Memorial to Donald J. Brereton
End of Watch: January 7, 1960
Rank: Officer Badge No. 1609
Age: 31 Years of Service: 7 years
Location of Death: 400 Florida Avenue, NW
Duty Assignment: 13th Precinct
Officer Donald Brereton was shot and killed while chasing a man who had just robbed a liquor store at 501 Florida Avenue, NW. He and his partner were staking out a liquor store when it was robbed by two men. Officer Brereton chased one of the men into an alley where he was ambushed and shot several times. The subject then stole his service weapon before fleeing. Officer Brereton’s partner was also shot and wounded. The subject who shot Officer Brereton was arrested, convicted of murder, and sentenced to death.
Officer Brereton had served with the Metropolitan Police Department for seven years. He was survived by his wife Nora and 1-year-old daughter Kathy. He was a native of Brooklyn, NY and a veteran of the U.S. Army serving as a paratrooper.
Articles from the Washington Post – transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.
THE 1960 SHOOTING IN WHICH OFFICER DONALD BRERETON WAS KILLED WITH HIS OWN REVOLVER, AND HIS PARTNER, CLYDE WINTERS, SERIOUSLY WOUNDED. OFFICER WINTERS GAVE A VERY INSIGHTFUL HOSPITAL BED STATEMENT TO A REPORTER ABOUT THE DECISIONS HE WAS FORCED TO MAKE DURING THE SHOOTING. THIS WAS A BIG STORY AND RECEIVED A LOT OF MEDIA ATTENTION. IT ALSO FACILITATED ENDING THE MANDATORY DEATH SENTENCE FOR FIRST-DEGREE MURDER IN D.C.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 8, 1960, PAGE A1
Robbers Slay D.C. Policeman
2nd Officer Wounded in Gun Battle
Private Is Killed With Own Gun At Liquor Store
A Washington policeman was shot dead with his own gun last night and his partner was wounded seriously by one of two liquor store bandits the officers had chased into an alley.
Dead on arrival at Washington Hospital Center was Pvt. Donald Brereton, 31, of 6738 Conley Rd., West Hyattsville. His partner on an assignment to guard the LeDroit Liquor Store at 501 Florida Ave. NW, was in serious condition at the same hospital with wounds in the chin, neck and shoulder.
The wounded officer, Pvt. Clyde Winters, said in a brief bedside interview that one of the men they chased from the store ambushed Brereton in a nearby alley, wrested his gun away and shot them both. Both officers were attached to the 13th Precinct.
Pair Chased Into Alley
The two officers were assigned to stake-out duty in the rear of the liquor store when the holdup men walked in shortly before 7 p.m.
Proprietor Benjamin Bookoff, 46, said the shorter of the two bandits ordered a half-pint of gin, then scooped $197 from the register as his companion “covered” Bookoff with a gun the hidden policemen couldn’t see.
The bandits left the liquor store, dropping money as they ran, with a head start of some 20 feet on Brereton and Winters. The chase led across 5th St. NW, into a maze-like alley which zig-zags eastward out of the 1800 block.
Bookoff said that after he phoned for more police, he saw one of the two officers fire his revolver into the air once as he entered the alley into which the bandits and the other officer already had disappeared. He heard two more shots, then silence.
Officers Gun Missing
A detachment of more than 100 policemen virtually sealed off the area. They immediately found Brereton and Winters lying in blood about five feet apart in a bend some 100 yards from the alley’s 5th St. mouth.
Brereton had been shot twice at close range in the left chest and was already dead.
Five shots had been fired from Winter’s service revolver, police said.
Within an hour of the shooting, several wagon-loads of suspects had been rounded up for questioning, but all were released.
Among others taken into custody was an armed 20-year-old whom Bookoff failed to identify as one of the bandits in a special headquarters line-up. A motorcycle policeman who wrestled him out of a taxicab cruising near the holdup scene said the young man threatened him with a revolver as he flagged the cab’s driver to the curb.
As the police dragnet spread, officers entered the Sylvan Theater at 104 Rhode Island Ave. NW, where about 100 patrons sat watching “The Defiant Ones.” The lights were turned on suddenly and uniformed men and detectives searched the house, picking up one man who answered the description of one of the bandits. He was questioned on the scene only briefly.
Within an hour of the shooting also, District Commissioner Robert E. McLaughin was on the scene. He joined with Police Chief Robert V. Murray in ordering a house-to-house canvass of the area for about five blocks around.
Bookoff said the shorter robber ordered a half-pint of Booth’s Gin, which necessitated a trip to the end of the store farthest from the cash register. The man who ordered it gave him $2 to pay for it, Bookoff said.
He returned to the cash register and rang up the sale.
Looking up, he saw the taller man covering him with a pistol held between the register and the counter—out of sight from two peepholes through which the officers were watching behind a partition.
In a voice Bookoff didn’t think was loud for the officers to overhear, the gunman ordered him to lie down on the floor behind the counter.
As he dropped to his hands and knees, Bookoff said he shouted: “They’re here!”
“I shouldn’t have done that,” Bookoff added in recounting the holdup later, “because they could have killed me.”
The officers came out from behind the partition as the bandits ran out the door. Bookoff said he believed he himself was the reason the officers didn’t open fire then.
“I jumped up off the floor and was right in their line of fire,” he recalled. “Both of them came running out from behind there with their guns drawn. They came so fast they knocked over some cases of beer stacked on the floor.
Ironically, last night was the fifth night police had staked-out Bookoff’s store, but it was the first night of such duty there for Brereton and Winters. Another team of officers had served the first two nights and still another pair the second two nights—both uneventfully.
The store was held up last Nov. 27, police said, by two gunmen who escaped with about $700.
The police lookout for the bandits in last night’s shooting described the gunman as a 5-foot-10-inch black, about 40 years old, weighing about 200 pounds. He wore an Army-type trench coat and was bareheaded. His shorter companion, police said, was lighter skinned about 35 years old and weighed about 140 pounds. He had a sharp-nosed, pock-marked face and was wearing an Army overcoat.
In addition to his own small caliber weapon, the taller man is believed armed with Brereton’s .38-caliber service revolver, the lookout said.
Owing to the wounded officer’s condition, details of the ambush in the pitch-black alley weren’t immediately forthcoming. Physicians said Winters was struck by a single bullet, also fired at close range. Deflected by the right side of his chin bone, it coursed downward through his neck, missing vital arteries, and emerged through his back after nicking a lung and a rib.
Brereton’s death, a doctor said, was almost instantaneous. One shot severed his aorta and spinal cord. The other pierced an artery which drains the lower body.
Police officials said both privates were out of uniform for the assignment, in that they wore civilian topcoats into the liquor store against the possibility prospective holdup men might be “casing” the place at the time they reported for duty.
Brereton, a member of the force since 1953, is survived by his wife, Nora, and their daughter, about a year old.
Winters is the son of Fire Department Capt. Harry C. Winters, commander of the District’s fire boat. An older brother, Kenneth, is a Metropolitan Police corporal. A 20-year-old brother, Bruce, is in the Navy and his youngest brother, Charles, 14, is in high school.
The wounded officer also is a nephew of Youth Aid Division Insp. John F. Winters. Unmarried, the nephew makes his home at 133 Irvington St. SW.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 9, 1960, PAGE A1
FBI Joins Police-Slayer Hunt
Suspect, 25, Is Sought In 13 States
Warrant Issued; Relatives, Friend Held as Witnesses
The FBI joined police of 13 states yesterday in the search for a 25-year-old Washington man accused in a United States Commissioner’s warrant of shooting a policeman to death here Thursday night.
Named in the warrant was William C. Coleman of 1437 Belmont St. NW, a former truck driver whose only previous police record identifies him as the subject of a larceny investigation.
Deputy Police Chief Edgar E. Scott said statements by relatives of the fugitive, and other evidence, “satisfy us that Coleman was the triggerman” who shot down Pvt. Donald Brereton with the victim’s own gun in an alley off the 1800 block of 5th St. NW. Brereton’s partner, Pvt. Clyde R. Winters, 24, was wounded by the same gun, police said.
The .38-caliber Smith & Wesson service revolver the bandit wrested from Brereton was recovered yesterday under the seat of an abandoned car behind a house only three doors from Coleman’s Belmont St. address.
The lookout for Coleman described him as a black about 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing about 160 pounds. It warned that he may be carrying a small black automatic with which one of two holdup men threatened Benjamin Bookoff, owner of LeDroit Liquors, 501 Florida Ave. NW
The two men fled after taking $197 pursued by the two policemen who had secreted themselves in the store’s rear.
The wounded Winters said yesterday he had the gunman “covered” when Brereton, rushing into the alley behind him, was disarmed and shot in a struggle so furious Winters was unable to shoot for fear of hitting his partner.
The FBI’s Nation-wide resources were thrown into the hunt for Coleman on the basis of a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution for murder.
Meanwhile, District Court Judge Alexander Holtzoff set bonds of $50,000 each for Coleman’s brother, Raymond; Raymond’s wife, Elizabeth, and a woman friend of the fugitive, and detained them as material witnesses in the case.
Holtzoff described the high bonds requested by the Government as prohibitive but acceded to the request after Assistant United States Attorney Frederick G. Smithson said it was planned to get their stories before a grand jury about the middle of next week. They were being held in a hotel by U.S. deputy marshals.
Deputy Chief Scott said Elizabeth Coleman and the fugitive’s woman friend, Louise Pitts, of 1348 Fairmont St. NW, were taken into custody about 10 p.m. Thursday at the Belmont St. address.
Raymond Coleman was picked up at his home, 3132 17th St. NW, a short time later. Through them, and a Coleman cousin, James E. Davis, of 1317 Euclid St. NW, Scott said, police were able to trace the fugitive’s movements in the few hours before his identity was suspected after the shooting.
Miss Pitts, Scott said, told police William Coleman called at his brother Raymond’s home within an hour of the 7 p.m. gunplay and told them he had shot a policeman while holding up a liquor store.
Scott said Raymond’s wife told police she understood only that William had become involved in some kind of difficulty. Raymond said his brother gave him a coat to keep for him and broke down and cried while telling him of the shooting, Scott related. Scott said all three witnesses were at Raymond’s home when William came in.
About 11 p.m., as virtually the entire police force was on the alert for him, William called on Davis, Scott said.
Second Visit for Loan
He revisited Davis a second time about 1 a.m., but on neither occasion did he mention the shooting, Scott said Davis told him. Davis said William’s last visit to him was for the purpose of borrowing some money, but police would not say if he was successful.
Among several nearby points receiving special police attention in the search was the home of Coleman’s parents, Mr. And Mrs. James Ulysses Coleman, on Rt. 522 at Mineral, Va. State police kept a constant watch on the home and scrutinized the travel on routes leading to it. The FBI and State troopers questioned the parents last night.
Closer to home, Alexandria, Arlington and Park police threw nearly 50 men into a search of an area between U.S. 1 and the Potomac just north of Potomac Yards.
This was touched off by cruising Park police who said a pedestrian answering Coleman’s description fled into some brush when they turned their car around on Mount Vernon Memorial highway for a closer look at him.
Police even burned over the underbrush but flushed nobody.
Car Set for Getaway
Deputy Chief Scott said a key to Coleman’s identity was developed by police suspicions about a 1953 Buick they found parked on 5th St. NW, the night of the shooting about 100 feet from the mouth of the alley in which it occurred.
The car’s doors were not fully shut, and its location was ideally suited for a quick getaway from the LeDroit store. The car was registered in Coleman’s name, and a long fruitless watch was assigned to the car before it was taken away for technical examination.
Coleman did not return to his home, Scott said, except to rid himself of his victim’s revolver in the vicinity—probably before police suspected his involvement.
Police credited the finder of the gun, Oral Anson, 47, of 107 Bolling Rd., Falls Church, with a big assist. An acetylene torch for the Acme Welding Co., Anson was cutting apart the abandoned auto in which the pistol was found.
He had burned off two doors and uprooted the front seat when he saw the gun. Removing a heavy work glove from his left hand, Anson picked the gun up with his gloved right and dropped it into the empty glove for protection until he found a policeman to give it to.
Police said one chamber was empty, three contained spent shell casings and there were two unexpended bullets.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 9, 1960, PAGE B1
“I Was About to Fire…Something Hit Me… I Fell”
Police Pvt. Clyde R. Winters, who narrowly escaped death in a liquor store holdup Thursday night, sat up in a hospital bed yesterday, munched on veal cutlet and said the reason he didn’t become a fireman was that he figured it was too dangerous.
Winters, a handsome 24-year-old, was shot in the face while trying to capture one of two holdup men who stole $197 from the LeDroit Liquor Store, 501 Florida Ave. NW
He was lucky. The bullet deflected by his chin bone, went down his neck, missing vital arteries, and emerged through his back after nicking a lung and a rib. His partner, in the liquor store stakeout, Pvt. Donald Brereton, 31, was killed by bullets from his own gun, wrested from him by the holdup man.
Winters father, Fire Capt. Harry C. Winters, commander of the District Fire Boat, was in his son’s room at Washington Hospital Center and glad to see him alive.
He said he too, wondered why his son hadn’t become a fireman. The boy had a chance to join the Police or Fire Departments, he said.
But his son announced he didn’t want to be a fireman. “You can’t tell what a burning building going to do,” the son said, “but you can usually tell what someone you’re arresting will do. Pop’s been injured 12 times.”
Winters recollection of the frantic few minutes that ended in his partner’s death is this:
He and Brereton were hidden behind a partition in the liquor store on the fifth night of a stakeout there. It was their first night on the assignment and the first time they had worked together.
Brereton was peering through peepholes cut in the partition and Winters was peering through the space in the partition’s door frame. Both had worn civilian topcoats over shirts and trousers so no observer would be aware police had entered the store.
When the trouble began, Winters could see only one customer, though the proprietor, Benjamin Bookoff, 46, said two holdup men were involved. Winters view was obscured by the counter and didn’t see any weapon in the customers hand.
What started him moving was the sight of the man reaching into the cash register. When that happened, Winters burst through the partition door, brushed against some beer cases, knocking two of them to the floor, and after the holdup man, running out the store door onto Florida Ave.
He didn’t fire at the fleeing bandit. “I was afraid that if I missed, the bullet would go out into Florida Ave.” he explained.
Out on the street just before the holdup man ran into an alley off 5th St. NW, Winters fired one shot. Then, starting toward the alley from the middle of the street, he fired again.
“I might have nicked him,” Winters said. “I’m sure going to practice up on my shooting, I’ll tell you that.”
Winters knew what a dangerous place the labyrinthine alley is, having spent several hours there on a parking detail recently.
Nevertheless, he went in, cautiously, sidling along a wall.
“I saw him trying to hide by a garage door. I moved toward him, with my gun pointed at him, and told him I was a policeman and that he was under arrest.”
The alley was pitch black. Winters couldn’t tell whether the man had a gun in his hand.
At just that moment, Brereton, who had come from behind the partition right behind Winters, came rushing past Winters and collided with the holdup man.
There was a scuffle. Winters couldn’t shoot for fear of hitting Brereton. Suddenly, there was a shot, and Brereton fell. There was a second shot.
“I had my gun in my hand and I was about to fire. Something hit me. It felt like a sledge hammer on my shoulder. I fell.”
Winters saw the holdup man pointing his pistol again, and he rolled on the ground. The man fired into the body of Brereton, lying a few feet from Winters.
“Then I started shooting,” Winters said. “I remember firing two shots and then I started to dim out. I think I was firing at his shadow. I’m not sure.
“I don’t know. Maybe I should have shot the guy when I had the chance, but we’re not supposed to. You’re supposed to tell them you’re a policeman and that they’re under arrest. You can’t make up your mind in advance on these things. I had a chance to shoot and I didn’t, and instead my partner got killed.”
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 9, 1960, PAGE B1
Family Hides Tears From Smiling Child
Kathy Brereton, a lovely red-head with blue eyes and one of the best and busiest smiles around, had a birthday yesterday.
It was a bad one, but she didn’t know it. She spent most of it away from home, and it was just as well.
At home, there were only some sad relatives and a grief-stricken mother, mourning the death of Kathy’s father, Donald Brereton, 31, the policeman killed in a holdup at the LeDroit Liquor Store, 501 Florida Ave. NW, Thursday night.
Kathy was 1 year old yesterday. Though she was frequently inconsolable at being torn from her mother, she took time off to charm a photographer who hovered over her for a while with his Leica.
Father Called Fearless
Her mother’s cousin, Mrs. Maurice Joyce, of 415 St. Lawrence drive, Silver Spring, where Kathy was staying, knew the father well.
“He wasn’t afraid of anything,” she said. “No fear at all. He used to say that no matter what happened, he could take care of himself.”
Brereton, whose family said he loved being a policeman, was supposed to be off duty the day he was killed. He decided to work for the extra pay.
“A week ago, that night, on New Year’s Eve,” Mrs. Joyce said, “he was off, and they went out together. I remember him saying, “I’m going out tonight. I don’t when I’ll get another New Year’s Eve off.”
A native of Brooklyn, and a former paratrooper, Brereton had been on the force six years. “He loved that child,” Mrs. Joyce said. “He was a real good guy.”
At Brereton’s home, 6738 Conley Rd., West Hyattsville, Md., his widow was in misery.
Neighbor Heard News
The way she learned of her husband’s murder hadn’t helped much. A neighbor heard it on the radio and called to tell her before Mrs. Brereton might be hit with it on a newscast.
And, in the talk of funeral arrangements, there was one thing that perturbed the widow. She didn’t think she could stand the sound of “Taps” being played over her husband’s grave.
Funeral services will be held Monday morning. There will be a prayer service at the Collins Funeral Home, 3821 14th St. NW, at 8:30 a.m., a requiem mass at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, 1010 Larch Ave., Takoma Park, at 9 a.m. and burial in Arlington National Cemetery at 10:30 a.m.
Major Liquor Associates, an association with 110 member stores, announced it would solicit funds all members to give to Mrs. Brereton and her daughter. The association suggests also that member stores place small collection boxes in the stores for public donations. The association started the fund off with a $250 donation. Checks for its Officer Brereton Fund can be mailed to Suite 436, Wyatt Building, Washington 5, D.C.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 10, 1960, PAGE A1
Brothers Charged In Officer’s Killing
Police Say One Accuses Other Of Fatal Shots
William C. Coleman, 25, sought in 13 states since the Thursday night liquor store holdup in which a District policeman was killed and another wounded, surrendered to the FBI here yesterday.
He gave himself up about 9:15 a.m. in the apartment of a brother, Lawson Coleman, 35, of 2215 14th St. NW
By mid-afternoon, William Coleman and another brother, Raymond, 29, who had been held as a material witness, were arraigned in Municipal Court on charges of first-degree murder. They were held without bond.
Police said Raymond Coleman, of 3132 17th St. NW, told them William fired the fatal shots with a gun wrested from the policeman’s hand. William denied this and finally refused to discuss the shooting, Deputy Chief Edgar E. Scott said.
Scott said both men have implicated themselves in the holdup, with signed statements. He said Raymond Coleman held the pistol during the holdup, while his brother, William, apparently was unarmed.
The holdup men fled in different directions when the police burst from behind a partition in the liquor store. Raymond told police he went to a nearby alley and hid the pistol. He blamed his brother for the shooting that took place in another alley.
William Coleman’s surrender to the FBI came just as Metropolitan Police, only minutes behind him through much of Friday’s ceaseless search, were about to close in. They had just learned he was at the apartment of brother Lawson, where he had gone to surrender to the FBI.
Shot to death in the holdup at LeDroit Liquor Store, 501 Florida Ave. NW, was Pvt. Donald Brereton, 31, of 6738 Conley rd., West Hyattsville, Md. His partner in the liquor store stakeout, one of 20 such stakeouts that night, was Pvt. Clyde R. Winters, 24. He was wounded critically but is now in good condition at Washington Hospital Center.
Police said that though the Coleman brothers were close-mouthed at first, they soon began turning each other in.
Each had implicated the other in a number of holdups, police said, and Raymond yesterday led police to a .25 caliber automatic he hid beneath steps in an alley behind the liquor store. He reenacted the holdup in front of police and the proprietor’s wife, Mrs. Benjamin Bookoff, according to Chief Scott.
Scott said that at one point, Raymond said to William: “If I was in one alley hiding the gun, then you had to be doing the shooting in the other alley.”
Scott said William didn’t answer. “He just shook his head.”
Police suspected William Coleman after they found a car registered in his name parked on 5th St. NW, near the liquor store.
(Words missing from this paragraph) Raymond Coleman, his wife and a girl friend of William Coleman, Louise Pitts, of 1348 ? First-degree murder because if $50,000 bond each as material witnesses after they told police they had been in touch with William after the holdup. They told police William said he had shot a policeman.
Yesterday, the two women were released in custody of their attorney.
As William Coleman went from friend to friend and relative to relative through the day and night that police hunted him, police frequently found they were but minutes behind him in his wanderings.
It was from a friend of Coleman that they learned of a cousin they hadn’t questioned. From the cousin, they learned of another woman friend, Margaret Carter, of 3605 13th St. NW
Detectives were at Mrs. Carter’s apartment at 9:15 a.m., where she had just returned from driving Coleman to his brother Lawson’s apartment to surrender to the FBI.
The surrender was arranged by Lawson Coleman after William called him yesterday morning. Lawson advised him to surrender in the apartment. He then called the FBI and a group of agents went to Lawson Coleman’s apartment to accept the surrender.
The FBI and police had urged his friends and relatives to encourage Coleman to surrender. The FBI left cards at all these homes and agents suggested that there had been enough shooting in the case.
Mrs. Carter told police William Coleman came to her house at 2 a.m. Friday, asking her if he could stay there. She said he told her he had lost his room and pleaded to stay., She let him use her car Friday, she said, and he drove her to work and picked her up after work.
Yesterday morning, she told police, she showed Coleman the morning newspaper and he called his brother Lawson and arranged for the surrender.
Det. Capt. Lawrence Hartnett said Coleman movements the night of the holdup has been largely accounted for. Hartnett said Coleman told police that after fleeing the scene, he hailed a cab and went to 14th and U Sts. NW, where called Raymond at home. There was no answer. He waited and called again. This time, Raymond was there.
Hartnett said the brothers and Raymond’s wife and Miss Pitts met in a parking lot near 14th and U Sts. NW, and the women went to the liquor store area to try to pick up William Coleman’s car. They returned without it.
William Coleman next stop was at the home of a cousin, James E. Davis, of 1317 Euclid St. NW, where he tried to borrow money. This attempt to borrow puzzles police, for there was $197 stolen in the holdup.
From his cousin’s home, Coleman apparently went directly to Mrs. Carter’s apartment. He spent most of Friday driving around in her car and visiting other friends and relatives, Hartnett said.
After his surrender, Coleman was taken to the FBI’s Washington Field Office and then turned over to Metropolitan Police. He was questioned before his arraignment by three detectives, Det. Sgt. Mark Gray, Det. Lt. Edward A. Daly, and Det. Sgt. Arthur Weber.
At first, they said, he denied everything, but when he was confronted by his brother Raymond and heard Raymond’s statement implicating him in the holdup, he told police he took part in it. He then implicated Raymond, police said. Raymond finally told police he also took part in the holdup and accused William of the shooting, according to the detectives.
Police said they didn’t take William Coleman to the scene because they felt this might be regarded as unnecessary delay of arraignment. Hartnett said Raymond was taken to the scene because he was willing to point out the location of the hidden automatic.
Coroner A. Magruder MacDonald set an inquest into the slaying for 11 a.m. Wednesday and U.S. Attorney Oliver Gasch said the case would be presented to a grand jury beginning Monday.
Police said no fingerprint was found on Brereton’s gun. Evidence expected to be offered includes statements by Raymond Coleman, his wife and Miss Pitts, FBI laboratory analysis of the brothers clothing, identification by the liquor store proprietor and possibly by Winters, the wounded policeman, and statements by relatives and friends who talked to Coleman Friday.
The last leg of the manhunt was an arduous one for the police.
All they had was a name “Marge Carter” and the knowledge that she had a 1953 Ford turquoise sedan and lived somewhere in the vicinity of 14th and Otis Sts. NW. They found the car, got Mrs. Carter’s full name and were at her apartment just as Coleman was surrendering in the brother’s apartment at 2315 14th St.
Mrs. Brereton, widow of the slain policeman, was told of the surrender shortly after it happened. Friends said she had nothing to say.
Two bullets entered Brereton’s body. One passed through and has not been recovered. The other, which was found, severed vital organs. There has been no ballistics test yet to determine officially that the bullets were fired from Brereton’s revolver.
Neighbors of the grieving widow have started a collection for her. Mrs. Joseph P. Robson, of 6722 Conley Rd., West Hyattsville, said $145 was turned over to Mrs. Brereton yesterday. Major Liquor Associates, a 110-member association of liquor stores, started off a separate fund with $250 and seeks donations from all members and from the public. Funeral services will be held Monday morning. There will be a prayer service at the Collins Funeral Home, 3821 14th St. NW, at 8:30 a.m., a requiem mass at 9 a.m. at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, 1010 Larch Ave., Takoma Park, Md., and burial in Arlington National Cemetery at 10:30 a.m.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 10, 1960, PAGE A3
High Officials Crowd Into Courtroom For Brother’s Arraignment in Killing
William Coleman and Raymond Coleman, brothers charged with the murder of a District policeman Thursday night, were arraigned yesterday in a courtroom filled to overflowing with high ranking city officials, law students and the curious.
Seldom has the criminal courtroom of Municipal Court been so full, especially on a Saturday afternoon. The arraignment, usually a routine procedure taking a few minutes, lasted an hour and a half. The brothers face mandatory death sentences if convicted of first-degree murder—the charge against both of them.
Joseph M. Burton, chief criminal clerk of the court, personally handled the making up of court papers. His superior, Clerk Walter F. Bramhall, also came to the court for the arraignment, which began at 1:55 p.m. The court usually closes Saturday at noon.
United States Attorney Oliver Gasch and his principal assistant, Edward P. Troxell, directed the presentation of the charges.
William Coleman was led in accompanied by three marshals, three detectives and two uniformed policemen. Judge Thomas C. Scalley asked him if he understood the charge—premeditated murder, committed with malice aforethought. “Yes sir,” Coleman said.
Speaking slowly and waiting between phases for Coleman to nod his comprehension, Scalley advised him that (1) he was entitled to a preliminary hearing, (2) that he could choose his own lawyer or be represented by a court-appointed attorney, and (3) that he did not have to make any statements to police. (Coleman had been in the hands of police since 9:15 a.m.)
“I’d like to try to get my own lawyer,” Coleman said.
“I think I should appoint one in the interim, until you get one,” Scalley said. He appointed Samuel G. Foshee. Foshee stepped forward from a spectator’s bench, paused and asked for a co-counsel. Scalley appointed Thomas C. Bell.
“Sir, I would like to say I am not guilty,” Raymond said. Scalley appointed William A. Tinney Jr. to represent Raymond.
Assistant United States Attorney Maurice R. Dunie asked for a continuance for 30 days to Feb. 9. Gasch said the evidence in the case will be presented to a grand jury Monday. There will be a coroner’s inquest Wednesday.
Neither man has admitted the shooting. Gasch said that both can found guilty of first-degree murder because if two men embark in a criminal project, they are both responsible for the natural and probable consequences of their joint venture.
In this case, both men allegedly held up a liquor store and of one of them allegedly shot the policeman, Pvt. Donald Brereton, while trying to escape from the store.
Gasch said that he would argue that the shooting was an integral part of the holdup and thus first-degree murder. It would be up to a jury to decide whether the murder and the holdup are connected, he added.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 12, 1960, PAGE B2.
600 Police Attend Rites for Pvt. Brereton
Police Pvt. Donald Brereton, 31, murdered with his own gun in a liquor store holdup last Thursday night, was buried with full military honors at Arlington Cemetery yesterday.
His widow, Nora Brereton, sobbed uncontrollably as the sound of taps faded and several hundred policemen from the District, Maryland, and Virginia stood at the graveside.
The funeral ceremonies began at 8:30 a.m. when hundreds of police and citizens gathered to the Collins Funeral Home, 3821 14th St. NW, for a brief prayer service conducted by the Rev. Raymond Fanning, a Police Department Chaplin.
Then, the 150-car procession, led by about 50 motorcycle police from the Washington area, went to Our Lady of Sorrow Church, 1010 Larch Ave., Takoma Park.
The church, which seats about 450 people, was packed. About 100 were standing, and there were that many more outside. Most of the funeral crowd consisted of police—more than 600—from the Washington area, from as far south as Alexandria and as far north as Waterloo, Md.
The Right Rev. Msgr. James F. King, celebrant at the requiem mass, said Private Brereton, who lived with his wife and one-year-old daughter at 6738 Conley rd., West Hyattsville, Md., had “died with his boots on. He was not afraid. He walked right into death.”
Expressing sympathy for Mrs. Brereton, who wept and sobbed during the mass and once was helped with smelling salts and water. Monsignor King said he hoped the same courage that sustained her husband would sustain her in the days ahead.
From the church to Arlington Cemetery, the cortege passed through Washington. It went by the 13th Precinct Station where Brereton had been assigned. The stationhouse was draped in black and fronted by about 50 police from the precinct.
His precinct captain, Capt. Scott Moyer, ordered the hand salute by the assembled police as the hearse was opened and the casket brought to the grave site.
Mrs. Brereton, overcome, was helped to her seat by a cousin, David P. Walsh, and Frances J. Collins, funeral director.
Following closely were Mr. Brereton’s parents, Mr. And Mrs. Dennis Brereton, his two brothers and other of his relatives and his widow’s.
Msgr. King officiated at the grave site. There were a three-gun salute and the playing of taps. Then, Mrs. Brereton, distraught through the ceremony, sobbed loudly and was helped to her car.
Among those at the burial were Police Chief Robert V. Murray, Deputy Chief Howard V. Covell and Edward E. Scott, and former Police Chief Robert J. Barrett. District Commissioner Robert E. McLaughin and his wife had attended the mass, seated in the same row with Irish Ambassador John Joseph Hearne. (Mrs. Brereton is a native of Ireland.)
The huge contingent of police included delegations from the Metropolitan Police, Park Police, White House Police, Maryland and Virginia State Police, Prince Georges, Arlington, Fairfax Counties and Alexandria.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 16, 1960, PAGE A3.
Bullet That Killed Police Pvt. Brereton Traced to His Own Gun by Ballistics
An FBI ballistics report on the holdup-murder of Police Pvt. Donald Brereton, 31, confirmed yesterday that the fatal shot was fired from his own weapon.
Brereton was killed Jan. 7 by a holdup suspect he and another policeman were chasing through an alley near the robbed liquor store at 501 Florida Ave., NW Police said the FBI’s ballistics report verifies their own reconstruction of the shooting.
Charged with Brereton’s murder are Raymond Coleman, 29, and his 25-year-old brother, William. Police have called the younger suspect the actual “triggerman” in the slaying which occurred when Brereton blundered into the suspect in the dark alley and had his gun wrested from him.
Brereton’s companion in the chase, Pvt. Clyde Winters, 24, was reported convalescing at his home from wounds suffered in the same gunplay. Homicide Squad detectives said Winters reported to headquarters yesterday to give a formal statement on the shooting but weakened and had to be sent home before he could complete his testimony. Winters was struck in the chin with a bullet police believe also was fired by the suspect from Brereton’s gun.
Meanwhile, a representative of Thrifty Beverage Stores yesterday presented Police Chief Robert V. Murray with a $1000 check to be added to a fund being raised for Brereton’s family. His wife and a small daughter survive him.
Earlier, Major Liquor Associates, a retail trade association had initiated collection of a fund for the Brereton family with the installation of collection boxes in stores operated by its members. The District Commissioners yesterday approved an offer by the National Bank of Washington to serve as custodian and administrator of the fund.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 17, 1960, PAGE B4
Kin of Pvt. Winters Ambushes a Suspect
Another member of the Police Department’s Winter clan lay in ambush early yesterday for a suspect who twice broke into the Federal Wrecking Company at 1125 1st St. NW
It worked out better this time.
Pvt. Ronald O. Winters and James E. Clarke had no difficulty arresting Reevis R. Boyd, 19, listed at 5 K St. NE, as he entered the offices about 2 a.m., police reported.
Winters is a cousin of Pvt. Clyde R. Winters who was seriously wounded Jan. 7 when he and his partner, Pvt. Donald Brereton, 31, were staked out in the LeDroit Liquor Store, 501 Florida Ave. NW They chased two robbers and Brereton was shot fatally in an alley.
A hole was smashed in the wrecking company’s brick wall on Wednesday and records were destroyed by the intruder, police said. The company patched the hole, but on Thursday night the patch was knocked out, a safe was wrecked and several bottles of liquor were stolen.
Police said Boyd, who was unarmed, was arraigned before Municipal Court Judge Thomas C. Scalley and put under $5000 bond on a charge of housebreaking.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JUNE 7, 1960, PAGE A3
BEATEN AFTER ARREST, COLEMAN SAYS AT TRIAL
Raymond Coleman, on trial for robbery and murder of a policeman, testified in District Court yesterday that he was beaten by detectives before he made statements implicating himself and his brother in the crimes.
The charges were supported by Raymond’s wife, Elizabeth, but was denied by the policemen involved. Raymond, 29, and William Coleman, 25, face a mandatory death sentence if convicted of slaying Pvt. Donald Brereton while robbing a liquor store Jan. 7.
Raymond took the witness stand at a hearing before Judge F. Dickinson Letts out of the jury’s presence. The judge is expected to rule today on defense objections to letting the jury hear Raymond’s statements to police.
By waiving his privilege not to testify, Raymond opened his testimony to cross-examination by Assistant United States
Attorney Thomas A. Flannery.
Raymond admitted Flannery’s contention that he “lied” when first asked by police if he knew anything about the holdup of Lr Droit Liquors, 501 Florida Ave. NW, or the whereabouts of William. Raymond also said he led police to a gun hidden in an alley near the store. Flannery charged that the gun was a holdup weapon.
But Raymond denied participating in the holdup that resulted in Brereton’s death and the wounding of Pvt. Clyde R. Winters.
Mrs. Coleman waived the wife-husband privilege of refusing to testify and told Judge Letts that Raymond told her of being beaten by police.
Four policemen, Lt. Edward A. Daley, Det. Sgt. James D. Kennedy and Dets. Harry A. Paxton and Bernard F. Kelly, all denied on the witness stand that they struck or mistreated Raymond during the 36 hours he was held between his arrest and a hearing before a judge.
The jury was locked up overnight in the United States Court House at the request of Defense Attorney Thomas E. Schmidt. He said there was danger of exposing the jury to news accounts of Raymond’s testimony.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JUNE 12, 1960, PAGE A3
William Coleman Found Guilty of Murder; Brother of Robbery
William Coleman, 25, was found guilty by a District Court jury yesterday of holding up a liquor store and shooting to death a policeman who chased him across the street into an alley.
The murder conviction carries a mandatory death sentence. Coleman blinked rapidly and his face went taut when he heard the jury report after 10 hours of deliberation.
Raymond Coleman, 29, was found guilty in the robbery but not guilty in the fatal shooting. The slightest trace of a smile tipped his lips as the jury spared him the doom of his younger brother.
Both men, dressed in neat business suits, had been charged with robbery and murder while committing a felony—the holdup of the Le Droit Liquor Store at 501 Florida Ave. NW, on Jan. 7.
Judge F. Dickerson Letts said he would set a sentencing date within a few days. Robbery charges carries a 5 to 15-year maximum sentence. Letts asked for a probation report on Raymond Coleman.
Immediately after the verdict, William’s lawyer, Thomas C. Bell, asked for a judgement of not guilty in the murder. Bell said since both men were convicted of robbery, it was inconsistent for one and not the other to be convicted of murder while committing a robbery.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas A. Flannery had maintained during the trial that Raymond Coleman’s participation in the robbery made him also responsible for the death of Pvt. Donald J. Brereton, who chased William Coleman into the alley.
Judge Letts denied Bell’s motion. The jury, composed of six men and six women, began deliberations at 2:30 p.m. Friday.
They continued until 10 p.m. with a break for a supper.
Yesterday, the jury, which had been locked in for the last five nights to prevent any reading of accounts of the trial, met
from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., when they came out to announce their verdict.
In its long deliberations the jury apparently weighed each brother’s relative guilt in robbery and murder.
Argued End of Robbery
During the trial, William Coleman’s defense counsel, Bell, claimed William had been validly arrested in the alley, thus bringing an end to the felony.
Another of William Coleman’s attorneys, Samuel G. Foshee, claimed Brereton threatened to kill William and this triggered the struggle in self-defense, in which the policeman was killed.
Attorney Thomas E. Schmitt, representing Raymond Coleman, said his client bolted from the store when he heard scuffling by Brereton and Brereton’s partner and thus “abandoned” the robbery.
Elements of the case went back weeks before the liquor store trap set by police fatally snapped shut. In an effort to end a string of robberies, police had dotted the city with two-man teams to trap liquor store holdup men.
Brereton and his partner, Pvt. Clyde R. Winters, who was wounded in the alley gun fire, were concealed behind a partition in the Le Droit Liquor Store when the holdup men entered. The men fled with $189.
The two policemen chased William Coleman into an alley. In the scuffle, Brereton was shot fatally with his own gun. Both bandits escaped and were arrested later after a city-wide search.
William Coleman Gets Death In Murder of D.C. Policeman
William C. Coleman, 25, was sentenced yesterday to die in the electric chair Sept 30 for the murder of Police Pvt. Donald Brereton in a chase after a liquor store holdup.
District Court Judge F. Dickinson Letts imposed the mandatory death sentence. He sentenced William’s brother, Raymond, 29, to four and one-half to 14 years in jail as a robbery accomplice.
When asked by Judge Letts if they had anything to say before sentencing, Raymond said “I’m sorry for my mistake.” William protested he was innocent of murder.
William repeated an argument rejected by the jury that he was under arrest when the fatal gun battle with Brereton occurred and could not be guilty of murder while committing robbery. Both convictions will be appealed.
Brereton was killed by his own gun and Pvt. Clyde R. Winters was seriously wounded while chasing William on Jan. 7 in alley near Le Droit Liquors, 501 Florida Ave. NW, which had just been robbed of $197. Raymond, gunman in the holdup, fled through another alley.
Defense Attorney Thomas E. Schmitt stressed Raymond’s lack of a previous police record in asking for leniency. He said Raymond was “thanking the Lord” that he was not convicted of murder along with his brother.
William was sentenced under a provision of the District code that makes the death penalty mandatory in first-degree murder convictions. The District is the only jurisdiction in the Nation with mandatory capital punishment for first degree murder.
A bill to make the death penalty discretionary, meanwhile, advanced a step further in Congress yesterday when the Senate District committee approved a bill passed Monday by the House. The bill would permit a jury to return a recommendation of life imprisonment.
PARTIAL WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 29, 1966, PAGE A10
Last Death Row Tenant Leaves Court as “Lifer”
The last tenant of death row at D.C. Jail came into District Court yesterday to have his death sentence officially reduced to a life term.
Dressed in prison denims, convicted murderer William C. Coleman, 31, stood quietly before Judge Matthew F. Maguire. Members of Coleman’s family wept in the courtroom.
The large rangy man thanked everyone “for spending so much time on my case.” He has been on death row more than five years.
Consignment to life imprisonment, instead of electrocution, comes after years of laborious appeals of his case.
Coleman was convicted in 1960 of murdering policeman Donald J. Brereton during a liquor store robbery.
He was sentenced to the electric chair under the mandatory death sentence in effect then for first-degree murder.
Court appointed attorneys Edward Bennett Williams and Robert L. Weinberg fought twice unsuccessfully in the U.S. Court of Appeals to reduce the sentence.
On their third try, the court took a rare action and ordered Coleman’s death sentence reduced to life.
Traditionally, appellate courts do not set sentences but remand them to a lower court for further examination. In Coleman’s case, however, the court noted that the mandatory death penalty had been abolished during the appeal of his case.
Coleman will be eligible for parole consideration in 20 years.
CLYDE WINTERS, BRERETON’S PARTNER SURVIVED HIS BULLET WOUNDS, BUT WAS MEDICALLY RETIRED BECAUSE OF HIS INJURIES.
WILLIAM COLEMAN’S BROTHER, RAYMOND, WAS FOUND NOT GUILTY OF THE MURDER OF OFFICER BRERETON BUT WAS CONVICTED OF ROBBERY AND SENTENCED TO 5-15 YEARS IN PRISON.