Memorial to Michael J. Acri

End of Watch:  October 16, 1976
Rank: Officer   Badge No. S-645
Age: 39   Years of Service: 13 years
Location of Death: 816 E Street, NE
Duty Assignment: Fifth District

 

Circumstance:

Sergeant Michael Acri was shot and killed during a struggle with a man after responding to a call of a man threatening a woman with a knife at 9th Street and E Street, NE. Upon their arrival, officers placed the woman under arrest for destruction of property. While talking to the male suspect the man suddenly attacked the officers and a struggle ensued. The suspect was able to gain control of Sergeant Acri’s weapon and shot him in the chest and another officer in the leg.

Biography:

Sergeant Acri had served with the Metropolitan Police Department for 13 years.  A native of Hazelton, Pa., Acri was a member of the department’s canine corps from 1965 until 1972 when he was promoted to sergeant and assigned to the 5th district. He was originally assigned to the 9th Precinct, which was merged into the 5th District when the department was reorganized. The 9th Precinct was directly across the street from this incident. He had received more than a dozen department commendations.  He was survived by his wife, the former Rosalie Bartonope, and three children, Jo-Ann, 17, Michelle, 15, and James David, 7.  

 

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

THE SHOOTING DEATH OF SERGEANT MICHAEL J. ACRI AND WOUNDING OF OFFICER JAMES HAYES ON OCTOBER 16, 1976.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED OCTOBER 17, 1976, PAGE 21
Police Sergeant Slain; 2nd Officer, Suspect Are Shot

A District police sergeant was shot and killed with his own gun and another officer was wounded early yesterday morning in the aftermath of a domestic quarrel in northeast Washington, D.C. police reported.

Police said that Sgt. Michael Acri, a 39-year-old father of three, was killed shortly before 8 a.m. when a man grabbed his weapon during a struggle near 9th and E Streets NE.

Officer James Hayes, 33, was shot in the leg in the same scuffle, before the alleged assailant, Walter Lee Hamrick, 33, was shot three times by other officers on the scene.

Hamrick, who police said will be charged with murder in the case, and Officer Hayes were both listed in satisfactory condition at D.C. General Hospital last night.

The shooting occurred, police said after Hayes and Acri, in separate police cars, had answered a 7:20 a.m. call from a woman who said her boyfriend was threatening her with a knife.

The call came about 10 minutes before Acri and Hayes would have headed back to the 5th district station to be relieved from their midnight to 8 a.m. shift of duty.

At the scene, the Maryland Court Apartments, Hamrick claimed that the woman, identified as Sharon Pate, 29, had destroyed property in his apartment. Pate was apparently being taken to a patrol wagon to be charged with disorderly conduct, when Hamrick got into the fatal struggle with Sgt. Acri, police said.

Deputy Police Chief Maurice T. Turner said yesterday that Hamrick became enraged because the officers would not take an immediate report on the damage to his basement apartment at 816 E Street NE. After words with Acri, he began struggling with the policeman and grabbed Acri’s .38 caliber, service revolver, police said.

Hayes was escorting Pate to the patrol wagon when he looked back and saw Acri and Hamrick wrestling, he said. In an interview at the hospital yesterday, Hayes said, “As I went over to help the sergeant, the guy got the sergeant’s gun out. I reached in to get the gun from him and “Bang” the gun goes off. The shot was in my leg. Then “Bang” the gun shot off again. I think he got the sergeant then. That’s all I remember.”

Acri was pronounced dead at D.C. General Hospital at 8:10 a.m. He had been shot once in the chest. He was the first District officer to be killed since September, 1974, when policewoman Gail Cobb was shot after an attempted bank holdup.
Last March, two Montgomery County officers, Capt. James Daly and Cpl. John Frontczak, were killed by shotgun blasts as they pursued a youth who had robbed a savings and loan.

Acri was a 15-year veteran of the force whose first assignment in the early 1960’s was at the 5th district substation right across the street from where he was killed.

A native of Hazelton, Pa., Acri was a member of the department’s canine corps from 1965 until 1972 when he was promoted to sergeant and returned to the 5th district. He had received more than a dozen department commendations.

He is survived by his wife, the former Rosalie Bartonope, and three children, Jo-Ann, 17, Michelle, 15, and James David, 7.

Acri’s body will be on view from noon to 9 p.m. today at Cunningham-Mountcastle Funeral Home in Woodbridge, Va., and a rosary will be said there at 7:30 tonight. Funeral services are scheduled Monday, 10 a.m. at Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church in Woodbridge. Burial is scheduled Tuesday in Hazelton, Pa.

Washington Police Chief Maurice J. Cullinane labeled Acri’s death as a “senseless, brutal slaying.”

Law enforcement officials have long considered domestic quarrels as among the most dangerous parts of police work.
FBI statistics show, for instance, that 10 of the 58 police officers killed in the U.S. during the first six months of this year were answering domestic calls. Recent estimates show that D.C. police often respond to 20 to 30 domestic calls a night.
Handling of such disturbances is stressed during police academy training, a spokesman for the District police said yesterday. “The first thing they tell us is to separate the couple,” he said.

That, apparently, is just what Hayes and Acri did yesterday morning.

Later in the day, the hallway in front of Hamrick’s apartment was littered with broken glass and shattered lamps.

Jeremiah Boone, 37, who works as a janitor with Hamrick at the Maryland Court Apartments buildings, said that residents of the building told him “there was a terrible carrying on” just before the police arrived. No one in the buildings saw the shootings, he said.

Boone described Hamrick as a quiet guy. He wasn’t the type to be fighting with people. He was the easiest person in the world to work with.”

 

******************************************************************************
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED OCTOBER 19, 1976, PAGE C2
1,000 Attend Rites for Slain Policeman
Nearly 1,000 mourners, most of them fellow officers from several area police departments, attended funeral services yesterday for Michael Acri, the Washington police sergeant who was killed with his own gun early Saturday while trying to settle a domestic quarrel.

In the ceremony at Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church in Woodbridge, Va., police officers from Virginia and Maryland and the city police department and the Metro transit police force paid their respects to their slain comrade and tried to give some comfort to his grieving family.

Acri, 39, was the father of three and a 15-year veteran of the city force. He will be buried in his hometown of Hazelton, Pa., today following a gravesite service there this morning.

Acri’s widow, Rosalie, wept quietly yesterday during portions of the 45? Minute funeral mass for her husband. At her side sat Ted Beagle, a close friend and police colleague of Acri who frequently comforted her during the service.

“We, unlike many, will not forget because today when our brother was laid to rest, a part of each of us was buried with him,” said the Rev. R. Joseph Dooley, D.C. police and fire chaplain, as he read a poem he said had been written for a slain Montgomery County policeman several years ago.

Acri was fatally shot in the chest shortly before 8 a.m. Saturday when a man grabbed his weapon during a struggle at 816 E St. NE. Another officer, James Hayes, 33, was shot in the left leg during the same scuffle.

The two officers had responded to a police call about an “assault in progress” that turned out to be a domestic quarrel between a man and his girlfriend.

The alleged assailant, Walter Lee (Hamrick), 33, had been charged with homicide in connection with Acri’s death. Hamrick, shot three times by other officers on the scene was in critical condition yesterday at D.C. General Hospital.

Acri was a police supervisor in the fifth district where he and Hayes both worked. At the funeral yesterday, the wounded Hayes sat behind Rosalie Acri, bowing his head in prayer over the cane he had to use for walking.

Near the end of the service, as police who had filled the church were walking out ahead of the funeral procession, Hayes rose in-pain to his feet and leaned across to the row in front of him to kiss Mrs. Acri’s cheek.

Following the service, Acri’s casket was carried out of the church by a special police honor guard of six men and two women. Hundreds of police officers, many wearing white gloves and some with black tape covering their badges stood solemnly in the cold, midmorning air and saluted.

The casket was placed in a hearse, and Mrs. Acri, Beagle, and the three Acri children, Jo-Ann, 17, Michelle, 15, and Jimmy, 7, followed in a station wagon as the funeral procession left the church and headed toward Washington.

Included in the funeral procession—which made a brief stop in Acri’s fifth district before continuing to Hazelton—was Acri’s police cruiser, No. 252, which was draped in black.

“He was one of the nicest guys I ever met,” said Lt. William J. Dunn, who had been a friend of Acri’s during the nearly five years the two men worked together in the fifth district.

“He was very close to his family and just devoted to his job,” Dunn said, recalling that Acri came to Washington to join the force 15-years ago after his father-in-law saw a recruitment advertisement in a Wilkes-Barre newspaper.

Dunn said that on Sunday Mrs. Acri invited “all the men who had worked with Mike” to the home in Woodbridge so she could meet them. He said he expected the family which will receive $50,000 from the federal government to aid them since Acri was killed in the line of duty—would continue to live at the home here.

 

******************************************************************************
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED APRIL 6, 1977, PAGE B9
D.C. Man Is Guilty In Death of Officer

Walter Hamrick, 47, a janitor, was found guilty yesterday of second-degree murder while armed in the shooting death last Oct. 16 of Sgt. Michael Acri, 38, a D.C. policeman, who was answering a call to a domestic dispute at the time of his death.
The same D.C. Superior Court jury that found Hamrick guilty of murder in Acri’s death also found him guilty of assault with a deadly weapon in the wounding of Officer James E.D. Hayes, 33, who responded to the call with Acri.

Both Acri and Hayes were shot with Acri’s police service revolver, according to evidence in the trial, which began last week.

Hamrick was wounded in the neck, body and one arm by other policemen. Officer Hayes, although wounded, fired six shots at him. Hamrick was in D.C. General Hospital from the day of the shooting until Dec. 14, when he was transferred to D.C. jail. He remained there awaiting trial in lieu of a $5,000 bond.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry R. Benner gave this account of the circumstances that led to the shooting:

Hamrick spent the night of last Oct. 15, a Friday, drinking bourbon and beer and waiting for a woman friend to return to his apartment at 816 E St. NE, where he worked as a janitor.

The woman entered the apartment in the early hours of Saturday, Oct. 16, and she and Hamrick quarreled. Hamrick struck het twice with a knife. She called police.

When Accri and Hayes arrived, the dispute was still going on. The woman reportedly tore up some of Hamrick’s clothes. Hamrick reportedly smashed her television set. Police put the woman under arrest for disorderly conduct.

Hamrick insisted that the officers pursue the matter further and make a full report, although Acri said that arresting the woman was enough.

Hamrick brushed past Acri and swore at him. Acri grabbed him by the shoulders. Hamrick removed the sergeant’s gun from its holster. Hayes saw the gun in Hamrick’s hand and joined the struggle.
Hayes was wounded in the thigh. Acri was shot through the heart. Hayes and other policemen then shot Hamrick.

 

******************************************************************************
(WALTER LEE HAMRICK WAS FOUND GUILTY OF SECOND DEGREE MURDER WHILE ARMED FOR ACRI’S DEATH, AND ADW GUN FOR THE WOUNDING OF OFFICER JAMES E.D. HAYES. HIS SENTENCE WAS NOT FOUND.)