Memorial to Willie C. Ivery
End of Watch: November 15, 1968
Rank: Officer Badge No. 2011
Age: 26 Years of Service: 2 years
Location of Death: 6th Street and Massachusetts Avenue, SE
Duty Assignment: Ninth Precinct
Officer Ivery was working in plain-clothes. He was attempting to stop a robbery suspect in the Stanton Park area. Officer Ivery had exited his unmarked police vehicle, drew his weapon and approached the suspect. Two uniformed officers responding to the call for the robbery came on the scene and saw what appeared to them to be a man with a gun in the same area as a reported armed robbery. Officer Ivery was told to halt. He instinctually turned towards the uniformed officers to see who was yelling. Officer Ivery was shot in the head by the uniformed officer. Officer Ivery died shortly thereafter.
Officer Ivery had been with the department for two years. He was married for a year and is survived by his wife, Marcee, who is pregnant.
Articles from the Washington Post – transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.
THE DEATH OF OFFICER WILLIE C. IVERY ON NOVEMBER 15, 1968.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED NOVEMBER 16, 1968, PAGE A1
A young Washington undercover policeman, shot when he was mistaken for an armed holdup man and failed to drop his gun when uniformed police ordered him to, died in Casualty Hospital yesterday.
Shot in the head by one of six bullets fired by two policemen shortly after a service station holdup was Willie C. Ivery, 25, a member of a special Ninth Precinct squad whose members dress in shabby clothes.
Police said he and his partner, John W. Taylor, 28, who was not injured, were unshaven and wore old clothes when Ivery was shot at 6th Street and Massachusetts Avenue ne, across the street from the southeast corner of Stanton Park, at about 10:15 p.m. Thursday.
The uniformed officers, who police say mistook them for holdup men when they saw them in casual dress with guns drawn near the holdup scene were Sgt. Edward J. Spindler, 38, and Pvt. James P. Gannon, 25. Spindler and Gannon have been placed on administrative leave pending a coroner’s inquest into the shooting.
ON SPECIAL DETAIL
Police say Ivery and Taylor, both black, were detailed to mingle with the criminal element in the Ninth Precinct and were riding around in Taylor’s blue and white Mustang when a holdup was reported at about 10:12 p.m. Thursday in the Park Esso Service Center, 4th and C Sts. NE, across Stanton Park from where the shooting took place a few minutes later.
They received the information over their walkie-talkie phone, since Taylor’s car was not equipped with a regular police radio. They sped to the holdup scene.
On the way, the Mustang was seen by firemen returning from a false-alarm call. The Mustang was speeding and went through two red lights before it went out of sight. The firemen had seen police cars at the service station and deduced that the Mustang might be a getaway holdup car. They notified police and a lookout was broadcast for the speeding car as possibly being connected with the holdup.
Neither Ivery nor Taylor heard the report. Since there was no police radio in their car and the information was not given over the walkie-talkie, they were unaware that their car was being sought in connection with the holdup.
As they headed for the service station, they saw a man who, they believed, fitted a description of one of the two holdup men at 6th Street and Massachusetts Avenue NE. They pulled up to the curb and were going after the man with guns drawn when a police cruiser arrived.
In the cruiser were two white policemen, Spindler and Gannon. They saw the Mustang described in the radio holdup report and started chasing the two figures who got of it about 60 feet away from them.
When they were about 30 feet away, Spindler and Gannon saw the guns and yelled at the men to drop them.
Acting Chief Jerry V. Wilson said that Ivery, instead of dropping his revolver, turned slowly with it pointing directly at the uniformed policemen.
Taylor dropped his weapon and yelled, “We’re policemen! We’re policemen!”
Wilson said Spindler and Gannon fired at the same moment Taylor was yelling his warning. Spindler fired four times and Gannon twice, Wilson said, and until the bullet is removed it will not be known which man fired the fatal shot.
The bullet hit Ivery in the middle of the forehead.
DIES 10 HOURS LATER
Spindler called the police dispatcher and an ambulance was sent to take Ivery to Casualty Hospital where he died nearly 10 hours later, at 7:59 a.m.
The man whom Taylor and Ivery were about to question is a witness to the incident and his name was withheld by police. He was subsequently cleared of involvement in the holdup. He and Taylor are the best witnesses, Wilson said, but there are others who saw the event from greater distances. All will be called to testify at the coroner’s inquest. All evidence will be given directly to the U.S. Attorney, Wilson said, and he will make the decision on whether the case should be presented to a grand jury.
Wilson said he is convinced that Ivery, when he heard the policemen call, turned to see who they were yelling at, and as a result was shot.
He said police believe that Ivery’s youth and limited experience (two years on the force) and the fact that he had been detailed to this special duty only a week before made him momentarily unaware of his clothing and the danger of the situation.
His partner and friend, Taylor, who has been on the force three years, has had greater undercover experience.
Police are convinced that if either Ivery or Taylor had known their car and they were under suspicion because of their speeding near the holdup scene, the shooting never would have occurred.
Splinder, a veteran of 15 years on the force, and Gannon, a policeman only 10 months, are members of the Special Operations Division, assigned to high-crime areas, of which the Ninth Precinct, in Northeast Washington, is the worst. Both men will receive full pay while they are on administrative leave pending the inquest.
Ivery, married about a year, is survived by his wife, Marcee, who is pregnant. Yesterday, Capt. Ernest J. Prete, commanding officer of the Ninth Precinct, took Mrs. Ivery a check for $1000, presented by Hero’s, Inc., a private group of Washington businessmen who contribute that amount to the families of policemen and firemen killed in line of duty.
Ivery is the 15th policeman killed in line of duty since July 1964, when the program began. Seven firemen have died on duty in that period.
Chief Wilson said, “There are no racial overtones in this matter. The officers thought the men were holdup men. We have had white holdup men shot as well as black holdup men.”
A GROWING PROBLEM
Holdups are a growing problem in the city, he pointed out, averaging about 20 a day, and sometimes running as high as 50.
“We try to stress that police be cautious, and we try to indoctrinate men in plainclothes that when they are told (by uniformed police) to drop their gun, they drop the gun.”
Capt. Prete, after giving the $1000 check to Mrs. Ivery, said of her husband, “He was a good policeman. He was trying to do a good job. We all know that.”
Taylor, though grieving over his friend’s death, offered to work yesterday, but Wilson told him to take a day off.
In the service station holdup, which led to the shooting, two men, one armed with a sawed-off shotgun, took $130 in personal and company funds from manager Charles Wilcox, 30, and his assistant, Crayton Ham, 21. The two suspects are still at large.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED DECEMBER 31, 1968, PAGE A3
UNDERCOVER POLICE GET SPECIAL HATS
Metropolitan policemen working undercover in casual clothing now wear an identifying hat, which changes daily in color and style.
The hats are designed to prevent a reoccurrence of the kind of incident that saw a uniformed policeman accidentally shoot to death an undercover man in November.
The style and color of the day will only be known by policemen, who will be informed daily at roll call.
Deputy Chief Raymond S. Pyles said the department paid for the hats—a stopgap measure—until a more permanent solution to the identity problem is hit upon.
About 25 men make up the casual clothes squad, with a higher number on some days. The men patrol high-crime areas. In addition, some precincts put old-clothes squads on the street for certain occasions. All the men wear the hats.
On Nov. 14, Pvt. Willie C. Ivery, was accidently shot to death by a fellow officer while Ivery was dressed in tattered clothes and chasing a suspect at 6th and C streets NE At the time, Ivery was holding a gun.