Memorial to Marcus P. Willis

End of Watch: December 27, 1965
Rank: Officer   Badge No.  521
Age: 26   Years of Service: 1 year
Location of Death:  4501 Benning Road, SE
Duty Assignment: Ninth Precinct Vice Squad

 

Circumstance:

Officers Willis and Smallwood were off duty and in a personal car. They became involved in a traffic altercation with another auto. The two officers unsuccessfully attempted to arrest the driver. Officer Smallwood drew his revolver and struck the driver on the head with it, causing the weapon to fire, striking Officer Willis in the eye. Officer Smallwood then shot the driver three times.

Biography:

Officer Willis was with the Metropolitan Police Department for one year. He died on the scene from his head injury. He was married and had one child, a 6-week old boy.

Articles from the Washington Post – transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.
OFFICER MARCUS P. WILLIS’S DEATH ON DECEMBER 27, 1965.

WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED DECEMBER 28, 1965, PAGE A3

Policeman’s Gun Kills Partner During Arrest

A Washington policeman accidently shot his close friend and fellow officer to death early yesterday as they tried to arrest a man outside a Washington service station, police reported. The suspect was critically wounded.

The dead man was Pvt. Marcus P. Willis, 26, 4238 H St. SE., a plainclothes vice squad detective with the Ninth Precinct. He became the father of a son, his only child, six weeks ago.

Police said five shots were fired by Willis’s friend, Pvt. Buddy E. Smallwood, 26, of 1034 Wahler Pl. SE, during a scuffle with Paul Deadwyler, 37, of 632 53rd St. NE.

Deadwyler was reported in critical condition at D.C. General Hospital with gunshot wounds in the stomach and both legs. He is in charge of custodial service at the University of Maryland.

Both off Duty

The shooting occurred about 12:20 a.m. in front of the Scot service station at 4501 Benning rd. ne, at East Capitol street. Willis, on the force almost two years, died two hours later at Casualty Hospital.

Police said the two officers were off duty and were waiting in Willis’s car for a traffic light change at the corner in front of the entrance to the station. The car apparently blocked Deadwyler’s auto from turning left into the station for gasoline, and profanity was shouted from Deadwyler’s car, police said.

Willis, who was driving, got out of his car and approached Deadwyler’s car. Deadwyler also got out, according to investigators. Willis showed his badge and said he was arresting Deadwyler on a charge of disorderly conduct, then more words were exchanged, police continued.

Draws Revolver

At this point Smallwood came up to the two men. Police said Deadwyler grabbed Smallwood by the throat, and after they wrestled briefly, Smallwood drew his .38 caliber police revolver from his left side with his right hand and struck Deadwyler on the head with the barrel.

The weapon fired, and Willis was struck over the right eye, felled still holding his badge and with his own weapon still in its holster.

Smallwood continued to fire to subdue Deadwyler, police said. Both men were described as about 6-feet-4 and 225-230 pounds. Willis stood about 5-feet-10.

No charges were placed immediately. Dr. Richard L. Whelton, the District of Columbia Coroner, scheduled an inquest for 11:30 a.m. today.

He said the inquest was called because of “variances” in statements to police.

Passengers Not Involved

Five passengers remained in Deadwyler’s car and were not engaged in the scuffle, police said. They were identified as Deadwyler’s wife, Eslie, 30, mother of 11 children; Mr. And Mrs. James Brooks, of 50 49th St. SE; Kenneth Bourne, 34, of 7914 Piedmont Ave., Lanham, and Hindmann Richmond, 33, of 7933 Fisk Ave., Lanham.

The Deadwylers were taking the other passengers home after a holiday party at the Deadwyler home, police said.

Shortly before the shooting Willis had been visiting Smallwood at Smallwood’s apartment, police said. Smallwood, who works as a uniformed patrolman in the 14th Precinct, had taken a day of leave and was due back to work at 4 p.m. yesterday. Willis had worked Sunday and was due back on duty at 8 a.m. today.

A third policeman was with them at the apartment but went from there to work and was not present during the shooting, police said.

Attendant Ducks

Drinking apparently did not figure in the incident, investors said.

The night attendant at the service station, George Nessbitt, 58, of 507 46th St. SE, told police he ducked behind a car when he heard a shot and did not see the shooting.

Willis, a native of Washington, was a graduate of McKinley High School and Maryland State Teachers College. He had been a substitute teacher in Washington and a teacher in New Jersey before joining the police force.

Mrs. Willis is on maternity leave from her job as medical records clerk at Washington Hospital Center.

Other survivors include Willis’s father, William Willis, 4011 5th St. NE; a twin brother, Marvin, 4116 Ames St. NE; another brother, Bernard, Newark New Jersey, and two sisters, Regina Myers, 131 Bates St. NW; and Remona Boldin, Philadelphia.

 

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED DECEMBER 29, 1965, PAGE A1

Policeman’s Death Ruled Accidental

Coroner’s jury Clears 2nd Officer In Arrest Shooting

A coroner’s jury investigating the shooting of one policeman by another returned a verdict of accidental death yesterday after hearing 3 and a half of sometimes conflicting testimony.

Jurors deliberated less than ten minutes and then exonerated Pvt. Buddy E. Smallwood, 26, in the slaying of Pvt. Marcus P. Willis, 26, as Smallwood grappled with a man, they were trying to arrest about 12:20 a.m. Monday.

Case Still Open

The jury’s ruling does not close the case, Police Chief John B. Layton said after the inquest.
The police department has “referred preliminary reports to the U.S. Attorney’s office and we have further conferences with them slated,” Layton said.

Willis was injured fatally by a bullet that struck him above the right eye and Paul Deadwyler, 37, of 632 53rd St. NE, was injured critically with gunshot wounds in the stomach and right leg outside the Scot service station at East Capitol Street and Benning Road NE

The incident occurred shortly after Deadwyler pulled his Cadillac into the station on his way home from a family party. Willis, a plainclothes vice squad detective with the Ninth Precinct, and Smallwood, a uniformed patrolman with the 14th Precinct, were off duty and had been waiting in Willis’s Ford for a red light at the intersection to change.

Five Witnesses Testify

Only two of the five witnesses who testified yesterday claimed to have seen the shots fired.

Margaret Carter, 38, of 4830 B St. SE told the jury she knew nothing of the shooting until she read about it in Tuesday afternoon in a newspaper.

Her car was stopped for the light alongside the officers, she said, when Deadwyler’s car pulled up. Deadwyler was unable to turn into the station because Willis’s auto was blocking the entrance, she testified.

Deadwyler shouted profanity at the officers from his car and asked, “Why don’t you let a car make a turn?” Mrs. Carter testified.

The policeman looked at him, smiled and said nothing and continued smiling after he shouted a second burst of profanity at them, she added. She said she heard a third shout of profanity from the Deadwyler car as the light changed and she then drove off.

Smallwood Silent

Smallwood did not testify on the advice of his attorney, H. Clifford Allder. However, Det. Leo Spencer of the homicide division said Smallwood told police this story: Deadwyler’s car almost collided with Willis’s as he tried to drive into the station. Because of his profanity and “irregular actions,” Willis suggested to Smallwood that they “check him out.”

The officer, who were wearing civilian clothes, drove around the corner, pulled into the station and stopped about 15 feet from Deadwyler’s car. Deadwyler walked toward the Ford and, when Willis got out and showed his badge, swore at Willis again. Willis said he would have to arrest him for disorderly conduct.

Smallwood, meanwhile, got out of the car, walked around behind it and identified himself. When Deadwyler swore at him, he grabbed him and told him he was under arrest.

Gun Goes Off

Deadwyler began choking Smallwood, who pulled his .38 caliber service revolver from his shoulder holster and struck Deadwyler on the top of his head with the gun barrel. The gun went off.

Deadwyler continued to choke him, so Smallwood fired one or two shots to subdue him. Then he heard someone shout that Willis was shot. He looked down, saw his fellow officer sprawled on the ground, ran to a gathering crowd to ask someone to call police and seeing a scout car approach, hailed it.

Spencer reached the station shortly after the shooting and said he asked Deadwyler what happened. “I don’t know. I’m hurt,” he quoted the injured man as saying.

The homicide detective said he detected “a strong odor of alcohol” about Deadwyler. He said he bent over Smallwood, who then was giving Willis first aid, and smelled no liquor about either officer.

One of Deadwyler’s five passengers, a niece, Sylvia Brooks, 24, of 54 9th St. SE, said he had had nothing to drink but an eggnog and a whiskey Sunday afternoon.

“Shooting Like Crazy”

She said she “never heard him use profane language during his encounter with the officers and that Smallwood “came around behind the car with his gun in his hand and he was shooting like a crazy man.”

Mrs. Brooks did not see Smallwood strike her uncle with his gun, she said, just “this flash of light as the gun went off up in the air.”

Willis dropped to the ground after the first shot, she added. Smallwood and Deadwyler tussle obscured her view of the second shot and the third “was into the ground. I heard about two more after that,” she said.

The night attendant at the service station, George Nesbitt, 58, of 507 46th St. SE said the shooting surprised him. Deadwyler had asked for $2 worth of gas, Nesbitt said, “and I was trying to get the cap off when I heard a shot. I didn’t see no scuffle, I didn’t hear no dispute.”

A taxi driver said he heard “some argument” testified that Smallwood was holding his gun by the barrel rather than the grip and that Deadwyler was holding Smallwood’s gun hand.

Benny Lee Thayer, who was driving home to 8126 Burnside rd., Hyattsville, when he heard a shot, said Deadwyler cried to Smallwood, “You shot him. You killed your own friend.”

Thayer said Smallwood denied it and said, “You tried to take the gun from me.”

Deadwyler is in Casualty Hospital and was unable to appear at the inquest. His wife and the rest of his passengers were not called as witnesses.

Burial Thursday

The homicide squad selected the persons who testified at the inquest after consultation with the U.S. Attorney’s office. Witnesses at a coroner’s inquest always are kept to a minimum, to prevent enough evidence for the jury to reach a decision without presenting information that would be revealing in any future court action.

Willis, who lived at 4238 H St. se and was the father of a 6-week-old boy, will be buried Thursday with full police honors in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery after 11 a.m., services in Metropolitan Baptist Church.

Smallwood has been on annual leave since the shooting.

 

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 12, 1966, PAGE C3

Jury to Take No Action in Police Death

A District grand jury decided yesterday to take no action in the fatal shooting Dec. 27 of police officer Marcus P. Willis by a fellow officer during a struggle with a third person.

A court source said the case was closed after the jury considered and rejected three possible charges:

Homicide against Pvt. Buddy E. Smallwood, whose service revolver discharged, the bullet striking Willis while they were attempting to arrest Paul Deadwyler near a service station at East Capitol Street and Benning Road.

*Assault with a dangerous weapon against Smallwood, who struck Deadwyler on the head with his revolver.

*Assault on a police officer against Deadwyler who, according to Smallwood, struggled with officers during the arrest.

The court source said that no action was contemplated against either Smallwood or Deadwyler so that their official records would not be clouded.

The incident occurred about 12:20 a.m. when the off-duty officers attempted to arrest Deadwyler on a disorderly conduct charge.

Smallwood was cleared last week by a Coroner’s jury, but the United States Attorney’s office decided to evaluate the case for possible grand jury action anyway.