Memorial to John W. Purcell

End of Watch: February 27, 1968
Rank: Officer   Badge No. 2367
Age: 31   Years of Service: 6 years
Location of Death:  700 Block of 12th Street, SE
Duty Assignment:  Fifth Precinct

 

Circumstance:

Officer Williams was in a one man Scout Car when he saw a vehicle hit a parked vehicle. He pulled in front of the car to block it in and then he approached the driver and asked for his driver’s permit. The driver suddenly drew a handgun and shot Officer Williams through the heart. Officer Williams was able to fire his weapon twice, slightly wounding the suspect. Officer Williams died on the scene.

 

Biography:

Officer Williams was married to wife Florence, and two sons, aged 6 and 4. He was a veteran of the US Navy.  He had served 6 years and had several letters of commendation.

 

Articles from the Washington Post – transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.
THE SHOOTING DEATH OF OFFICER EUGENE I. WILLIAMS ON FEBRUARY 27, 1968

WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED FEBRUARY 28, 1968, PAGE A3

Laborer Held in Police Slaying
A 22-year-old unemployed laborer was charged with homicide yesterday in the slaying of a 31-year-old policeman who stopped a car to investigate a traffic violation.

Thomas Butler, 22, of 166 Joliet St. SW, is under police guard in D.C. General Hospital, where he is being treated for glass cuts in his face and left eye.

Dead is Police Pvt. Eugene I. Williams, of 229 17th St. SE, shot once in the chest, the bullet striking his heart.
The shooting, which police called “senseless,” took place in the 700 block of 12th Street SE, at about 11:30 Monday night, in front of a number of witnesses.

Jerry V. Wilson, assistant chief of the Metropolitan Police Department in charge of field operations, praised the cooperation of witnesses and neighbors in the area of the shooting. Wilson termed it “one of the greatest displays of citizenship” and cooperation of civilians with police that he had seen. About 40 persons came forward to help police in the investigation.

The shooting brought into question once more the wisdom of one-man scout cars used here in more than 25 other large cities. Wilson said nothing in this case or in two recent fatal shootings of lone policemen indicated that the presence of a police-partner would have changed the outcome.

But the Policeman’s Association, a 4500-member organization of active and retired policemen, said the problem bears investigation and will be considered at the Association’s next meeting.

Sgt. Carl W. Beatty, president of the Association, said it seemed possible the deaths would not have occurred if there had been two policemen in the cars.

Police said witnesses told them that on Monday night, Williams, a veteran of six years on the force and a father of two small sons, saw an auto hit a parked car in the 700 block of 12th Street SE. He pulled up in front of the car, blocking it, and got out to approach the driver.

Witnesses said he asked the driver for his permit and registration. The driver suddenly fired twice, they said, and Williams fell to the ground. He fired two shots at the car while the driver was attempting to move it from the scene. One bullet struck the windshield.

Police said the gunman’s car careened down the block, striking two parked cars and rolling up over the sidewalk onto a lawn. The gunman got out and ran.

A neighbor, identified as George Boyd, went to the scout car and yelled into the police microphone that a policeman had been shot and help was needed.

More than 100 policemen were sent to the scene (the police shifts were changing at that time and an unusual number of off-duty men were available for action).

Butler was arrested at 1108 C St. SE He was at the home of a friend, and in bed. Police were led there, apparently, by plainclothesman Karl W. Mattis, 35, who saw the abandoned auto and recalled talking with the suspect three nights before. Mattis, an eight-year police veteran, used files to find names and addresses of Butler’s friends.

Williams, a Navy veteran, had eight letters of commendation in his file and was described as an “excellent officer” by his commanding officer. He usually rode in a two-man car but was assigned to a one-man car Monday night while his police partner was instructing a new man.

He leaves his wife, Florence, and two sons, aged 6 and 4.

Police said Butler was arrested last May 24 asleep in a car with a loaded revolver. He pleaded guilty, they said, to a charge of carrying a dangerous weapon, got a 180-day suspended sentence and was placed on probation. They said he owned the car abandoned at the shooting scene but had no permit to drive.

********************************************************************************
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED FEBRUARY 29, 1968, PAGE D25

Bail Denied In Slaying of Policeman
Thomas Butler, 22, of 166 Joliet St. SW, was ordered held with bail yesterday for a further hearing on March 13 on a charge of first-degree murder in connection with the fatal shooting Tuesday of police Pvt. Eugene I. Williams.
The hearing was held before U.S. Commissioner Sam Wertleb, who ordered the continuance to give Butler time to get a lawyer.

Williams, 31, was shot to death about 11:30 p.m. Monday in the 700 block of 12th Street SE, after he had stopped a car to investigate a traffic violation.

Police officials said yesterday that flags over all District government buildings will be flown at half-staff in honor of Williams until his funeral Saturday.

The funeral will be held at the Alexander Memorial Baptist Church, 2709 N St. NW, at noon and proceed with a police honor guard to the Harmony Memorial Cemetery, 7601 Sheriff rd., Landover, Md., where a Navy honor guard will join the police guard.

Williams, a Navy veteran, will be buried with full military and police honors.

The D.C. Police Wives Association asked yesterday for an immediate review of the one-man police car program, noting that three policemen in one-man cars, have died within three months.

In a telegram sent yesterday to Mayor Walter E. Washington, Mrs. Robert Shupe, the Association’s president, said: “It is obvious one-man cars are too hazardous. The officers might be alive today if they had partners. We cannot afford this loss, nor can the community…”

********************************************************************************
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MARCH 3, 1968, PAGE L1
City Honors Slain Policeman
Eugene I. Williams, 31, the Fifth Precinct Police private who was shot to death Monday night by a motorist he had stopped for a traffic offense, was buried yesterday.

Mayor Walter E. Washington, Public Safety Director Patrick V. Murphy, Police Chief John B. Layton and hundreds of Washington and area policemen attended the noon service at the Alexander Memorial Baptist Church, 2709 N St. NW
They heard the Rev. Walter Fauntroy, vice chairman of the City Council, say with tears in his eyes, “I should try to be detached, but I am somewhat bitter.”

Mr. Fauntroy said that Officer Williams and his wife were the first couple to whom he gave pre-marital counseling at the New Bethel Baptist Church here. He married them.

Mrs. Williams, seated in the front row near her two children, sobbed constantly during the service.
“We loved Gene,” Mr. Fauntroy said. “I was deeply distressed…because of the senseless violence that separated him from us.

“I hope it strengthens the resolution of all of us to create a community where this kind of thing doesn’t happen.”
At this point, Mr. Fauntroy’s voice broke. He spoke of his bitterness, and then was silent for a moment.

Mr. Fauntroy was introduced by the Rev. Charles S. Pryor, minister of the Alexander Memorial Baptist Church, a small brick building with a chart of the Ten Commandments on one interior wall.

Mr. Pryor told how Pvt. Williams had gone to Sunday school at the Georgetown church and how “at the age of 15 he became a Christian…I baptized him right where I’m standing.”

“He was courageous, studious…and didn’t have too much foolishness…He loved his church…He loved his pastor…”
“We don’t understand why things like this happens,” he said. He praised the assembled police but said: “Our city is infested with crime… The Devil seems to be turned loose.”

“We are determined, and hope God will fix it so that those responsible will be punished,” Mr. Pryor declared.
Mr. Williams’ flag-draped coffin, that had been rested below the altar during the service, was borne from the church by six officers from the Fifth Precinct.

An honor guard of area and city police officers lined N Street. Mayor Washington and the other dignitaries led the way, and the coffin was carried to the hearse.

Pvt. Williams was buried in Harmony Cemetery, Landover, Md.

The policeman lived at 229 17th St. SE He was shot once in the chest last Monday at about 11:30 p.m. in the 700 block of 12th Street SE A suspect was arrested shortly after the slaying and is charged with homicide.

Pvt. Williams was a six-year police veteran. His file contained eight letters of commendation.

********************************************************************************
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MARCH 4, 1968, PAGE A12

Helping the Police
Fortunately, there is one hopeful note in the tragic story of the slaying of Police Pvt. Eugene I. Williams. This stupid and vicious crime brought active cooperation with the police from the entire neighborhood in which the slaying took place. In a surge of appreciation for the slain officer who was upholding the cause of law and order, citizens turned out in force to help track down the gunman and provide evidence.

In these days of frequent indifference toward the victims of crime and of occasional hostility toward the police, this is a heartening demonstration of community interest in a safe and lawful city. Of course, citizens must be cautious in tangling with desperate gunmen. But they can render enormous service to their neighborhoods and themselves by helping the police to find accused thugs and killers and to assemble evidence against them.

********************************************************************************
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED FEBRUARY 21, 1969, PAGE 34

Police Seize Suspect at Slaying Trial
A defense witness in the trial of a young man accused of murdering a policeman was arrested as he left the courtroom yesterday and charged with robbery.

Urie Brown Jr., 24, of 249 8th St. NE, was seized as soon as he left Judge William B. Bryant’s courtroom at U.S. District court and stepped into the public corridor.

Robbery Squad detectives, tipped off that Brown was in the courthouse, picked up a warrant issued two weeks ago charging him with the Jan. 15 robbery of a supermarket at 4015 Wisconsin Ave. NW in which $1900 was taken.

Brown was testifying in defense of Thomas Butler, 23, of 166 Joliet St. SW, who is accused of first-degree murder in the shooting last February of Officer Eugene I. Williams, 31, of the Fifth Precinct.

The last witness in the case testified yesterday, the fourth day of the trial, and closing arguments are expected by Tuesday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Silbert produced witnesses who said that Butler collided with a parked car in the 700 block of 12th Street SE, discussed the situation with Williams for four or five minutes, and then shot the policeman in the chest.

Several defense witnesses testified that Butler had been drinking heavily and was high on marijuana when he left a party shortly before the shooting.

********************************************************************************
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED FEBRUARY 27, 1968, PAGE A23

Police Killer In Auto Case Found Guilty
A 23-year-old Southwest man was convicted of second-degree murder yesterday for the gunshot slaying of a police officer in a dispute over a traffic violation.

A jury in U.S. District Court also found Thomas Butler, of 166 Joliet St. SW, guilty of carrying a dangerous weapon.
Judge William B. Bryant deferred sentencing of Butler until after he receives a report from the probation department.
He could sentence Butler to imprisonment for life on the murder count and to 10 years for the carrying the dangerous weapon.

The jury acquitted Butler of first-degree murder, for which he could theoretically have been sentenced to death.
Butler shot down Officer Eugene I. Williams, 31, of the Fifth Precinct, last February.

Prosecution witnesses said Butler’s auto collided with a parked car in the 700 block of 12th Street SE and that Butler shot Williams in the chest when he came up to investigate.

Defense witnesses said that Butler had been drinking heavily at a party that night and that he had also been smoking marijuana.

********************************************************************************
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MARCH 29, 1969, PAGE E5

SW Man Sent to Prison In Policeman Shooting

Thomas Butler, 23, who shot a policeman to death last year in a dispute over a traffic violation, was sentenced to a prison term of 6 to 24 years yesterday by Judge William B. Bryant of U.S. District Court.

A jury convicted Butler of second-degree murder on February 26. The maximum sentence he could have received was life imprisonment.

Butler, who lives at 166 Joliet St. SW, will be eligible for parole after serving the minimum six years.

Witnesses at the trial said that Butler’s auto, backing in the 700 block of 12th Street SE, collided with a parked car.

Williams came up to investigate, according to the testimony, and after a few minutes conversation with Butler was struck in the chest by a bullet fired from inside Butler’s car.

Defense witnesses said that Butler had been drinking heavily at a party that night and that he was “high” on marijuana.