: 40
Years of Service: 16
Location of Death: Union Station



Officer Donoghue was in a two-man patrol wagon, loaded with prisoners to be transferred to court, when they entered an intersection where the signal lights were not working. The patrol wagon struck another auto and flipped onto its side.
Officer Donoghue was thrown out the door on impact and when the wagon flipped, it landed on top of Donoghue, crushing him. Officer Donoghue died on the scene.


Officer Donoghue was married and had two children


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


Pvt. M.P. Donoghue Crushed by Wheel; Pvt. Earl Johnson Is Seriously Hurt
A veteran policeman was crushed to death and another seriously injured at 6:30 a.m. yesterday when a police van and automobile collided at 5th and K streets, NW.
Killed in the crash was Pvt. Mortimer P. Donoghue, 58, of 4902 Kansas Avenue, NW. Injured was Pvt. Earl Johnson, 48, of 629 Quebec Pl, NW.
Police identified the driver of the auto involved in the collision as James J. Hartin, 54, of 1803 M St. NE, an employe of the Sacred Heart School in Bethesda. Hartin was shaken up but otherwise unhurt.

Prisoners Injured

In the police van at the time were 12 prisoners who were being taken to Municipal Court. All of them were examined at Casualty Hospital after which two of the men, Glen Miller, 28, of 1015 L St. NW, and Aaron Townsend, 26, of 624 50th St. ne, were admitted to Gallinger Hospital.

Miller suffered contusions of the neck and body and Townsend a possible fractured left knee.

As police reconstructed the accident the police, the police van, which had just left the Second Precinct Station at 6th and New York Ave. NW, was traveling south on 5th St. and struck the right front side of Hartin’s automobile which was proceeding west on K St.

The automobile apparently spun crazily over a curb, circled and rammed into the rear of the van, toppling it on its side.
Donoghue, who was riding beside Johnson, the driver, in the cab of the van, was thrown through the right window and was crushed under the left rear wheel of the heavy van when it toppled.

Johnson was thrown clear of the van and lay in the street unconscious. He suffered three fractured ribs and a possible skull fracture. He was first reported in critical condition at Freedman’s Hospital, but his condition improved during the day and he was removed from the critical list.

The 12 prisoners were trapped in the locked van for 20 minutes. The key to the padlock on the back door of the van was in the pocket of Donoghue who was pinned beneath the van.

The prisoners were finally freed when a policeman, a former van driver, remembered that a duplicate was usually kept in the cab.
In addition to Miller and Townsend, the prisoners in the van were Thomas Fuller, 24, of 1522 ½ 12th St. NW; Albert Bellems, 39, of 1346 4th St. SW; Ivan Hendricks, 33, of 1854 Alabama Ave. se; William Shoemaker, 46, of 817 5th St. NW; John Bradley, 58, of 467 H St. NW; Albert Brown, 30, of 1241 6 ½ St. NW; Joseph K. Smith, 29, of 1802 24th Pl., NE; Thomas E. Cobb, 38, of 1514 Marion St. NW; David McField, 49, of 210 D St. NW; and John Lott, 28, of 4432 Falls Terr., SE.

The police accident investigation unit reported that ordinarily the traffic light at the intersection would have been operating at the time the accident occurred. However, the timer was 40 minutes slow and the light which should have blinked on at 6: a.m. did not go on until 6:40 a.m., 10 minutes after the accident.

John Maddox, operator of a filling station at 6th and K streets, NW supplied a heavy jack which was used to raise the van so that Donoghue’s body could be removed. The van was finally righted by a crane.

The tank of the van was smashed in the crash and gasoline drenched the street. Passersby were kept back because of the danger of fire.

The accident brought Maj. Robert J. Barrett, police superintendent, other police officials and three patrol wagons and three ambulances to the scene.

Donoghue and Johnson had been working together on the police van assignment for a little more than a year.
A native of Ireland, Donoghue was appointed to the force September 13, 1919. He had served No. 10 and No. 7 Precincts. He was transferred to administrative headquarters and van duty in June 1947.

He was the brother of Lieut. Daniel Donoghue of No. 10 Precinct. He is also survived by his wife, Catherine; two sons, Patrick Francis, 22, a student at Maryknoll (N.Y.) Seminary, and Joseph, 16, a student at St. Charles School in Baltimore, and another brother, Patrick, who retired as proprietor of a northeast restaurant.

Johnson was appointed to the force in October 1933 and served in No. 2 Precinct before being assigned to drive the van.