Memorial to Jerry Wayne Morris

End of Watch: December 4, 1971
Rank: Officer   Badge No. 3332
Age: 22   Years of Service: 3 years
Location of Death: In front of Bolling Air Force Base, SE
Duty Assignment: 5th District

 

Circumstance:  

Officer Jerry Morris was shot and killed while off duty after being attacked by three men. Officer Morris, his partner and another man were driving on South Capitol Street, SE in front of Bolling Air Force Base. Another car passed them at a high rate of speed and then cut them off. The car Officer Morris was in passed that car and then the car passed them again. The occupants of the car began shooting at them.

Officer Morris’ vehicle pulled to the side of the road to let the vehicle pass, but it instead pulled over as well and the occupants continued firing. The two officers identified themselves and Officer Morris’ partner returned fire. In the exchange, Officer Morris was fatally wounded. As the other vehicle sped away, it struck Officer Morris and dragged him down the street. Three suspects were apprehended in connection with his murder.

 

Biography:

Officer Morris had been with the agency for two years and was assigned to the Fifth District.

 

Articles from the Washington Post – transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.

THE OFF-DUTY DEATH OF OFFICER JERRY WAYNE MORRIS ON DECEMBER 4, 1971.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED DECEMBER 5, 1971, PAGE 3
Policeman Shot to Death, 3 Arrested
A 22-year-old off-duty Washington metropolitan policeman was shot to death shortly before midnight last night opposite the main entrance to Bolling Air Force Base on South Capitol Street SE, police said.

Police said that two off-duty metropolitan policemen were involved in the incident. Three arrests were made, police said, but declined to identify the suspects or list the charges.

Police also declined to release any details of the shooting, calling it only “an incident” that occurred at South Capitol and Portland Streets SE. One of the arrested men was in undetermined condition at Hadley Memorial Hospital, police said.
The slain officer was identified as Jerry Wayne Morris, a motor scooter-man attached to the 5th police district in Northeast Washington. Officials there listed his address as 10166 Greeley Ave., Silver Spring.

The area was cordoned off by police for more than an hour after the incident occurred.

The slain officer, said to have been on his day off yesterday, was dressed in civilian clothes at the time, police said.

Officer Williams (Morris) was appointed to the force June 14, 1969 and had been assigned to the first substation of the 5th district since Nov. 23, 1970.

Sgt. Dennis R. Hall of the 5th district described Officer Morris as a bachelor, “very friendly and easy to get along with.”

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED DECEMBER 6, 1971, PAGE A1
4 captured In Slaying of D.C. Officer

An off-duty metropolitan policeman was slain late Saturday night when he was shot in the leg and then dragged about 300 feet by a car after another policeman traded gunfire with four men on South Capitol Street, police reported.

The victim, Jerry W. Morris, 22, died of internal injuries he suffered when he was struck and dragged by the assailant’s car. His companion and roommate, Louis D. Boyd, 24, also off-duty, was not hurt. Both are assigned to the fifth police district.
Morris’s death came in a series of events that started at the South Capitol Street Bridge, saw two automobiles containing a total of nine people for position for 1 ½ miles along South Capitol Street and ended in a hail of bullets at South Capitol’s intersection with Portland Street, according to police accounts.

Police said four men, one of them with a gunshot wound, were arrested later and charged with homicide.

Police gave this account: Morris and Boyd, who share an Arlington apartment, Boyd’s 16-year-old brother James, and two other men whom police refused to identify last night had just crossed the South Capitol Street Bridge in Boyd’s private car.
An auto with four men in it passed and pulled in front of Boyd’s, forcing it to slow down. Boyd changed lanes and passed, but again the other car passed his car and forced it to slow down. Boyd was able to pass again and tried to pull away.
Shots were then fired from the other car into the rear of Boyd’s car. They were not returned. No one was hurt.

Boyd pulled his car to the shoulder at Portland Street to allow the other car to pass. Instead, it pulled up behind Boyd’s car and shots were fired at Boyd’s car. Boyd and Morris, both in civilian clothes, got out of Boyd’s car. The other three remained in the car.

Boyd, crouching, held his police badge high, shouting, “we are police officers.” The two officers were met by more gunfire from the car at which time Morris was hit in the leg. Boyd returned the fire. Morris did not fire his gun.

The assailant’s car pulled away, sideswiped Boyd’s car, caught Morris and dragged him along the roadway. He was pronounced dead at Cafritz Hospital. Morris was the (only) one in Boyd’s group wounded in the exchange.
A short time later, a police unit arrested three men in an auto at Martin Luther King and Atlantic Avenues SE. They were identified as David Lee Jones, 27, of 6735 New Hampshire Ave. NW; Larry Williams, 21, of 202 K St. SE. And Nelson Cooper, 29, of 1018 Quebec Ter., Silver Spring, Md. Cooper had bullet wounds in the leg and groin and was in satisfactory condition yesterday at D.C. General Hospital.

A fourth suspect, Douglas Willis Jr., of 904 3rd St. SW, was arrested at his home yesterday morning.

Regulations require that all D.C. policemen carry their service revolvers with them, whether on or off duty, at all times while they are in the District.

Police could off no motive for the shooting.

Morris, a native of Kentucky and a Vietnam veteran, was single. He had three brothers and one sister living in Wheaton. His mother is dead and his father lives in Kentucky.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED DECEMBER 10, 1971, PAGE B22
700 Honor D.C. Policeman Slain After Street Shooting
They sang God Bless America and fired a salute of cannon for Jerry W. Morris yesterday. They listened to his pastor decry violence and worldly turmoil, and they watched as Morris was buried yesterday in a Rockville cemetery.

There were 700 of them—600 policemen in uniform from as far away as New York, and 200 family members and friends, including a long-haired continent of 15 friends by Morris’s brother Phillip.

Jerry Morris, 22, had been a Washington policeman for two years. Off duty, riding with his partner and three other friends along South Capitol Street Saturday night, he became involved in a gun battle with another car full of men.

Morris was shot in the incident, and then dragged 300 feet under the other men’s car as it sped away. As he died minutes later at nearby Cafritz Hospital of multiple internal injuries. Police arrested four men and charged them with Morris’s killing.

Although he was off-duty when he was killed, although the circumstances that led up to the gun battle are still somewhat cloudy, observers said the police turnout at Morris’s funeral yesterday was as high as it has ever been here for a slain officer.

“There seems to be more of a unity among policemen all over the U.S.,” said Washington’s deputy police chief, Owen W. Davis, explaining the turnout.

Among the family at grave-side yesterday was Mrs. Ben Morris, the grandmother, and Hontas Morris, the father, both weeping. Three sisters and three brothers stood nearby, staring.

Brother Phillip, 19, is a youth and drug counselor at a clinic sponsored by the city of Rockville. His hair is shaggy and shoulder-length, like the hair of some 15 friends who came as a group yesterday.

Phillip says he used to take drugs, against the advice of his brother the policeman. “But it was just a matter of life styles that was different,” Phillip said in an interview after the funeral. “The kind of work I do is helping people’s heads before something goes wrong. Jerry stopped it after it hit the streets.”

 

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 6, 1972, PAGE B1
Charges Dismissed In Officer’s Death
The government dismissed charges yesterday against four men who had been accused of killing an off-duty policeman on South Capitol Street last month but indicated it may later seek indictments in the case.

Federal prosecutors said that despite yesterday’s action they do did consider the case closed. And a defense attorney in the case said that his client had already agreed to testify for the government before a grand jury.

No reason was given for the dismissal of charges at this time. However, the defense attorney, Theodore Christensen of the Public Defender Service, said he believes the government dropped charges in order to avoid being forced to disclose its evidence at a preliminary hearing yesterday.

John F. Rudy II, assistant U.S. attorney in charge of the grand jury section, flatly denied that claim.

The four men had been charged in connection with the death of Officer Jerry W. Morris on Dec. 4.

Police said at the time that Morris, off duty and in plain clothes and traveling with four companions, had jockeyed for position along South Capitol Street with a second car occupied by four men who opened fire on them.

According to police, Morris died of internal injuries, suffered after he alighted from his car and was struck and dragged 300 feet by the second car.

Yesterday, the four men were scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing, a proceeding in which a U.S. magistrate decides whether there is sufficient evidence to hold persons for a possible grand jury indictment.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason D. Krogan announced before the hearing that the government would drop charges against the men. Krogan declined to tell defense attorneys whether the government plans to take later action in the case.
Christensen, the court-appointed attorney for one of the men, Douglas Willis Jr., of 904 3rd St. SW, said later that Willis has agreed to testify for the government.

Christensen said that prosecutors commonly drop charges temporarily, and then later obtain indictments in the same case, in order to avoid disclosing their evidence at a preliminary hearing. Such disclosure is considered helpful to defense attorneys in preparing their case.

After indictments have been obtained, a defendant is no longer entitled to a preliminary hearing.

Commenting on the case itself, Rudy asserted, “It’s not closed. It’s still a matter before the grand jury.”

Responding to Christensen’s assertion, Rudy said, “The reason we dismissed charges was not to avoid disclosure of evidence.” He said that the men could have been indicted within days of the incident, if the government had wanted to avoid the preliminary hearing.

Besides Willis, the other three men cleared of charges were David Lee Jones, 27, of 6735 New Hampshire Ave., NW, Larry Williams, 21, of 202 K St. SE and Nelson Cooper, 29, of 1018 Quebec Ter., Silver Spring.

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IT IS NOT KNOWN IF ANYONE WAS CONVICTED OF THIS KILLING. A SEARCH OF THE WASHINGTON POST ARCHIVES FAILED TO FIND ANY ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT THIS CASE, AND AN INQUIRY WITH THE AORP MEMBERSHIP ALSO FAILED TO PRODUCE ANY CONFIRMABLE RESULTS.

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TRAGEDY STRUCK THE MORRIS FAMILY AGAIN LESS THAN TWO YEARS LATER.  ON OCTOBER 27, 1973, AN AMTRAK TRAIN STRUCK AND KILLED DONALD MORRIS’S TWO ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD TWIN CHILDREN AS THEY WALKED ON THE RAILROAD TRACKS IN KENSINGTON, MARYLAND.