Memorial to Robert K. Best

End of Watch:  December 15, 1982
Rank: Officer Badge No. 1779
Age: 24  Years of Service: 1 year
Location of Death:  Branch Avenue, Suitland, MD
Duty Assignment: Seventh District

 

Circumstance:

Officer Best and his partner were working in plainclothes when they observed a stolen auto and pursued it into Maryland. When the suspects bailed out, one was caught by Officer Best’s partner while Officer Best chased the other behind an apartment building. As Officer Best rounded the corner of the building, the suspect put a gun to his head and fired. The first shot missed, but as Officer Best fell, he was shot twice in the back. The suspect was shot and killed minutes later by MPDC.

 

Biography:

Officer Best served with the Metropolitan Police Department for one year assigned to the Seventh District. Officer Best was single and was survived by his grandparents.

 

Articles from the Washington Post – transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.
THE SHOOTING DEATH OF OFFICER ROBERT K. BEST ON DECEMBER 15, 1982.
ALSO A SHORT PARAGRAPH CONCERNING THE EXTRAORDINARY CAREER OF HIS PARTNER ON THAT NIGHT.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED DECEMBER 16, 1982, PAGE D1
Police Rookie Slain After Car Chase
It was a year ago this week that members of the Best family gathered around a holiday dinner table and listened as the oldest of four sons made a surprise announcement: Robert K. Best had enrolled in the District of Columbia Police Academy.
The family was brought together again yest

erday, this time by tragic news from a D.C. police official: Best, 24, had been shot to death early yesterday during a struggle with a suspected automobile thief, just one day after completing his rookie year.

“When he said that he wanted to be a cop I thought, “It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it,” Weston W. Little Sr., the slain officer’s grandfather, recalled in an interview yesterday.

Lessie Little, the officer’s grandmother who also helped rear him, began to shake as she recalled the maternal instincts that she felt that day last year.

“God, no,” she said. “But it was his decision and I respected him for it.”

D.C. police officers yesterday wore black tape over their badges as a sign of mourning. Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr., last night characterized Best’s slaying as an “execution.”

“I am deeply disturbed that an officer in the performance of his duty was shot down in cold blood without a chance,” said Turner, visibly shaken. “These two men…have been involved in robberies, in parole violations, and they should have been in jail. Instead they are out on the street…It’s just a sorry thing that men like that have to roam our streets.”

Described by family and colleagues as a dedicated officer well-versed in textbook police procedure and holder of a green belt in karate, Best and his partner, Officer William Haupt, were on a plainclothes patrol in an unmarked police cruiser at about 1:15 a.m. when they began chasing a red Fiat, which they believed was stolen, along Good Hope Road near Naylor Road in Southeast Washington.

According to a D.C. police spokesman, the two suspects in the Fiat fled for two miles, attempting to elude the pursuing officers by heading into Prince Georges County. But the Fiat skidded into a stop sign at Branch Avenue and Curtis Drive in Suitland. Both men jumped from the wrecked car and ran.

Haupt subdued the driver after a short chase, but the other suspect, Vincent Alexander Dark, 27, of the 2100 block of Douglas Road SE, fled behind the nearby Top of the Hill apartments with Best in pursuit.

Turner said that Best caught Dark behind a building but did not suspect that Dark had a gun. When Dark, who police said was carrying a pistol in the waistband of his pants, pulled out the gun, Best raised his hands, Turner said.

“The suspect shot him (Best) in the hand, spinning the officer around, and then when he (Best) fell to the ground, shot him twice in the back,” Turner said. One of the .38 caliber bullets ricocheted into the officer’s heart, police said.

Best was pronounced dead at 2:55 a.m. at Greater Southeast Community Hospital.

Meanwhile, as other D.C. police arrived on the scene, Officers Haupt and Edward Stulga began a manhunt for Dark, who spotted them and opened fire. The two officers subsequently caught Dark in a crossfire behind the building where Best had been shot. Dark, a high school dropout and ex-convict, was pronounced dead on the scene by the Prince George’s County medical examiner. He had been shot six times, D.C. police said.

The second suspect was identified as Marvin Cornell Wilson, 30, also known as James Kerseron, of 1716 14th St. NW. He was taken into custody by Prince George’s police and charged with theft, transportation of stolen property and possession of stolen property. He is also wanted in D.C. for a parole violation and a failure to appear on a court date.

Wilson was being held last night at the Prince George’s County jail, authorities there said.

Police said that the Fiat driven by the two suspects was stolen from Winston-Salem, N.C., on December 8.
Best “was just the kind of person who would give 100 percent no matter what the job was,” said his brother, Dave Best. “He just wanted to be the best.”

Yesterday was second time this year that a D.C. police officer had been shot and killed in the line of duty. On Sept. 14, Officer Donald G. Luning, 31, an 11-year veteran, was fatally shot in the chest during a struggle with a man who he believed was driving a stolen car.

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PARTIAL WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED DECEMBER 17, 1982, PAGE B5
AROUND THE REGION
Suspect in Slaying Ordered Held
Marvin C. Wilson, who police say was with Vincent A. Dark when Dark shot and killed a District police officer early Wednesday, was ordered held without bond yesterday in Prince George’s County.

Wilson, 30, was arrested by District police after a two-mile chase from Southeast Washington into Prince George’s.
Police said Dark, who was a passenger in the car, ran to a point behind an apartment building, where he shot Officer Robert K. Best. Dark was killed by police gunfire, investigators reported.

Wilson, of Washington, originally was ordered held on $100,000 bond on several charges, including theft of the 1979 Fiat he was driving and possession of a firearm. But when District Judge Bess B. Lavine learned Wilson also was wanted by North Carolina as an escapee, she ordered him held without bond.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED DECEMBER 19, 1982, PAGE B1
Slain Policeman Eulogized
Young Officer’s Name to Go on “Scroll of Heroes”
Slain D.C. police officer Robert K. Best was buried yesterday in a ceremony that honored him as hero and marked his profession, in the words of Deputy Chief James K. Kelly, as one “that faces an enemy which is often indistinguishable from the general population.”

The services included a funeral procession that stretched for miles, winding past the 7th District police precinct in Southeast Washington where Best had been assigned since joining the force a year ago last week. The services ended at a cemetery in suburban Maryland with Taps and a fired salute.

The unmarked police cruiser in which Best rode the night he was killed was parked in front of the police precinct and draped with black silk. The American flag that covered his casket was presented to his parents. Best, 24, was not married.
Law enforcement officials representing 25 area jurisdictions, including officers from Delaware, Philadelphia and the military, sat solemnly, some in tears, as Best was eulogized inside the Covenant Baptist Church, located several blocks from the 7th District station.

Rev. H. Wesley Wiley, pastor of the church, offered a prayer for those “with heavy hearts and sorrowing souls,” but expressed hope that their tears cleared their vision.

“A man of the law has fallen because we live in a world that does not regard the law,” Mr. Wiley told the 1,200 mourners. “But we know the law is God, who will turn a listening ear to our cries.”

Kelly, commander of the 7th District, outlined Best’s brief career and rated his performance as “impressive and dedicated to perfection.” While Police Chief Maurice T. Turner and other ranking members of the department looked on, Kelly recalled the look on his men’s faces last Tuesday morning when he entered the emergency room of the Greater Southeast Community Hospital, where Best was pronounced dead.

“I was reminded of Sir Winston Churchill, and the words he spoke after his men had fought back the Nazi blitzkrieg during World War II, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” Kelly said. These days, Kelly added, the enemy often cannot be distinguished from the general population and is “armed and determined to carry out their evil.”

Best was shot to death Tuesday morning, one day after completing his rookie year, during a struggle with a suspected automobile thief. It was the second time this year that a D.C. police officer had been shot and killed in the line of duty. On Sept. 14, Officer Donald G. Luning, 31, an 11-year veteran, was shot fatally in the chest during a struggle with a man whom he believed was driving a stolen car.

Best and his partner, Officer William Haupt, had chased a car that they believed had been stolen, into Prince George’s County. There, the car skidded into a stop sign at Branch Avenue and Curtis Drive in Suitland. Two men jumped from the wrecked car and ran. Best pursued one of them behind a building and was shot to death.

The man who had shot him, Vincent Alexander Dark, 27, of the 2100 block of Douglas Road SE, then fired at other officers who had joined the chase and was killed when police returned fire.

At yesterday’s services the D.C. police choir, named the “Ambassadors of Goodwill,” sang songs in tribute to their fallen colleague.

“In times of trouble, whom shall I fear,” they sang. “The Lord is the strength of my life, whom shall, I fear. Wait on the Lord and be of good courage and He shall strengthen my heart.”

Police officials said that Best’s name will be inscribed on the department’s scroll of heroes for making the “supreme sacrifice.”

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PARTIAL WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED OCTOBER 27, 1983, PAGE DC2PEOPLEAt the annual day set aside to recognize the men and women who risk their lives protecting the city, the Greater Washington Board of Trade presented awards of valor to members of the police and fire departments for outstanding acts of bravery in the line of duty. Officer Richard A. Gaskins, who singlehandedly arrested two armed kidnappers and firefighter Thomas C. Johnson who saved an unconscious badly burned woman from a blazing building, received gold medals at the Police and Fire Awards Luncheon at the Shoreham Hotel their bravery and self-sacrifice in risking their lives. Police officers (firemen omitted) honored with silver medals were: Larry J. Adams and Wayne L. Nicholson of the 5th District, who arrested an armed, deranged kidnaper without resorting to deadly force; William R. Haupt, Edward J. Stulga and the late Robert K. Best of the 7th District, who chased and killed an armed drug dealer who had fatally wounded Best during the incident; SYLVESTER GARVIN OF THE 2ND DISTRICT, who singlehandedly arrested an armed felon who was robbing a carry-out restaurant; and the late Donald G. Luning of the 6th District, who was killed while helping to apprehend a dangerous felon.

 

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WILLIAM HAUPT, WHO WAS OFFICER BEST’S PARTNER THE NIGHT HE WAS KILLED, WAS INVOLVED IN THREE FATAL SHOOTINGS DURING HIS CAREER AT 7D. HIS FIRST WAS THE “JOGGER-ROBBER” BANDIT WHO WAS WANTED FOR TWO HOMICIDES AND ABOUT 30 ARMED ROBBERIES. HIS SECOND WAS ROBERT BEST’S KILLER, AND THE THIRD WAS AN ARMED BURGLAR. HAUPT SURVIVED HIS CAREER AT 7D, AND WENT ON TO BECOME A CONTRACT U.S. DEPUTY MARSHAL IN THE COURT SECURITY DIVISION.