Memorial to Bruce W. Wilson

Rank: Officer   Badge No.  3835
Age: 27   Years of Service: 5 years
Location of Death: 200 Elmira Street, SW
Duty Assignment: Vice Officer, Seventh District

 

Circumstance:

Vice Officer Bruce Wilson was shot and killed while working an undercover narcotics operation in the 200 block of Elmira Street, SW.

He and his partner had made an undercover narcotic purchase of a single pill of Preludin and then arrested the dealer. As his partner placed the man in their detective cruiser Officer Wilson went to the rear of the home to look for additional pills. A short time later he was found lying on the ground with a gunshot wound to the head. Evidence suggested that he was executed at close range when shot from ambush in the back of the head as he searched through a trash can.

A suspect was arrested and charged with his murder a short time later.

Biography:

Officer Wilson had been with the Metropolitan Police Department for five years. He was assigned to the Seventh District and working as an undercover narcotics investigator. He was married and had one child.

 

Articles from the Washington Post – transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.
THE SHOOTING DEATH OF INVESTIGATOR BRUCE W. WILSON ON APRIL 26, 1977.
Policeman Wounded in SW Alley
Officer Working Undercover on Drug Transaction
A 27-year-old undercover policeman who was conducting a narcotics investigation in far Southwest Washington was shot in the head at close range and critically wounded yesterday, D.C. police officials reported.

The wounded officer was identified as Bruce W. Wilson, a member of the force for five years. Wilson, attached to the vice unit in the Seventh District, was shot about 3:25 p.m. at the rear of the 200 block of Elmira Street SW.

Officials at Greater Southeast Community Hospital, where Wilson underwent surgery last night, said his vital signs were unstable and his prognosis was “not good.”

Meanwhile, homicide detectives were reported questioning two youths who had been stopped just after the shooting by an off-duty policeman who lives nearby.

After the shooting, dozens of policemen swarmed into the area, about a half mile from the Prince George’s County line. A police helicopter hovered overhead. An intense search continued for the weapon used in the attack and for anyone involved in the incident.

According to accounts provided by fellow officers in the Seventh District, Wilson and his partner, Peter L. Presly returned yesterday to Elmira Street to resume an investigation they began in the area last week.

Shortly before the shooting took place, police said, the two undercover officers made a narcotic purchase in the 200 block of Elmira Street and took a man into custody.

Police said Presly took the man to the 4300 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Ave, where he and Wilson had parked their white, unmarked police cruiser.

Meanwhile, Wilson remained behind to look for other persons he wanted to question in connection with the drug investigation, police said.

Presly reached the cruiser with the man he had taken into custody, police said, and encountered an off-duty policeman who lives nearby. Presly asked the off-duty officer, who was not in identified to hold the man while he returned to Elmira Street about 150 yards away, to check on his partner, police said.

The shooting occurred before Presly returned, police said.

According to police, the shot was heard by D.C. police Sgt. Otis Lindsay, of the Seventh District, who lives in the 200 block of Elmira Street. Sgt. Lindsay, who had just returned from work, opened the door of his apartment and saw two youths running up a staircase, police said.

When the youths saw Lindsay, police said, they began to shout that a man had been shot.

Lindsay seized the youths and was holding them when Presly entered the apartment building, police said.

It was not immediately clear last night whether Presly was searching for his partner or had already found him wounded. Lindsay and Presly held the youths until other officers arrived and removed them for questioning.

Meanwhile, another Seventh District policeman, identified as Officer Milton Coston, found Wilson lying wounded behind a trash receptacle in the rear of one of the three-story apartment on Elmira Street, SW.

Coston administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until a Fire Department ambulance arrived to take the wounded officer to the hospital, police said.

Wilson reached the hospital at 3:45 p.m. and an examination there showed powder burns to the scalp, indicating that he had been shot at close range.

During the surgery that lasted from approximately 4:00 P.m. to 7:25 p.m., doctors removed blood clots from his brain, but could remove only a part of the bullet that was lodged there. Wilson was transferred to the intensive care unit after surgery.

He is married and the father of a 2-year-old son.

The man taken into custody by Wilson and Presly before the shooting was also being questioned last night by investigators. No link had been established between him and the shooting, officials said, and no charge had been placed against him.
It could not be immediately determined whether there had been witnesses to the shooting. Early this morning, homicide investigators were reported to be still interviewing the two youths who were held near the scene by Lindsay and Presly. No charges had been placed, police said.

 

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED APRIL 27, 1977, PAGE B1
Narcotics Officer Dies of Wound, Suspect Charged

An undercover narcotics officer who was shot in the head Monday after making a drug buy in Southwest Washington died yesterday. Hours earlier, a 59-year-old man with a long history of involvement in narcotics was arrested and later charged with murder, D.C. police said.

Officer Bruce W. Wilson, 27, considered by law-enforcement officials as one of the top narcotics officers on the force, was pronounced dead at 1:07 p.m. yesterday at Greater Southeast Community Hospital. He had been shot once in the back of the head with what appeared to be a small-caliber handgun, police said.

Charged with murder was Avon C. Alexander, of 4347 Martin Luther King Ave. SW. Police said Alexander had been the subject of an intensive, month long investigation into the distribution of a drug called Dilaudid. Used by doctors to treat terminally ill cancer patients. Dilaudid also is highly sought after by drug addicts who use it as a heroin substitute, police said.

Also arrested was Reginald P. Colbert, 39, of 913 26th St. NW, who police said, sold Officer Wilson a drug called Preludin in pill form, which addicts use to heighten the effects of heroin. Colbert was charged with two drug law violations, but was not involved in the shooting, police said.

Dr. Jay Shapiro, of the Greater Southeast Hospital staff, described to reporters yesterday a massive medical effort that had been made to save Wilson’s life. But the circumstances of the shooting itself remained unclear last night.

According to police, however, two officers—Wilson and Peter L. Presly—following up on a drug deal made last week, returned to the 200 block of Elmira Street SW on Monday afternoon to make a purchase. Wilson made the buy, believed to be one pill of Preludin, which costs 40 cents with a legal prescription, but $8 on the streets, investigators said.

Presly then arrested Colbert. While he took Colbert to a nearby car, Wilson decided to check the rear of the address for discarded pills, police said.

Police sources said Wilson apparently was ambushed while searching through a trash container. The sources said Alexander lives less than a block from where the shooting occurred.

The shooting brought a swarm of police to the area, and a massive manhunt began. Within minutes of the incident, an off-duty police sergeant who lives nearby spotted two youths running near the scene and held them for questioning as possible suspects. The two were interviewed by homicide investigators and released later Monday Night.

Alexander’s police record dates back to a robbery conviction in 1948. He has been convicted of a total of 13 felonies, and currently is facing drug violation charges in Charles and Anne Arundel counties, police said.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Leonard Braman set bail for Alexander yesterday at $50,000. Bail for Colbert was set at $1,000.

While members of the Metropolitan Police Department and Wilson’s family mourned his death, Assistant Police Chief Burtell Jefferson pulled from his files an essay that Wilson had written the year he joined the force, entitled “Why I Want to Be a Policeman.”

“In the past several years, I’ve become greatly concerned with the crime situation,” the young officer wrote. “Since the use of drugs has been a great reason for the upward climb in crime, the job of the policeman is not only to direct traffic but get involved with people and counsel them on such matters.

“The only thing about being a policeman that would concern me are the changes you have to take. But life (unreadable)……..rewarding thing I hope to gain is security for my family, a comfortable income and a chance to work with people.”

Wilson (a member of the force for five years) had received many commendations, including awards from the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

 

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MAY 1, 1977, PAGE 17
Area Officers Attend Rites For Slain District Policeman
Police officers in the blue, green, gray and brown uniforms of the departments in the Washington area and other major East Coast cities stood at attention yesterday outside McKendree Methodist Church as six District police officers carried the casket of slain D.C. Police Officer Bruce W. Wilson to a Cadillac hearse. Wilson, 27, was shot Monday while conducting an undercover drug investigation.

“Look at all these policemen, it could have been any one of them,” said Sgt. Rose Coates, who was dressed in the brown uniform of the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office.

“Thank God for men like him who devote their lives to stopping drugs,” Coates said, explaining that drugs are of a special concern to her because she is the mother of a 9-year-old.

Wilson’s casket was taken to Ft. Lincoln Cemetery after the hearse bearing it was driven past the seventh district police station, 1324 Mississippi Ave. SE. Where Wilson had been assigned.

Police officers from the seventh district stood at attention as the dark blue hearse went by, followed by more than two miles of police cars from several police departments.

Wilson, a five-year veteran of the force, who worked as an undercover narcotics officer before becoming an investigator with the seventh district vice squad, was shot once in the head Monday afternoon as he searched an alley for drugs he believed might have been discarded by a suspect during an arrest.

Police have charged Avon Alexander, of 4347 Martin Luther King Ave. SW, with homicide in the officer’s death.
Officer Jack Clements, of the Mount Rainier Police Department, stood outside in the strong midday sun yesterday while the slain officer’s family and city dignitaries eulogized him in the church.

“I lost a brother (who was also a Mount Rainier policeman) in 68,” Clements said. “He was gunned down towing a car.”
“It is not my duty to be here,” he added, “but I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t take time out to honor a man who lost his life in the same line of work as I do.”

Wilson is survived by his wife, Tawana Belinda Wilson, a 2-year-old son, Bruce Jr., his mother and father, Marcette Alexander and Louie Wilson; his grandmother and five brothers and sisters.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED AUGUST 10, 1977, PAGE C1
Man Is Guilty In Murder
Avon C. Alexander, 59, was convicted in D.C. Superior Court yesterday of second-degree murder in the slaying of a 26-year-old undercover police officer who was shot once in the back of the head during a narcotics investigation.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated for 12 hours before it found Alexander, who lived at 4347 Martin Luther King Ave. SW, guilty of murdering Officer Bruce W. Wilson, a five-year veteran of the metropolitan police force, last April.
Alexander, who did not know Wilson was a police officer at the time of the shooting, also was convicted of two counts of carrying a pistol without a license.

The week-long trial provided a glimpse of the risks of undercover police work in the underworld of narcotics.
Alexander claimed that he shot Wilson in self-defense. According to testimony, he told police he thought Wilson was a “stickup boy” involved in the robbery and kidnaping of a friend of Alexander—who allegedly had just sold narcotics to Wilson.

At the end of the trial, Judge Eugene N. Hamilton refused to let the jury consider the issue of self-defense, because, Hamilton said, the evidence was insufficient to support that contention.

Judge Hamilton also refused to allow the jury to consider the lesser charge of manslaughter, despite arguments by defense attorney R. Kenneth Mundy who said the shooting could have been an accident. Mundy also argued that Alexander could have fired not out of malice but because he was upset over the assault of his friend.

According to the government’s case, Wilson, who was investigating drug distribution in the far Southwest area, made a drug buy on the afternoon of April 25 from a friend of Alexander, known as Jim Flint.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ted Shmanda told the jury that Wilson wanted to protect his identity, so he sent two other plainclothes policemen to arrest Flint.

The two police officers confronted Flint in the basement of an apartment building at 205 Elmira St. SW and a scuffle ensued.

Alexander and two other men were in a nearby office. One of the men heard the commotion, looked out into the corridor, then went back to the office and said “the stickup boys” had jumped Jim Flint.

The two plainclothes officers took Flint out of the building. The government contended that Alexander went to an apartment in the building and got a gun.

Alexander then went in a basement entrance of the building where he came upon Wilson talking to a maintenance man, Freddie Lee (Dog) Perry. Perry told Wilson he better leave because “the stickup boys just came.”

Wilson hesitated and then turned and walked away. Alexander then called out “Hold it man! Hold it!” The government argued that Alexander fired when Wilson refused to stop.

According to testimony, Alexander told police that just before he fired at Wilson, the police officer reached for his coat.
Mundy tried to establish that Wilson had started to turn towards Alexander. The combination of the two actions, Mundy contended, could have led Alexander to shoot in self-defense because he thought that Wilson was reaching for a gun and turning to fire.

Perry testified that Wilson did not turn and did not appear to reach for anything.

The defense put on no evidence during the trial. Alexander did not take the witness stand in his own defense. If he had, Mundy said, the prosecutor could have questioned Alexander about his lengthy criminal record, which dates back to 1938.

Shmanda argued that Alexander was guilty of first-degree murder because he said the killing was planned and deliberate. He contended that Alexander got the gun and then, like a “self-professed vigilante,” shot Wilson when he refused his order to stop.

In finding Alexander guilty of second-degree murder, the jury determined that Alexander killed Wilson with malice but not with premeditation.

Judge Hamilton said he will sentence Alexander on Sept. 14.

The murder charge carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Because he had previous felony convictions, Alexander could be sentenced to life prison terms on the gun convictions.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED AUGUST 13, 1977, PAGE E3
NE Apartment Nets Amphetamines
D.C. police seized $6,000 in amphetamines yesterday in what they said was the culmination of an investigation on which undercover Officer Bruce Wilson was working before he was killed last April.

Officers from the sixth district vice unit raided an apartment at 21 46th Pl. NE armed with a warrant based on information that came from Wilson’s work, police said.

Police said they confiscated 450 Preludin pills, which are used by addicts to enhance the high provided by heroin. They said two rifles and two pistols also were seized in the raid.

George McMillan, 30, and Janice Lawson, 20, both of the 46th Place address, were arrested and charged with violating the controlled substance act and the D.C. gun control act, police said.

Wilson was shot in the back of the head in the 200 block of Elmira Street SW, April 25, while working on a drug investigation.

Avon C. Alexander, 59, of 4347 Martin Luther King Ave SE (SW), was convicted Tuesday of second-degree murder in the shooting.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED SEPTEMBER 23, 1977, PAGE A15
Man Gets 20 Years to Life In Slaying of Police Officer
D.C. Superior Court Judge Eugene N. Hamilton sentenced Avon C. Alexander, 59, to 20 years to life in prison yesterday for killing undercover police officer Bruce W. Wilson in April.

Alexander was convicted Aug. 9 of shooting Wilson in the back of the head shortly after the officer had allegedly bought narcotics from a friend of Alexander’s in Southwest Washington.

At the end of the unusual 3 ½ hour hearing, Alexander was given identical sentences of 15 years to life for second-degree murder and carrying a pistol without a license, to be served concurrently. He received an additional sentence of five to life on a second gun charge, which he must serve after completion of the other terms.

Alexander told the judge that he didn’t mean to shoot the officer. He said “I believed (Wilson) had a gun because (a friend) said he was one of the stickup boys.”

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ONE OF THE AN EARLIER CRIMES THAT ALEXANDER HAD COMMITTED.
PARTIAL WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JUNE 19, 1948, PAGE B2.
Prosecutor, Police Chance Witnesses
A robbery attempt right under the disapproving glares of an assistant United States Attorney and two detectives was described in Municipal Court yesterday.

As a result, Avon C. Alexander, 29, of 530 25th pl. ne., and Woodrow Parson, 29, of 1250 8th St. NW. were held in $1,000 bond for the grand jury.

Assistant United States Attorney Oliver O. Dibble told the court that he and detective Sergeants R. E. Talbert and T.A. Sullivan were cruising in a scout car past Mt. Vernon Park when he saw the defendants leaning over the sleeping figures of Robert J. Crouch, 27, of 2917 Cathedral Ave. NW.

Dibble said he and his companions watched until the defendants dipped hands into Crouch’s pocket. Then, the detectives made the arrest, and awakened Crouch to let him know what had happened.

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AVON C. ALEXANDER DIED ON DECEMBER 8, 1984, WHILE STILL IN CUSTODY, AT COX MEMORIAL HOSPITAL, SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI. HE WAS 66 YEARS OLD AND HAD SERVED ABOUT SEVEN YEARS OF HIS SENTENCE.