Memorial to Robert D. Handwerk

End of Watch: January 24, 1964
Rank: Officer   Badge No. 2256
Age: 28   Years of Service: 3 years
Location of Death:  1364 Florida Avenue, SE
Duty Assignment:  Ninth Precinct

 

A MESSAGE FROM THE DC MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM PROJECT:
Following the shooting death of Private Robert D. Handwerk, several business leaders, headed by Leonard “Bud” Doggett of Doggett’s Parking and Ed Carl, of Call Carl Inc., met to discuss ways of helping the families of Metropolitan Police Officers killed in the line of duty. Discussions were still underway when another Metropolitan Police Officer, Martin I. Donovan, was shot and killed.

With the death of Officer Donovan, plans were finalized and Heroes Inc., was born. Originally established to help police officers from the DC Metropolitan Police Department, it was soon extended to the DC Fire Department and later to surrounding police and fire departments throughout the Washington, DC, Metropolitan area. The singular goal is to honor the supreme sacrifice made by law enforcement and firefighter of die in the line of duty. Within 24-hours financial assistance is given. Financial, educational and legal expertise advise is provided free of charge, which lasts as long as it’s needed. Heroes lives on today. Heroes never forgets. The Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Memorial and Museum shall never forget. All Gave Some – Some Gave All.

Circumstance:
At 1:30 am, On January 24, 1964, two robbery suspects entered Natolis Deli and pistol whipped the cashier and stole $120. Before the suspects could leave, Officer Handwerk and Officer Connors arrived on the scene and confronted one suspect. A second suspect was also on the scene. Both suspects suddenly opened fire and shot Officer Handwerk five times and his partner was wounded in the thigh. Officer Connors was able to shoot one of the suspects twice as he was fleeing.

 

Biography:

Officer Handwerk was married and was the father of two children, aged 4 1/2 and 11 months.

Articles from the Washington Post – transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.
THE PARTICULARLY SAD SHOOTING DEATH OF OFFICER ROBERT D. HANDWERK, AND THE WOUNDING AND PISTOL-WHIPPING OF HIS PARTNER, OFFICER PAUL T. CONNORS, ON JANUARY 24, 1964

WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 25, 1964, PAGE A3

Two Charged in Police Murder
Two men were charged with murder and robbery yesterday after a holdup and gunfight in which one policeman was slain and another wounded.

One of the suspects was wounded at the scene and the other was captured as he and his bride started to drive away from their home about an hour after the holdup, police said.

The robbery and gunfight took place at about 1:30 a.m. in Natolli’s Delicatessen, 1364 Florida Ave. NE

The dead policeman, shot five times in the $120 holdup, was Pvt. Robert D. Handwerk, 28, the father of two small children.

He had been on the force three years and lived at 8206 14th Ave., Langley Park. There were bullet wounds in his right cheek, nose, both legs and his left arm.

His partner, Pvt. Paul T. Connors, 23, of 403 Orange St. SE, was shot in the left thigh was pistol-whipped by one of the holdup men, police said. He was reported in “good condition” at Washington Hospital Center.

Charged with homicide and robbery were Edward L. Smith, 33, and Wayman R. Cunningham, 29, both of 4227 H St. SE Police said they were brothers-in-law, Smith having married Cunningham’s sister 11 days ago.

Cunningham, shot twice in the buttocks by Connors as he tried to flee from the store, was reported in “good condition” at D.C. General Hospital.

As he lay dying on the floor of the delicatessen, Handwerk gasped out a last goodbye to his wife, Janice.
Anthony Natolli, 46, proprietor of the store, told police that Handwerk said: “Please tell my wife I love her…. Where’s the ambulance, I can’t breathe. I need some help.”

“It tore my heart out,” said Natolli. “That poor man.”
Mrs. Handwerk was with her husband when he died at 2:30 a.m. in Washington Hospital Center.
Homicide Squad Capt. George R. Donahue said the gunmen entered the store at about 1:30 a.m. and acted suspiciously, walking around the restaurant and attracting the attention of Natolli and a customer, Robert Owens, 19, of 808 14th St. NE
Natolli said one of the men told him: “I want some pickles.” Owens went to look for police and Natolli went to a rear telephone to call police. Suddenly, he felt a gun in his back. He told police later that Smith had pulled the gun and ordered him and a store employe, Franklin Braxton, 22, of 1337 D St. SE, to a rear toilet, where they were forced to lie down and were pistol-whipped. About $100 was stolen from the cash register and $20 was taken from Natolli’s wallet.
Owens found the police at 14th and H Sts. NE, and told them he feared a holdup. Capt. Donahue said they entered the store, guns drawn, seeing only Cunningham, holding a gun on Briscoe Speaks, 31, of 1510 Queen St. NE, the cashier.

When told to surrender, both Smith and Cunningham started shooting, Donahue said.

Twenty-one shots were fired, Donahue said, five by Smith, six by Cunningham and ten by the policemen. Connors, lying wounded on the floor, shot Cunningham as he fled from the store. Cunningham staggered for about 100 feet and collapsed, Donahue said. Smith beat Connors over the head with a pistol he took from him.

Papers found on Cunningham led police to Smith’s address where he was captured, Donahue said.
Donahue said both of the policemen’s guns and Smith’s gun were found in Smith’s possession and in his car.

Both suspects were on parole from sentences for robberies, he said. Cunningham was sentenced in 1953 and paroled in 1960; Smith was paroled in 1959 after serving seven years.

Metropolitan Police Chief Robert V. Murray said he was going to talk with Mrs. Handwerk and consider the possibility of setting up a fund for the widow and her children, aged 4 and-a -half and 11 months.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 30, 1964, PAGE C14

Jury Holds 2 in Police Slaying
A coroner’s jury yesterday held two holdup suspects for grand jury action in the fatal shooting of Ninth Precinct police Pvt. Robert D. Handwerk, 28, last Friday during a gun battle in a delicatessen at 1364 Florida Ave. NE
Held responsible for Handwerk’s death were Edward L. Smith, 29, and Waymon R. Cunningham, 33, both of 4227 H St. SE

Neither Cunningham nor the dead policeman’s partner, Pvt. Paul T. Connors, 27, both under treatment for wounds suffered in the holdup, were able to be present at the inquest.

Suspect Impassive
Smith sat impassively through the two-hour proceeding, most of which was taken up with testimony by Homicide Squad Det. Chrispen F. Preston.

Preston told of Smith’s arrest in a car in front of the H St. address about an hour after the shooting. Arresting officers took two guns from his belt. One of them was Connor’s. Under a seat in the car, Preston said, searchers found Handwerk’s gun, and in Smith’s pockets were two wallets stolen in the holdup.

One of the wallets belonged to Anthony N. Natolli, owner of the delicatessen, who was the inquests first witness. He said he grew suspicious of Smith and Cunningham when they entered the store about 1:20 a.m. He said he tried to phone police but was stopped by Smith who stuck a gun in his back after he had dialed only three digits.

Struck With Pistol
Natolli said Smith herded him and a customer, Franklin G. Braxton, 22, of 1337 D St. NE, into a rear bathroom, took their wallets and struck both of them over the head with his pistol barrel.

Braxton needed six stitches to close his wound. Natolli said, but “I got only a a big bump out of it.”
Also testifying was Robert Owens, 19, of 808 14th St. NE, another customer, who said he, too, was suspicious of Smith and Cunningham and sneaked out of the store to get help. Through a window, he said, he saw the holdup he had anticipated, and he ran until he found Handwerk and Connors in a patrol wagon at 14th and H St. NE The policemen crouched and entered the delicatessen with guns drawn and he watched the ensuing battle from across the street, Owens said.

22 Shots Fired
Det. Preston said 22 shots were fired, five each by the policemen and six by each of the suspects. The wounded Cunningham staggered away from the store, falling periodically and strewing money as he ran. He collapsed for the last time about 120 feet from the store and was disarmed by Natolli.

With Smith in the car when he was arrested, Preston said, was Cunningham’s sister, Smith’s bride of 15 days.
In one of the wounded Cunningham’s pockets, Preston said police found $100; in another $18; in another $31, and in a fourth, about $60. Only $120 was taken from the delicatessen, and Smith had $10 of that in the wallets, Preston said.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED FEBRUARY 1, 1964, PAGE A8

After the Funeral
In the memorial fund to Pvt. Robert D. Handwerk the city once again leaves a public responsibility to the generous impulse of private donors. The tradition of a collection for a fallen policeman is a wholly creditable one, but it is scandalous that his family should have to depend upon it for support.

Private Handwerk’s family will receive from the city $11,200 in insurance, and $250 a month in pension payments. Unfortunately, $11,200 is not enough to buy a house, or to send two children to college. And $3000 a year is President Johnson’s definition of poverty.

The amount that a memorial fund can collect depends upon the circumstances of the policeman’s death. In a highly publicized case, very large sums pour in. More than $600,000 has been given to the family of J.D. Tippitt, the Dallas patrolman shot by the apparent assassin of President Kennedy. But Private Handwerk was murdered in the course of a very ordinary delicatessen holdup. Police work is dangerous, but most of the danger is wholly routine. Police work is also essential to the city, and the city should not leave a policeman’s family to the chance of publicity.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED FEBRUARY 9, 1964, PAGE A29

Slain Policeman Fund Growing, Now Has $7350
Contributions to a fund established for the family of slain Metropolitan Police Pvt.
Robert D. Handwerk have reached $7350, it was reported yesterday.

John Monk, President of the Bank of Commerce and custodian of the fund, said contributions were “continuing to come in.” He appealed to the public to add its donations to those already received from members of the force.
High among the donors so far is the Ninth Precinct, which has given $1000. There have been nearly 500 individual contributors, Monk reported.

Donors should send checks to the Pvt. Robert D. Handwerk Fund, care of John Monk, President of the Bank of Commerce, Connecticut Ave. and K St. NW

The officer, father of two was wounded fatally Jan. 24 as he tried to halt a robbery at a Northeast delicatessen.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MARCH 11, 1964, PAGE C2

Grand Jury Indicts 2 In $120 Murder-Holdup
A District grand jury yesterday indicted two ex-convicts on first-degree murder and robbery charges in a $120 grocery store holdup and gun fight in which one policeman was slain and another was wounded. The slain officer was Pvt. Robert D. Handwerk, 28, the father of two children.

The two defendants are Edward L. Smith, 33, and his brother-in-law, Wayne R. Cunningham, 39, both listed at 4227 H St. SE

The pair are accused of staging the armed holdup Jan. 24 at Natolli’s Delicatessen, 1364 Florida Ave. NE, at 1:30 a.m. and attempting to flee with $120 in receipts.

Tipped on by a customer, the two policemen responded. Investigators said both defendants started firing.
Pvt. Handwerk was shot five times. His partner, Pvt. Paul T. Connors, 23, of 403 Orange St. SE, was shot in the left thigh and pistol whipped. Cunningham was shot in the buttocks and captured on the spot while Smith was picked up later at his home.

The store owner, Anthony Natolli, 46, and an employe were pistol whipped and locked in a toilet.
Police said Smith was sent to jail in 1953 and paroled in 1960 and that Cunningham was imprisoned in 1952 and paroled in 1959. Each had been convicted of robbery.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED APRIL 5, 1964, PAGE D34

Handwerk, Partner Get Awards
The late Robert D. Handwerk, a Ninth Precinct private, and his partner who survived a gun battle with two holdup men last

January have been designated that month’s Policemen of the Month for their heroism.

Pvt. Handwerk’s partner, Pvt. Paul T. Connors, was shot in the leg and pistol-whipped in the encounter, in which one of the holdup men was also wounded.

The Award of Merit Committee in citing both policemen recalled that the gun duel took place in a delicatessen at 1364 Florida Ave. NE in the early morning of Jan. 24.

The two policemen, advised that a holdup was in progress at the store, surprised one of the gunmen scooping money out of the cash register, but a second gunman in a rear room opened fire on Handwerk, wounding him fatally.

The suspects, who are awaiting trial on holdup and homicide charges, were identified as Waymon R. Cunningham, 29, and his brother-in-law, Edward L. Smith, 33, both of 4227 H St. NE, where Smith was captured after the shooting. Cunningham collapsed of his wounds and was arrested on the scene.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED NOVEMBER 25, 1964, PAGE B8

Murder Trial Opens in Police Slaying
A first-degree murder trial opened yesterday in U.S. District Court with two men charged with slaying Washington Police

Pvt. Robert D. Handwerk as he attempted to break up a robbery.
The two defendants are Wayman R. Cunningham, 29, and Edward L. Smith, 33, both of 4227 H St. SE They are accused of shooting Handwerk five times during an exchange of gunfire in a Northeast delicatessen.

Handwerk, 28, the father of two small children, died shortly after the early-morning shooting Jan. 24. His partner, Pvt. Paul T. Connors was shot in the back but recovered.

More than $20,000 has been raised for a fund for Mrs. Handwerk and the children.

The Government prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Lowther presented two key witnesses yesterday. Anthony Natolli, the part-owner of Natolli’s Delicatessen at 1364 Florida Ave. NE, where the shooting took place and Pvt. Connors. (miss-print)

Natolli said that Cunningham and Smith entered the store around 1:15 a.m. and browsed for about 15 minutes. The store owner said he became suspicious and took out a gun, which was hidden under a pie plate on a back counter.

As he was about to dial the police, Natolli said, Smith drew a gun and forced him and a customer into a rear restroom where Smith struck both over the head.

Several seconds later, Natolli said, he rushed out of the restroom after hearing shots and found Handwerk dying in an aisle while Connors was dragging himself across the sidewalk to a police car radio.

Natolli said he found Cunningham, wounded and struggling, in a lot down the street. Police picked up Smith later.
Pvt. Connors said he and Handwerk entered the store after receiving an emergency call about a possible robbery.

The two policemen saw Cunningham holding a gun on a cashier, Connors said. Suddenly, Smith appeared firing his gun and Cunningham started to shoot and the policemen shot back., Connors related.

The trail will continue today with a jury of seven women and four men before U.S. District Court Judge Leonard P. Walsh.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED DECEMBER 1, 1964, PAGE C3

Judge Bars Statement in Murder Case
A U.S. District Court judge yesterday excluded an incriminating statement made to homicide detectives by a man accused of murdering a policeman during a $120 holdup.

Judge Leonard P. Walsh did not give the reason for suppressing the confession given by Edward L. Smith, 33, of 4227 H St. SE

Smith is on trial, along with Wayman R. Cunningham, 29, of 4227 H St. SE charge with fatally shooting Police Pvt. Robert D. Handwerk as Handwerk attempted to break up a robbery at a delicatessen.

Police testified that Smith was picked up in front of his home at 2:35 a.m. on Jan. 25 as the result of papers found on Cunningham. Police also had a description of Smith. In Smith’s car, police said they found Handwerk’s gun and the gun of another officer who was shot during the fray.

Smith was taken directly to police headquarters and taken to the homicide room at 3:05 a.m. for a routine booking interview. Police said that as Smith entered, he started to confess but he was warned that Handwerk had died and he might be charged with murder.

However, police detectives said he continued his confession.

Smith’s appointed counsel, Charles W. Halleck, argued that the gun, the lookout description and the prior identification constituted “probable cause” to present Smith immediately to a U.S. Commissioner for a preliminary hearing.

Halleck asserted that there was an “unreasonable delay” by police in taking Smith to the homicide room.

The government prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph A. Lowther, argued that Smith’s statement was a “threshold confession” given after warning and voluntarily. He said that the Mallory Rule permits such threshold confessions to be admitted.

The Malloy Rule excludes confessions made to police during a period of unnecessary delay between arrest and the preliminary hearing.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED DECEMBER 3, 1964, PAGE A1

Jury Asks Life
2 Convicted in Slaying of Officer in Gun Battle

A U.S. District Court jury convicted two Washington men of first-degree murder yesterday in the slaying of police Pvt. Robert D. Handwerk during a $120-armed robbery last January. The panel recommended they both be sentenced to life imprisonment.

The jury of nine women and three men deliberated only four hours before returning the verdict to Judge Leonard P. Walsh. They could have recommended the death penalty.

The two defendants were Edward L. Smith, 33, and his brother-in-law, Wayman R. Cunningham, 29, both listed at 4227 H St. SE

Pvt. Handwerk was shot down by eight bullets during a gun battle at Natolli’s Delicatessen, 1364 Florida Ave. NE, last Jan. 24. He had answered a robbery call along with his partner, Pvt. Paul T. Connors, who was shot in the leg during the battle.
The Government prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph A. Lowther, relied heavily on the eye-witness testimony of Natolli and Pvt. Connors, both of whom identified the accused pair as the killers.

Natolli said he was forced into a back room by Smith, struck on the head and robbed of his wallet. Connors said he and his partner entered the store and were almost immediately cut down by gunfire.
Defense attorneys Charles W. Halleck and Stanley Klavan presented only one witness and argued mainly that there were inconsistencies in the testimony.

Smith and Cunningham also were convicted of two counts of robbery, one count of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of carrying a dangerous weapon. They were acquitted of charges of first-degree murder with premeditation.

Judge Walsh ordered both men held pending a probation report prior to sentencing. The judge is bound by the jury recommendation of life imprisonment unless the facts show that the jury clearly abused its discretion.

Pvt. Handwerk, 28, is survived by his wife and two young children.

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PARTIAL WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JUNE 18, 1965, PAGE B5
LAYTON URGES CITIZEN CONCERN AT HEROISM AWARDS LUNCH
(EDITED)

Some 450 city officials, judges and civic leaders attended the annual affair at the Mayflower Hotel. Sixteen policemen and ten firemen were cited for heroism during fiscal 1964.

For the first time in the history of the awards, which are sponsored by the Trade Board’s public protection committee, a member of the police Canine Corps was cited.

Banner 1, shot four times by a holdup suspect he had grabbed, wasn’t present to receive his honorable mention (not even brave dogs attend Mayflower luncheons), so his two-footed partner, Pvt. Ronald Morris, accepted it for him along with one of his own.

Chief Layton said that since 1861, when the force was founded, 70 policemen have given their lives on duty. One of them, Ninth Precinct Pvt. Robert D. Handwerk, shot to death during a holdup on Jan. 24 last year, received posthumously the only Gold Medal awarded a policeman yesterday.

Silver Medal (police)—
Insp. Howard F. Mowry, Det. Harold J. Burwell and Pvts. Goode V. Mott, Paul T. Connors, Ellsha Kornegay and Edward J. Cahill.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED NOVEMBER 5, 1965, PAGE C2

Court Upholds Life Sentence for Two
The U.S. Court of Appeals yesterday upheld the convictions of Edward L. Smith and Wayman R. Cunningham who were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Police Pvt. Robert D. Handwerk. The officer was killed when he attempted to thwart a robbery.

Handwerk, who was 28, was shot five times Jan. 24, 1964, during a robbery of Natolli’s Delicatessen, at 1364 Florida Ave NE Smith 34, and Cunningham, 29, also were convicted of the robbery and of assaulting Handwerk’s partner, who was wounded.

The burden of the appeal was that Smith’s arrest was illegal and that, as a result of that arrest, evidence found on him linking him with the crime was not admissible at his trial.

Smith’s court-appointed counsel, Charles W. Halleck, contended there was not probable cause to arrest Smith. He was arrested about an hour after the holdup in the 4200 block H St. SE, on the basis of information found on Cunningham, who was wounded and lying in front of the delicatessen when police reinforcements arrived.

After tracing Smith to H street, police noticed a parked car with the motor running and investigated. The arresting officer, Detective William F. Egers, testified that he recognized Smith as a suspect in the robbery on the basis of a lookout broadcast on the police radio.

Egers said he questioned Smith, received evasive answers, ordered him out of the car and arrested him.
Halleck contended that the lookout contained descriptive facts that could not be seen by looking at the man sitting in the car. These facts were the man’s height, the length and type of cuffs on his pants, the length of his coat and the type of shoes he was wearing.

However, the Court, with Judge J. Skelly Wright writing the majority opinion ruled that the reasons and circumstances of the officer’s recognition of Smith were “resolved on sufficient evidence in favor of the Government” at the trail and “will not be disturbed on this appeal.”

Another issue raised in the appeal, in which Chief Judge David I. Bazelon dissented from the majority, was that the trial jury should have been instructed to consider the question of Smith’s sanity.

During the trial there was reference to reports that Smith had a history of slight emotional disorder. The defense argued that because the question of sanity arose, it should have been weighed by the jury.