Memorial to Marvin L. Stocker

End of Watch: March 23, 1966
Rank: Officer   Badge No. 2066
Age: 23   Years of Service: 8 months
Location of Death:  435 Hamilton Street, NW
Duty Assignment:  Eighth Precinct

Circumstance:

John Wansley and three other suspects entered the Lord & Taylor store at 5255 Western Avenue. They tied employees with duct tape and robbed the store of about $30,000. The suspects then fled in a vehicle. They were spotted near Hamilton Street by Officer Stocker and two detectives. Suspect Wansley ran into 435 Hamilton Street and held an elderly couple hostage.

Officer Stocker and the detectives approached the house. Suspect Wansley, who was hiding under the porch, shot Officer Stocker in the chest. The detectives dragged his body to safety as they were under fire.  Suspect Wansley is reported to have committed suicide inside the house minutes later by cutting his own throat, nearly decapitating himself. 

Biography:

Officer Stocker was married and had two children.

 

Articles from the Washington Post – transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MAY 24, 1966
D.C. POLICEMAN KILLED BY BANDIT

Assailant Then Cuts Own Throat
Shooting Occurs After Robbery At Lord & Taylor
A Washington policeman was killed last night by a robbery suspect who then slashed his own throat.

The deaths occurred in the normally quiet residential section of the 400 block of Hamilton Street NW, minutes after four bandits robbed Lord & Taylor, at Wisconsin and Western Avenues, $10,000 to $30,000.

Pvt. Marvin L. Stocker, 23, was felled by a 38-caliber bullet in the chest as he ran toward the two-story red brick row house at 435 Hamilton, where one bandit had barricaded himself after wounding the resident, William Lax, in the leg, police said.
Some 100 policemen responded to the area and lobbed tear gas into the Lax home, which they said one of the bandits invaded after he and his accomplice abandoned their stolen car at the corner of 5th & Hamilton Streets NW

Police gave this version of events:

At 8:05 p.m., 5 minutes after closing time, three Lord & Taylor employees were leaving the store from a side entrance and walking toward their cars in the parking lot when four men jumped from a rented 1965 red Thunderbird.
Some or all of the men drew guns and forced the employees–assistant store manager Lionel R. Stewart of 3408 Thornapple St., Chevy Chase; a department manager, Gerald Viazey of 9711 Montauk Ave., Bethesda; and a janitor–to take them to the stores third floor office.

The gunmen ordered the three men to lie on the floor and bound them with adhesive tape. After looting the safe they ran out. The three victims freed themselves 5 minutes later and called police.

Less than 15 minutes later, the Thunderbird was spotted near Georgia Avenue NW, by two Sixth precinct detectives who heard the lookout for it. They chased it in their cruiser, radioed for reinforcements and, when the bandits stopped the car and scattered up and down Hamilton Street, went after them on foot.

Two of the suspects were captured in the street and a third bolted into the Lax home.

Details of what happened in the house were sketchy early last night, but Lax suffered a bullet wound in the thigh and a woman believed to be his wife, Beulah, was led from the house in a bloodstained dress.

Police Lt. B.E. Darr said the bandit apparently went to the basement. When Stocker approached the house, the bandit shot once at him through latticework beneath the white front porch.

Stocker, a rookie who joined the force last July, was pronounced dead at 7:12 p.m. at Washington Hospital Center, where Lax was taken for treatment.

Mrs. Lax was hospitalized with head injuries suffered when the bandit struck her, possibly with a gun.
Darr said the bandit then ran upstairs and barricaded himself in the bathroom or one of the three bedrooms.

As police closed in, illuminating the block with four or five floodlights and shooting tear gas into the house, he committed suicide with a knife or a razor.

A crowd of more than 400, many of them teenagers, converged on the block in a holiday mood. Some of them laughed when the bandit’s body was carried out of the house in a blue denim sack.

Close neighbors of the Laxes weren’t smiling, however, as they wondered when and where police would capture the fourth robber and worried about William and Beulah–a quiet, childless couple who have lived there 12 years.

Margie Wortham of 489 Hamilton said she first noticed the trouble in the street as her daughter, Rebecca, 17, was playing a record called “Scratch My Back.”

Over the thump of the rock ‘n’ roll she heard “a funny noise” as though somebody “were tapping on my air conditioner.” She walked to the back door and saw two policemen holding a man who did not appear to be struggling.

Then two other officers ran into her house, went up on the roof, “and never did see them come down,” Mrs. Wortham said.
Eugene Harper of 5316 2nd St. NW was in the neighborhood when “I thought I heard a backfire and then all hell broke loose. Everybody was running everywhere.”

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED May 25, 1966

MAN WHO KILLED POLICEMAN WAS IN TROUBLE AT 13
The story of John Melvin Wansley’s assault on society and himself begins with an order sheet of paper dated May 7, 1955, and headed, “Complaint to the Juvenile Court of the District of Columbia.”

The sheet tells how Wansley, then 13, had been arrested for stealing a pair of size 8 “Cadillac style” shoes from a friend. Sometimes using his mother’s last name of Eldridge, the youth from Cadillac shoes to Cadillac cars, and then juvenile scraps to criminal courts before coming to rest on a morgue slab at age 24.

He had cut himself to death–severed the carotid artery in the neck, the Coroner’s office said–after shooting a policeman to death following a $15,000 holdup at Lord & Taylor in Chevy Chase on Wednesday night.

Two of Wansley’s alleged accomplices in the holdup were held without bail on first-degree murder charges yesterday by U.S. Commissioner Sam Wertleb. They are Jimmie Lee Suggs, 20, who gave his address as 2675 Douglas Pl. SE, Clarence Lee Blair, 22, listed at 1323 Rittenhouse St. NW.

Police put a special force of 45 detectives and uniformed men on a search for the fourth suspect, a subject in his 20’s, believed to be known as “Monk” and also believed to be armed. Officers checked bars, pool rooms and the arrested men’s neighborhoods for leads to “Monk.”

The couple in whose home Wansley was cornered before killing Police Pvt. Marvin Lee Stocker and himself. Mr. And Mrs. William P. Lax, of 435 Hamilton St. NW, were back home yesterday recovering from injuries Wansley inflicted before killing himself. Lax was shot in the side, and Mrs. Lax was hit on the head, apparently with a pistol.

Their normally well-kept house was “in shambles,” their minister, the Rev. W. D. Abrams, reported. “There’s blood all over everything, the rugs, the wall where the body rubbed when it was taken out. It was a horrible experience for them.”
Wansley took a long while doing himself in. He asked Mrs. Lax for poison and then hacked and stabbed himself on the legs, chest, and wrists before finally slashing his throat, using a butcher knife taken from the Lax kitchen.

Prison officials who knew Wansley at the Lorton Youth Center would not be surprised at his end, said the former Center superintendent, Joseph Havener, now assistant director of the D.C. Corrections Department.

Wansley did two years and seven months at Lorton for assault with a knife before he was paroled. Havener remembered him as a bright student in high school classes and a good basketball player, but “a convict type, prison wise.”

Lorton officials “never did rate him as a good prospect for rehabilitation,” Havener said. “Psychological tests revealed a lot of hostility and aggressiveness.”

Havener said he later saw Wansley several times on the outside, and while he was cordial, the young man was not working but was dressed in expensive clothes.

He was known to one policeman as a “sharp” dresser with an assortment of girlfriends, a black 1964 Lincoln Continental and no job in the last three years. Wansley liked to shoot dice at the “whale” crap joints, which require a minimum rolling stake of about $100, the policeman said.

Wansley had a record of two juvenile arrests– in the shoes case and for rape and robbery–and ten charges against him as an adult, most of them felonies. Insp. John L. Sullivan of the Robbery Squad said Wansley, who had a dental plate, may be linked to other recent offences, including two holdups March 15 by a bandit with two front teeth missing who held his hand over his mouth. In one of those holdups, Theodore Roberts, 29, was shot in the throat at the Ogden Market, 1500 Ogden St. NW. Wansley may have been tied in with a gang, Sullivan said.

Pvt. Stocker, 23, makes a striking contrast in young manhood. Stocker, who left a wife and 16-month-old daughter in Hyattsville, was about to be promoted in the Twelfth Precinct, his brother Eugene said yesterday.

Stocker, a graduate of Coolidge High School, was described by friends as a polite man who enjoyed tinkering with cars and guns and going boating. He had worked in the offices of two auto agencies before joining the force last July. His brother said Stocker became interested in place work when at 17, he chased a burglar onto the roof of his parents’ home at 1521 Downing St. NE and called police to capture the intruder.

About the same time, John Melvin Wansley was being charged and indicted for assault with a deadly weapon somewhere else in the city.

Despite his troubles, his mother, Jane Eldridge, was reported to have retained the loyalty of mother love. “That boy was her whole life.” neighbor Cora Jones, of 704 Irving St. NW, said yesterday. “She loved him dearly. I think it was all she lived for.”

Apparently, Wansley felt the same way. His dying words, Mr. Abrams quoted the terrorized Mrs. Lax as saying, were, “My dear old mother.”

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MAY 5, 1967

2 Are Given Stiff Terms In Lord & Taylor Holdup
Two men were sentenced in a heavily guarded Federal courtroom yesterday for the $24,000-armed robbery of the Lord & Taylor store at 5255 Western Ave. NW, on March 23, 1966.

Nine U.S. Marshals, including Washington’s chief marshal, Luke C,. Moore, stood at strategic points in the District Courtroom, anticipating arrival of a possibly hostile group of persons who had attended the trial last March before Judge John J. Sirica. The people were described as acquaintances of the defendants. They never showed up yesterday.

Sirica, noted for his stiff sentences, slapped 15-45-year jail term on one defendant, James L. Suggs, 21, listed at 2675 Douglas St. SE, for robbery, three counts of assault and carrying a dangerous weapon, a pistol.

The other defendant, Clarence Blair, 23, listed at 1324 Rittenhouse St. NW, drew a 15 to 45 year stretch for robbery.

Two Others Involved
Two other men were involved in the holdup. One, Melvin Wansley, 24, after being cornered in a house and holding the occupants at gunpoint shot and killed Police Pvt. Marvin Stocker, who was pursuing him. Wansley then killed himself by slashing his wrists, legs and throat. The other suspect has not been arrested.

Suggs and Blair were arrested after a 60-80 mile per hour police chase described by Sirica yesterday as “one of the wildest and most dangerous” in Washington history.

Visibly angry, the judge said Suggs and Blair were professional robbers who carefully planned the department store holdup and wore masks and gloves for the robbery.

Should Be Deterrent
They must be separated from society for a long time, he said, and their severe penalties should be a deterrent to other would-be offenders.

The “saddest and most serious” aspect of the case, he said, was Wansley’s shooting the policeman and then committing suicide.

Dovey Roundtree, attorney for Suggs, objected to the inclusion of the Wansley incident in the judge’s pre-sentence report. She said the occurrence was irrelevant and should not have been part of an “objective determination” of the penalty against Suggs.

Suggs and Blair were convicted of the holdup on March 17, Sirica denied them appeal bond yesterday. He noted that Suggs was arrested on three other criminal charges while out on pretrial bond in the Lord & Taylor case.

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PARTIAL WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MAY 24, 1967, PAGE B11
BROYHILL ASSAILS DEMONSTRATORS, WARNS OF PLOT.
(EDITED)
Rep. Joel T. Broyhill (R-Va.) Told Washington’s firemen and policemen yesterday that they are pitted against a “deadly, deliberate, planned and skillfully executed assault on authority.”

The Congressman was applauded often as he spoke before 500 police and fire department officers and members of the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade at its annual awards luncheon at the Mayflower Hotel.

The awards luncheon honored police Pvt. Marvin L. Stocker with a posthumous gold medal for valor. Stocker was shot to death on March 23, 1966.

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A NOTE FROM JAMES KIRK

David that was a great report regarding the death of Officer Stocker. There was one thing that was not reported.

I was in K-9 old clothes with my partner and our dogs. We were in that area when the call went out that they had gone into that house. We were the about the 4th car to arrive and parked right across the street. Within a several minutes two K-9 Sergeants and other K-9s arrived. There were several shots from the house that came from different windows each time. We were behind our car and were waiting to get a shot at them. One of the sergeants got a gas gun and was behind a tree in the front yard. He wanted to put the gas in the basement where a window was open, and some shots had been fired from there. The porch was over the window and there was a wicket fence blocking a chance to shoot the gas into the window. Officer Stocker was behind the Sgt and told him he could crawl up and pull down the fence. As he reached up to pull it down a hand could be seen with a pistol pointing out. The shooter never looked out but just fired hitting Stocker. The Sgt ran up and pulled him back behind the tree. Stocker died in his lap.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014 11:20

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Note: The D.C. court system failed once again in this case. The murder suspect, Wansley, was supposed to have begun serving a 3-12-year prison sentence for an unrelated robbery, three weeks before the officers killing. The suspect had lost an appeal in the old robbery case, but a bench warrant was never issued. Officer Stocker’s wife sued but the outcome is unknown.

Please advise if you know if they ever identified and arrested the fourth suspect, “Monk” in the murder case; or know the outcome of the wife’s lawsuit.

Many Thanks, Dave