Memorial to Joseph M. Cournoyer

End of Watch: January 29, 1985
Rank: Sergeant Badge No. S-240
Age: 30  Years of Service: 6 years
Location of Death:  Minnesota Avenue Metro Platform
Duty Assignment: Sixth District

 

Circumstance:

Sergeant Joseph Cournoyer was shot and killed while questioning a suspect who had just robbed a Murray’s Steaks and made good his escape by boarding a Metro Transit Bus. Sergeant Cournoyer observed a suspect on the bus near the Minnesota Avenue Metro station, stopped the bus and escorted him off of the bus for identification purposes. The suspect began to fight with Sergeant Cournoyer, drew a gun, and shot him in the chest. Sergeant Cournoyer died from gunshot wound.

Biography:

Sergeant Cournoyer was assigned to the Sixth District and had been with the agency for six years. He was promoted to Sergeant six months prior to his death. He was survived by his wife.

 

Articles from the Washington Post – transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.
THE SHOOTING DEATH OF SERGEANT JOSEPH M. COURNOYER ON JANUARY 29, 1985.
WASHINGTON POST ARTICLED JANUARY 30, 1985, PAGE A1
D.C. Policeman Shot Fatally On Metrorail Bus Platform
A D.C. police sergeant was shot to death by a robbery suspect on the bus platform of the Minnesota Avenue Metrorail station last night, seconds after the policeman had escorted the man off a crowded Metro shuttle bus, District police and Metro officials reported.

Sgt. Joseph M. Cournoyer, 30, who was assigned to the 6th Police District, was shot once in the chest at close range about 7:45 p.m. by the gunman, apparently one of two men who minutes before robbed a Murry’s Steaks store less than a block away, police said.

Cournoyer, who had been on the police force six years and was promoted to sergeant six months ago, was pronounced dead at 8:48 p.m. at Prince George’s General Hospital, police said.

Late last night and early today, powerful lights illuminated the neighborhood as scores of police officers, assisted by helicopters and tracking dogs, worked to seal off an area stretching from Woodson Junior High School at 4101 Minnesota Ave. NE, east and north along Grant and Hayes streets as the search for the gunman and the second robbery suspect continued.

Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. Said at a news conference last night that Cournoyer was not wearing a bulletproof vest when he was shot, adding, “I can’t answer why he was not wearing a vest.”

Police officials said all regular patrol officers had been issued bulletproof vests, purchased with private contributions to a massive campaign initiated after two D.C. policemen were shot at close range and killed in the fall of 1982.
Those two officers, Donald G. Luning, who was killed Sept. 14, 1982, and Robert K. Best, who was shot to death Dec. 15, 1982, were the most recent District police officers to be killed while on duty.

Luning was shot to death with his own service revolver as he struggled with a stolen-car suspect in a building at 3694 Hayes St. NE, five blocks from where Cournoyer was fatally shot last night.

It was unclear last night if Cournoyer had been issued a vest, officials said. Assistant Chief Isaac Fulwood said wearing the vest, which can deflect a bullet or lessen its impact is not monitory.

Police said that about 10 persons and a driver were on the bus when Cournoyer confronted the suspect, but that none was injured.

Turner said last night that as an officer, Cournoyer “apparently had something on the ball,” and praised the officer’s alertness in spotting the robbery suspect on the waiting bus. But Turner and other department officials could offer few details about the robbery and fatal shooting.

According to information provided by them, authorities at the scene, neighborhood residents and Metro officials, the events leading to Cournoyer’s death began shortly before the 8″ p.m. closing time at Murry’s Steaks Inc., located at 4061 Minnesota Ave. NE in the Park and Shop shopping center between Benning Road and Grant Street NE.

Police said two men, one armed with a pistol, entered the store, demanded the money and fled with an undetermined amount of cash north toward the bus station.

Several employees, but no customers, were in the store at the time, but no shots were fired, and no one was injured, police said.

Cournoyer, on duty alone in a marked police cruiser nearby, apparently heard a radioed report of the robbery and went to the area to investigate, officials said.

Cournoyer, who was in uniform, boarded the waiting Metro shuttle bus, according to police Inspector Richard Pennington, spotted a passenger who fit the description of one of the holdup men and asked him to stand up. Pennington said Cournoyer performed a brief “pat-down” search on the man, then asked him to step from the bus.
Cournoyer and the man left the bus by the front door and were standing a few feet away at an information kiosk on the loading platform when they became involved in a scuffle, officials said. During the struggle, officials said, the man pulled a pistol from under his jacket and fired one shot, striking Cournoyer in the upper chest near his heart. Cournoyer never drew his revolver, Turner said.

The gunman ran north along Minnesota Avenue, and may then have fled eastward along Grant or Hayes streets or Gault Place, police said. It was unclear last night how the second robbery suspect made his escape. No arrests had been made as of early today, but police investigators said shortly after 2 a.m. that they were questioning a possible suspect.

Several residents near the Minnesota Avenue station said they did not hear the shooting but were alerted to the incident by the sirens of police cars pouring into the neighborhood.

“I knew something terrible had happened because of all the police cars, like last week,” said one elderly woman, referring to an incident last Saturday at the station in which a 2-year-old girl was strangled when a tie string on her jacket became caught in an escalator.

Cournoyer’s wife, Darlene, and his brother-in-law arrived at the hospital shortly after being told of the shooting. Also gathered outside the operating room where doctors worked to save the officer were numerous police officials and police chaplain the Rev. Joseph Dooley.

Police officials said Cournoyer and his wife lived in Riverdale. The couple had no children.

Officer Richard Bray, who was Cournoyer’s training partner when Cournoyer was assigned previously to the 1st District, said in a telephone interview last night that Cournoyer was from Rhode Island.

“He was a very good police officer,” Bray said, the kind who “didn’t stop being a police officer just because he got promoted. That’s how this thing happened tonight.”

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 31, 1985, PAGE C3
Manhunt Fails to Net Killer of D.C. Officer
40-Block Northeast Section Combed After Shooting Outside Metro Station
Scores of D.C. police officers, some equipped with flak jackets and armed with shotguns, combed through a 40-block section of far Northeast Washington yesterday but failed in their effort to capture the gunman who fatally shot a District police sergeant Tuesday night.

While squads of heavily armed officers and dog handlers searched a number of buildings in response to telephone tips, others went door to door circulating fliers and interviewing neighborhood residents.
“In the history of this department, there has never been a person who killed a police officer who hasn’t been arrested,” Assistant Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr. Said of the vast manhunt. “We think we have a lead, but that’s all I can say at this point. We do not have a suspect,” he said at a late afternoon news conference.

“This really hits close to home,” another police official said yesterday. “Everybody is aware of the dangers of the job, and the trouble is it gets to be routine. Something like this snaps everybody back into the real world….

Fulwood yesterday released a composite drawing and description of the man who shot and killed 6th District Sgt. Joseph M. Cournoyer, 30, a six-year veteran of the force, at a bus stop outside the Minnesota Avenue Metrorail station about 7:45 p.m. Tuesday. Fulwood also announced that a $7,500 reward would be paid for information leading to the gunman’s arrest and conviction.

Police said that moments before the shooting the gunman and an accomplice robbed a Murry’s Steaks store less than a block from the Metro station. Cournoyer, who was in uniform and alone in a marked police cruiser, apparently heard a radio report of the robbery, went to the Metro station and boarded a waiting neighborhood shuttle bus to look for suspects, police said.

They said about 10 persons and the driver were on the bus, and that Cournoyer spotted a passenger who fit the description of one of the holdup men and asked him to stand.

Cournoyer did a “preliminary frisk” of the man, Fulwood said, and ordered him to the front of the bus and outside onto the platform. There, a fight broke out during which the man pulled a handgun from his jacket and shot Cournoyer once in the chest, Fulwood said.

He was taken to Prince George’s General Hospital—the closest to the shooting scene—where he was pronounced dead about an hour later. An autopsy yesterday revealed that the bullet pierced Cournoyer’s heart.

Cournoyer, who was not wearing the bulletproof vest he had been issued, apparently didn’t draw his service revolver while on the bus because of concern for the passenger’s safety, Fulwood said. He said that, while the investigation is under way, he was “not privileged to say what happened to the second man” involved in the holdup, and whether that man was on the bus at the time of the shooting or how he made his escape.

According to one police official, the department had received a large number of calls from people offering information, but that so far none had led them any closer to a suspect. The most dramatic moment of the search came about 5:30 p.m. yesterday when riot gear-equipped police surrounded an apartment building at 3693 Jay St. NE after an anonymous caller said one of the holdup men was inside. Police conducted a room-to-room search of the building but found nothing, officials said.

Officers throughout the department wore strips of black tape over their badges yesterday in public mourning for Cournoyer, who lived in Riverdale with his wife, Darlene.

Cournoyer, who was promoted to sergeant six months ago, was the 33rd D.C. officer to die in the line of duty since 1963. Twenty-two of those died of gunshot wounds. The last two officers slain on duty were Robert K. Best, who was killed in December 1982 in a fight with a gunman on Suitland Parkway (wrong), and Donald G. Luning, who was killed in September 1982 in a struggle with a stolen-car suspect five blocks from where Cournoyer was slain Tuesday. Both Best and Luning were shot to death, and neither was wearing a bulletproof vest.

Their deaths sparked a massive campaign that ultimately raised $634,000 to buy bulletproof vests for all D.C. police officers, and law enforcement officials said yesterday that Cournoyer’s death was a grim reminder of the protective value of those vests.

“From what I hear, (Cournoyer) wore his vest all the time,” said Sgt. Robert Hanbury of the 1st District, where Cournoyer was previously assigned. “He was a quiet individual and he was always standing erect, always sharp, shoes shined and neat as a pin. Of all the people not to have it on….”

A police spokesman said that the department has issued about 3,000 vests to members of the department—nearly everyone from the rank of sergeant down in the field operations division, which conducts routine street patrol.
Wearing the vests has not been made mandatory, he said, because of the large number of complaints made by rank-and-file officers that the vests are often uncomfortable.

Gary Hankins, spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police, said yesterday that “the same quality that keeps bullets out keeps virtually 100 percent of the body heat in.”

During the summer months, Hankins said, officers wearing the vests have had to be treated at the police and fire clinic for body rashes and heat fatigue caused by the vests, which weigh about 3 ½ lbs. And are constructed of 10 layers of Kevlar, a man-made fiber that, pound for pound, has five times the strength of steel.

Vests worn by D.C. officers are designed to stop a .357 magnum bullet at close range, police said. Federal law enforcement officials said such vests are credited with saving the lives of more than 500 police officers since they were introduced nationwide in 1974. Currently, about 270,000 of the nation’s 570,000 police officers have been issued protective vests, authorities said, but there are no figures available on how many are actually used on a day-to-day basis.

Funeral services for Cournoyer will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church in Riverdale, with burial at Fort Lincoln Cemetery in Brentwood.

Police investigators asked yesterday that anyone with information about the shooting contact the D.C. police homicide division at 727-4347.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED FEBRUARY 1, 1985, PAGE C1
2 Arrested in Slaying of D.C. Policeman
Two suspects were arrested yesterday in the slaying of D.C. Police Sgt. Joseph M. Cournoyer at a bus stop Tuesday, as scores of heavily armed police descended on a Northeast apartment complex before dawn, climaxing a 31-hour manhunt.
The arrested men, Sylvester R. King Jr., 35, of 3697 Jay St. NE, and Charles A. Blackwell, 27, of 3693 Jay St. NE—were both charged with felony murder in Cournoyer’s death and with armed robbery of a meat store shortly before the police sergeant was shot.

Both were being held at D.C. Jail pending a hearing Tuesday on whether they should be held without bail until trial. U.S. Attorney Joseph E. DiGenova said a third suspect remained at large, and police sources confirmed that the third person served as a lookout during the armed robbery.

Police officers wielding sledgehammers broke into King’s second-floor apartment and arrested him around 3 a.m. About 30 minutes later, officers moved to an apartment two doors away, broke through the door, and arrested Blackwell.
According to documents filed in court, King was on parole and Blackwell was on probation for previous convictions at the time of the shooting. King had previous convictions for grand larceny, petty larceny, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, destruction of property, uttering and burglary.

According to the documents and an interview with his mother, King is a former heroin addict whose parole from the federal penitentiary in Petersburg, Va., was scheduled to expire in 1989.

Blackwell, who moved here from Norfolk in July, was previously convicted of attempted robbery and petty larceny, according to court records.

Their arrests, which came after “hundreds of interviews” and a few “key tips,” according to a homicide investigator, followed an intense manhunt in the area of the Minnesota Avenue Metrorail station, where Cournoyer was fatally shot at a bus platform while attempting to apprehend a robbery suspect.

Cournoyer, a six-year veteran who was on duty in a marked police cruiser nearby at the time of the robbery, responded to a radio report of the holdup at a Murry’s Steaks store about 7:45 p.m., and drove to the Minnesota Avenue Metrorail station—less than a block away from the meat store—to search for suspects, police said.

There, Cournoyer boarded a waiting shuttle bus, where he spotted a passenger matching the description of one of the holdup men, police said. Cournoyer searched the man and then escorted him off the bus, when a fight broke out, according to police.

During the struggle, the passenger—identified in the police affidavit as King—pulled an automatic handgun, shot Cournoyer once in the chest and fled.

An ambulance transported Cournoyer to Prince George’s County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead about an hour later.

According to the police affidavit, King was identified as the assailant by a witness who reported knowing him and watching him board the bus and later shoot the police sergeant.

A separate affidavit filed in the case against Blackwell said that he told police he participated in the robbery.

Police sources said that Blackwell and the lookout man who remains at large were apparently near the bus when Cournoyer boarded it and ordered the robbery suspect outside.

King’s mother, Evelin King, 64, who shared the Jay Street apartment with her son, said yesterday, “I don’t think it was my son because he is not a violent man.”

Her son “has had a drug problem for quite a while,” she said, but she added that he seemed to have stopped using drugs about four years ago.

Evelin King said she was not at home when her son was arrested because she was “upset” by the many police who had begun congregating in the neighborhood earlier in the day. She said she went to stay with a friend.

She said her son called her about midnight, three hours before his arrest, and she warned him not to go outside because he has a light-colored complexion, as did the suspect being sought by police.

“He said, “Mamma, I’m scared.” I said, “Don’t go out” …. I said, “don’t go out because somebody will kill you.”
Mrs. King said that after police told her that her son had been arrested, she returned home and found her door broken in, her bed stripped, and her closet emptied.

“They (police) turned and shook it up pretty well. Everything was on the floor…. They didn’t have to tear up my door and tear up my house, but I know what they were doing,” she said. “They were looking for a gun or some money.”

As well as being neighbors, Blackwell and Sylvester King Jr., worked for the same construction company, Miller and Long in Bethesda, where both men were laborers, according to Mrs. King and bail agency papers filed in court. A company official declined to comment.

Mrs. King said that she talked to homicide detectives yesterday after her son’s arrest. She said the detectives told her that they had received two calls that had proven to be the biggest tips in the case, one from a woman, identifying King, as the man police were looking for.

Police were offering a $7,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the gunman in Tuesday’s shooting.

“I asked them (the police), “Please don’t hurt my child,” Mrs. King said. She said she was allowed to talk to her son, “who told me that they hadn’t done anything bodily to him but that he was scared.”

“Since 1980, he was not on drugs, she said. “He was clean, he had a good job and his act was together. When he got out of jail, he said “Mamma, when I come home, I’m never going to jail again because I hurt you too much.”

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED FEBRUARY 3, 1985, PAGE B1
“Hero” Saluted
Comrades Pay Homage To Slain D.C. Officer
Under somber gray skies, hundreds of police officers from virtually every local jurisdiction stood silently in a freezing drizzle yesterday, their right hands raised in salute as they paid final homage to slain D.C. police Sgt. Joseph M. Cournoyer.
Then, after the pomp and ceremony were over and the 30-year-old officer had been laid to rest at Fort Lincoln Cemetery, a few of his comrades remained at the grave site, one wiping tears from a train-streaked face, another laying a single red carnation on Cournoyer’s casket.

Police officers from as far as Delaware and New York attended the service for Cournoyer at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church in Riverdale and then formed a miles-long procession that wound its way into the District and out to the cemetery in Brentwood.

Cross streets were closed, and traffic came to a standstill at intersections along the approximately 10-mile route. Shoppers and diners stood looking out of steamy windows in some establishments. A few motorists stuck in the waiting lines opened their doors and stood outside to watch. At one underpass, a gaggle of children sat on the railing above and peered curiously at what looked like a never-ending line of cars and blinking red lights.

And when the possession passed the red brick headquarters of the 6th District, where Cournoyer had been assigned, scores of officers stood on the front steps and saluted.

Cournoyer, a six-year member of the force, was fatally wounded Tuesday night when he responded to a radio report of a holdup at a Murry’s Steaks store and drove to the Minnesota Avenue Metro station, less than a block away, to search for suspects.

There, Cournoyer boarded a waiting shuttle bus, where he spotted a passenger in the crowd matching the description of one of the holdup men, according to police. Cournoyer searched the man and then escorted him off the bus, apparently not drawing his service revolver because of concern for the other passenger’s safety, police said. Outside the bus, a fight broke out. During the struggle, the passenger pilled a handgun, shot Cournoyer once in the chest and fled, police said.
After a 31-hour manhunt, two suspects were arrested Thursday and charged with felony murder.

Yesterday, during services at St. Bernard’s, the Rev. Joseph R. Dooley, the police chaplain, called Cournoyer “a true patriot, a true hero.”

“Joe Cournoyer loved his country, his family, his city and his job,” Dooley told the mourners, who included Mayor Marion Barry and Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. “For what other reason would he have stepped onto that metrobus on Tuesday night and ultimately to his untimely death?”

The one-hour service and brief grave site ceremony were punctuated with moments of formality. An honor guard carried the flag-draped casket to and from the church between rows of flags held aloft by other in full dress. At the cemetery, the report of guns pierced the silence around the grave, and then “Taps” was solemnly played.

When the ceremony was over, Deputy Chief Fred Thomas, commander of the 6th District, handed to Cournoyer’s wife Darlene the flag that had draped the casket.

During the service at St. Bernard’s, Dooley, with words of special meaning to Cournoyer’s comrades who filled the pews, said that “the police officer often cannot draw his gun because of his fear of innocent people being hurt. The suspect has a big advantage.

“Sometimes, as in this instance, because of his overriding concern for the safety of other passengers, Sgt. Cournoyer paid the supreme sacrifice,” Dooley said. “He laid down his life for the citizens of his city.”

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED FEBRUARY 6, 1985, PAGE B4
2 Ordered Held in Officer’s Death
Two men charged in the Jan. 29 slaying of a D.C. police sergeant were ordered held without bond yesterday pending trial under the city’s preventive detention statute. Attorneys for Sylvester R. King Jr., 35, and Charles A. Blackwell, 27, both charged with murder in the death of Sgt. Joseph M. Cournoyer, said they would not challenge the government’s request that the two men be held without bond.

Neither King nor Blackwell appeared at the brief bond hearing in D.C. Superior Court.
Under preventive detention law they must be brought to trial within 60 days.
Cournoyer was shot and killed at a bus stop in Northeast Washington while searching for a suspect in a robbery. He was not wearing a bulletproof vest.

King and Blackwell were arrested following a massive police manhunt.

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PARTIAL WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED FEBRUARY 10, 1985, PAGE B3
AROUND THE REGION
Third Suspect Held In Fatal Shooting Of D.C. Policeman
A third man was arrested yesterday and charged with felony murder in the fatal shooting Jan. 29 of D.C. Sgt. Joseph M. Cournoyer, D.C. police said. They identified the suspect as David A. Corbin, 20, of 3519 Jay St. NE.
Cournoyer was shot at the Minnesota Avenue Metrorail station where he was searching for a suspect in the robbery of a meat store.

The two men arrested Jan. 31 on the felony murder charges in the officer’s death were charged with robbery in the store holdup.

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WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL PAGE, DATED FEBRUARY 12, 1985
DARLENE COURNOYER
“I SAW HOW PEOPLE CARED”
The wife of slain D.C. police Sgt. Joseph M. Cournoyer has sent us the following communication:

Joe told me that he wanted to be a police officer to help people. I was skeptical. That was not my view of the police. They were macho men who wrote tickets and intimidated people. They were not people who changed tires for the older folks, who made sure that senile people were taken care of, who talked people out of killing themselves, who helped women find out how to keep from being beaten unconscious for the fourth time, or who bought candy for little children in the 7-Eleven.
My view of the police changed over the almost six years I was married to Joe, from one of skepticism to one of deep respect.
Joe was a very kind, compassionate, understanding man with a sense of humor that could get him through almost any situation. He was a very good cop who loved his job and actually liked the people he came into contact with. He felt he was doing something that enabled him to help others. I felt, although I never told him, that he was doing a job that almost no one appreciated.

When Joe was killed, I saw how people cared. I think it was the first time that I realized how many lives had been touched by Joe. People and companies sent food, drinks, cards and flowers. The police department helped in any and every way possible. Almost 500 people came to the wake, and many told me of their love and respect for Joe or how he had helped them. As the funeral procession went by, children saluted, and an old gentleman put his heart over his heart. Almost 1000 people came out in the freezing rain to say goodbye. Everyone was so helpful as was humanly possible, and I want to thank everyone involved.

My view of the police changed with experience, and now my view of the public’s appreciation and respect for them has changed. I now know what Joe always knew, that although there are people out there who would like to see every cop in the country killed, there are a great many more who love, respect and appreciate them.

Although nothing will ever bring Joe back, it helps a little to know that so many people loved and respected him.

To Joe, let me say our fairy-tale life has ended, but I will always love you and will always be proud of you and your profession. I guess it’s like you said a few weeks ago—our life was just too good to be true.

To the public, I want to say thank you for all your help and for showing me that there are people who care about and support our police.

To the police, I would like to say, Joe loved you, and I thank you.

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PARTIAL WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED FEBRUARY 12, 1985, PAGE D4
AROUND THE REGION
Third Man Held Without Bond In D.C. Policeman’s Slaying
David A. Corbin, 20, of 3519 Jay St. NE, a third suspect in the slaying last month of a D.C. police sergeant at a bus stop in Northeast Washington, was ordered held without bond on a felony murder charge yesterday by a D.C. Superior Court hearing commissioner.

According to a police affidavit filed in court, a witness linked Corbin, who was arrested Saturday, to two other men charged in the Jan. 29 slaying of Sgt. Joseph M. Cournoyer, who was shot as he tried to detain a man in connection with the robbery of a nearby store.

Sylvester R. King, 35, of 3697 Jay St. NE, and Charles A. Blackwell, 27, of 3693 Jay St. NE, were captured earlier after an intensive police search and have been ordered held without bond pending trial on a charge of murder.

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PARTIAL WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MARCH 23, 1985, PAGE C3
AROUND THE REGION
Murder Suspects Indicted
A D.C. Superior Court grand jury indicted three men yesterday on charges of felony murder in the Jan. 29 slaying of police Sgt. Joseph M. Cournoyer, who was fatally shot when he tried to apprehend a suspect in a robbery.

Sylvester R. King Jr., Charles A. Blackwell and David A. Corbin could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted. Cournoyer was shot when he tried to detain a robbery suspect at the Minnesota Avenue Metrorail station after a meat store robbery. King, Blackwell and Corbin were arrested last month.

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PARTIAL WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED APRIL 3, 1985
AROUND THE REGION
3 Plead Not Guilty In Slaying of D.C. Police Sergeant
Three men charged in the Jan. 29 slaying of a D.C. police sergeant pleaded not guilty yesterday in D.C. Superior Court and were ordered held without bond pending trial.

Sylvester R. King, 35, of 3697 Jay St. NE, and Charles A. Blackwell, 27, of 3693 Jay St., are charged with murder in the death of Sgt. Joseph M. Cournoyer, who was fatally shot at a bus stop in Northeast Washington while searching for a robbery suspect.

David A. Corbin, 20, of 3519 Jay St, is charged with felony murder.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED APRIL 12, 1985, PAGE B6
Man Guilty in Officer’s Death; Called Lookout in NE Holdup
A man who prosecutors said acted as the lookout in a Northeast Washington robbery that culminated with the slaying of a D.C. police sergeant in January pleaded guilty yesterday to second degree murder and armed robbery charges.
He also agreed to testify against two co-defendants in D.C. Superior Court.

David A. Corbin, 20, of 3519 Jay St. NE pleaded guilty before Chief Judge Carl H. Moultrie in the slaying Jan. 29 of Sgt. Joseph M. Cournoyer.

Cournoyer was shot as he tried to detain a man at a Northeast bus stop for questioning in connection with the robbery of a nearby store.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Strasser told Judge Moultrie that if the case were tried, prosecutors were prepared to show that Corbin acted as a lookout outside the store, took a bag of money from one of the robbers and fled with them to the bus stop where Cournoyer was fatally shot moments after the robbery.

U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova said Corbin could face a maximum penalty of 30 years to life on the charges.

“This sends a message to would-be lookouts and getaway drivers, that they are subject to the same penalties as individuals who pull the trigger,” diGenova said after the court hearing.

Corbin, who prosecutors said will testify at the trials of two co-defendants, was placed in protective custody after the court hearing.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JULY 12, 1985, PAGE C5
Man Pleads Guilty to Reduced Charge in Death of D.C. Officer
“I can’t say if I’m satisfied until I hear the sentencing.”
Darlene Cournoyer, widow of slain officer

A 27-year-old man pleaded guilty yesterday to second-degree murder, admitting in D.C. Superior Court that he was involved in the robbery that led to last January’s slaying of a D.C. police sergeant but said that he did not fire the gun that killed Joseph M. Cournoyer.

Charles A. Blackwell, charged with first-degree murder, pleaded guilty to lesser charges of second-degree murder while armed during proceedings that were intently watched by Cournoyer’s widow and later criticized by his colleagues as too lenient.

Blackwell, a man described in court papers as “borderline retarded” and by his attorney as a “pawn in someone else’s game,” quietly answered “yes” when Chief Judge Carl H. Moultrie I, in a series of questions, asked if he agreed with the prosecution’s account of how the 30-year-old officer was fatally shot at the Minnesota Avenue Metrorail stop shortly after Blackwell and two other men robbed a nearby meat store.

Police said Cournoyer was shot by one of the suspects he was trying to take into custody. The man charged with shooting Cournoyer is awaiting trial.

Blackwell made no statement. He often appeared confused when Moultrie asked if he understood the proceedings. Later, his attorney Roger Durban said Blackwell, too, “was a victim in his own right.”

“The bottom line,” said Durban, “is that Blackwell came here and with a very limited intellectual capacity and with the environment over there in the projects got….swept away by the attitude a lot of young guys over there have….The only person in the District who grieves more deeply today about what happened than Charles Blackwell’s widow.”
Darlene Cournoyer sat in the courtroom’s second row and stared directly at Blackwell. “I can’t say if I’m satisfied until I hear the sentencing,” said Cournoyer.

In addition to the murder charge, Blackwell pleaded guilty to armed robbery. Each charge carries a maximum life sentence.
In exchange for the plea, the government agreed to dismiss a first-degree murder while armed charge as well as other charges related to the Jan. 29 robbery of Murry’s Steaks at 4061 Minnesota Ave. NE, and Cournoyer’s subsequent slaying. Had Blackwell gone to trial, he would have faced a mandatory sentence of 20 years before he would become eligible for parole. Under his plea agreement, Blackwell, of 3963 (3693) Jay St. NE , must be sentenced to at least one mandatory five-year jail term and could be sentenced to two mandatory five-year terms because he was armed.

A second man accused in the slaying and identified in court papers as the lookout man, David A. Corbin, earlier pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and armed robbery. A third man, Sylvester R. King Jr., is being held without bond on a felony murder charge. Police allege that King shot Cournoyer.

Prosecutor Alan Strasser told Moultrie yesterday that the government was prepared to prove that Blackwell and King boarded a bus at the Minnesota Avenue Metrorail station after the holdup. Cournoyer boarded the back of the bus and attempted to escort King off the bus, Strasser said. A struggle ensued and Cournoyer was shot just below the heart.

Yesterday, Cournoyer’s colleagues said they were disturbed by the plea agreement.

“It’s not good enough,” said Officer Jim Murphy.

“I understand what the prosecutor is trying to do…but his death was rotten, and the way the judicial system works is rotten,” said Sgt. Michael McNeely, Cournoyer’s partner. McNeely compared Blackwell’s plea to this week’s guilty plea by a man in the April slaying of a Virginia state trooper. The man pleaded guilty to capital murder and the judge must sentence him to death or life imprisonment without possibility of parole.

U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova predicted it would be a “very, very long time” before Blackwell would be released from jail.

Blackwell’s sentencing is set for Sept. 6.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JULY 30, 1985, PAGE C3
Officer Slain Accidentally, Suspect Says
Judge Allows Taped Statement in Shooting of D.C. Policeman
In the early morning hours after his arrest, a District man accused of murdering police Sgt. Joseph M. Cournoyer last

January told police he had struggled with Cournoyer, but said his gun went off accidentally.
Sylvester R. King Jr., in a video-taped statement shown yesterday in D.C. Superior Court, told police after his arrest that he was “sorry” that the shooting had resulted in the officer’s death. King, 36, is charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery in the slaying of Cournoyer, 30, a six-year member of the police force.

After listening to the barely audible statement in a darkened courtroom, Chief Judge H. Carl Moultrie I ruled that the videotaped statement could be introduced at King’s trial, scheduled to begin today.

Moultrie rejected claims by King’s attorney that the statement was given involuntarily because King feared for his safety in police custody.

King said in the taped statement that on Jan. 29 he was involved in a robbery at Murry’s Steaks at 4061 Minnesota Ave. NE and that subsequently he boarded a bus at a nearby Metro station. Moments later, Cournoyer got on the bus, King told the two officers conducting the interview.

Cournoyer spotted King, patted him down, and told him to get off the bus, King said on the tape. As the two men left the bus, King said, a struggle ensued during which a handgun he was carrying fired, striking the officer.
When asked on tape by one of the detectives if he had intended to shoot Cournoyer, King shook his head and said, “No.”

“I’m sorry it happened,” King said.

Two other men who police said participated in the robbery at Murry’s Steaks have pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges. King, if convicted on the first-degree murder charge, would face a mandatory sentence of 20 years in prison before he would become eligible for parole.

King was on parole on an earlier burglary conviction at the time of Cournoyer’s death, and has several previous felony convictions, according to court records. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Strasser told Moultrie yesterday that King is eligible for a stiffer sentence if he is found guilty because of the prior convictions.

In asking the judge to suppress the statement, King’s lawyer, Richard Greenlee, cited the early morning hour of King’s arrest and his repeated mention of concern that he might be hurt in police custody.

King was arrested about 3 a.m. on Jan. 31 at the apartment he shared with his mother on Jay Street NE, and questioned until about 5 a.m. Greenlee noted that at one point on the videotape, King said he was “scared as hell.”

Strasser, however, emphasized that King had been informed of his constitutional rights, and said that he appeared calm on the tape.

“There is no question in the court’s mind…. that the defendant voluntarily made the statement,” Moultrie said in refusing to suppress the statement. Moultrie also cited a telephone conversation King had with his mother after his arrest in which King, according to a police detective, said the police had been as “fair as could possibly be.”

In the videotaped statement, King said he tossed away the gun after the shooting and hid for several hours before returning to the Jay Street apartment. “I wanted to turn myself in, but I was scared,” King said in the taped statement.
After giving his statement King called his mother, a detective who questioned him said yesterday in court. “Don’t cry, mamma,” the detective recalled King saying. “I didn’t mean to shoot him. The gun went off accidentally.”

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED AUGUST 3, 1985, PAGE B2
D.C. Man Convicted Of Slaying Police Officer
Guilty of 6 Other Charges; Faces 110 Years
A D.C. Superior Court jury took less than an hour yesterday to convict a 36-year-old District man of first-degree murder in the shooting death in January of D.C. police Sgt. Joseph M. Cournoyer at the Minnesota Avenue Metro bus terminal.
Jury members later described their decision to convict Sylvester R. King Jr., of 3697 Jay St. NE, as “cut and dry.” King, who smiled slightly as the verdicts were read, said in a videotaped statement at the time of his arrest that his gun fired accidentally during the struggle with Cournoyer and that he was sorry “it happened.”

Cournoyer’s widow, Darlene, sitting in the courtroom’s second row with family members and friends, cried quietly as the jury foreman firmly answered “guilty” to all the charges brought against King.

Later, Darlene Cournoyer, who sat nearly expressionless throughout the five-day trial, smiled and thanked prosecutor Alan Strasser.

In addition to the charge of first-degree murder while armed, King was found guilty of six other charges stemming from the Jan. 29 slaying and the robbery minutes earlier of the Murry’s Steaks store at 4061 Minnesota Ave. NE Each charge, including armed robbery and assaulting a police officer with a dangerous weapon, carries a maximum life penalty.
Two other men, Charles A. Blackwell, 27, of 3693 Jay St. NE, and David A. Corbin, 20, of 3519 Jay St. NE, pleaded guilty earlier to second-degree murder charges in the robbery and killing.

At the time of his arrest, King was on parole on a burglary charge and had been convicted earlier of several felonies. He must be sentenced to a mandatory 20-year jail term because he was armed, and U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova said King faces a maximum penalty of about 110 years. “He should spend the rest of his natural life in prison,” diGenova said.
Cournoyer’s colleagues also praised the jury’s findings. “There is satisfaction that the man got convicted. He took a friend away from all of us,” said Sgt. David Goldfarb, who had known Cournoyer since they joined the police force in 1978.

Jurors said after the verdict that there had been little disagreement that King and the two other men robbed the Murry’s Steaks store and that King subsequently shot Cournoyer after the police officer later escorted King off a Metro bus.
Jurors said the only point of contention was whether the shooting was intentional or an accident as King, who did not take the stand, claimed in the videotaped statement. A witness testified that the morning after Cournoyer was killed, she heard King say that “it was either him or me” as he and a friend watched a television news account of the shooting.
Alice Stewart, a jury member who said she initially argued that King shot Cournoyer because he “was afraid,” said she was persuaded by the other jurors that testimony proved King was at least four feet away from Cournoyer when he shot the officer through the heart.

A police officer testified during the trial before Chief Judge H. Carl Moultrie I that gunpowder residue would have been found on Cournoyer body near the gunshot wound if there had been a close struggle. No gunpowder residue was found, the officer testified.

“All counts were easy except the first or second-degree murder….” said juror Allan Goldberg. “You had seven people who were able to identify him. You had his hand print on the bus…At one point (King) could have put the gun down or he could have shot him in the arm or leg and still run away,” Goldberg said. “But he shot him through the heart.”

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PARTIAL WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED SEPTEMBER 7, 1985, PAGE D3
AROUND THE REGION
District Man Gets 95 Years For Role in Officer’s Slaying
A district man who admitted taking part in a robbery that led to the death of a D.C. police sergeant was sentenced yesterday to 95 years in prison, moments after his lawyer said the man grieved deeply for the officer’s family.
Charles A. Blackwell, 27, had pleaded guilty in D.C. Superior Court to second-degree murder while armed and armed robbery in connection with the January shooting death of Sgt. Joseph M. Cournoyer.

Cournoyer, who had been on the police force for six years, was shot at the Minnesota Avenue Metrorail station shortly after Blackwell and two other men robbed a Northeast meat store.

Soon after the robbery, Cournoyer boarded a bus and was shot as he escorted one of the suspects from the bus. Sylvester R. King Jr., accused of shooting Cournoyer, was convicted last month of first-degree murder and awaits sentencing.

The third suspect, David A. Corbin, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and armed robbery and also awaits sentencing.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED OCTOBER 3, 1985, PAGE B7
3rd Man Sentenced in Slaying
A D.C. man who police said was the lookout in a Northeast Washington robbery that led to the slaying of a D.C. police sergeant was sentenced yesterday to at least 166 years in prison.

David A. Corbin, 20, of 3519 Jay St. NE, who had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and armed robbery, was the third and last man to be sentenced in the Jan. 29 death of Sgt. Joseph M. Cournoyer.

Cournoyer, a six-year member of the force, was shot after he escorted another defendant, Sylvester R. King Jr., off a crowded bus for questioning about the robbery of a nearby meat store. King, convicted of shooting Cournoyer, was sentenced Tuesday to 79 years to life.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Strasser asked D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge H. Carl Moultrie I yesterday to consider that Corbin identified King as the man who had shot Cournoyer, which helped police to make a quick arrest. Still, Strasser said,

Corbin was involved in a robbery that resulted in a death.

Corbin said that he was sorry and well aware of the seriousness of his offense. “The nature of such an offense will never change,” he said, but the nature of a human being can.

Moultrie noted Corbin’s involvement and his help of the police.
“But there was a death in this case…” Moultrie said, sentencing Corbin to 16 to 48 years in prison.

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PARTIAL WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED OCTOBER 17, 1985, PAGE DC1
City Honors Those Who Risk Their Lives
Gold and Silver Medals to Be Awarded Heroic Firefighters, Police Officers
Cournoyer will be awarded a gold medal posthumously.
D.C. police Sgt. Cournoyer is being honored because when he boarded a crowded bus to arrest an armed robbery suspect he “chose not to draw his service revolver, giving first priority to the safety of the innocent men, women and children who sat motionless on the bus,” according to his nomination for the award. It says that Cournoyer obviously thought that “if he should draw his service revolver and a struggle took place on the bus …the passenger’s lives could be in danger.”

After escorting the suspect off the bus, a brief struggle occurred, during which Cournoyer, a six-year member of the force, was fatally shot in the chest. Three men have been convicted in his slaying.

Cournoyer’s widow, Darlene, declined to be interviewed about the award but wrote in response to written questions, “I am very proud that the city…has decided to give Joe the gold medal of valor, but I do not need a gold medal to prove to me that my husband was a good cop.

“I think it is a shame that the police only get recognized in this city when they are killed, seriously injured or found doing something wrong….I think the police need this award as a means of proving to them that, at least on occasion, the people of this city appreciate the work that they do.

‘These annual awards are a step in the right direction,” she concluded.

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SYLVESTER R. KING IS SERVING A 79 YEAR TO LIFE SENTENCE AT THE FEDERAL HIGH SECURITY PRISON AT ATLANTA, GEORGIA. HE HAS AT LEAST ANOTHER 55 YEARS TO SERVE BEFORE BECOMING ELIGIBLE FOR PAROLE AND WILL BE 114 YEARS OLD AT THAT TIME.

CHARLES A. BLACKWELL IS CONFINED AT THE FEDERAL HIGH SECURITY PRISON AT HAZELTON, WEST VIRGINIA. HIS RELEASE DATE IS AUGUST 28, 2047. HE HAS ALSO SERVED ABOUT 22 YEARS AND HAS 40 YEARS TO GO. HE WILL BE 89 YEARS OLD AND WILL HAVE SERVED ABOUT 62 YEARS AT HIS RELEASE DATE.
DAVID A. CORBIN WAS RELEASED FROM FEDERAL PRISON IN 1993, AFTER SERVING ABOUT 8 YEARS. HE WAS ORIGINALLY SENTENCED TO SERVE 16 TO 48 YEARS.

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MAX P. T. SACKS,
Dave: I expected to see this Memorial to Joe sooner or later and it saddens me to see it. Joe and I worked together in 1D in the mid 70’s to early 80. I eventually was promoted to Lieutenant and assigned to 6D and Joe was promoted at the same time to Sergeant and assigned to 6D as well to my Section.

It was a bitter cold night and we were working 3 to 11. Joe was in the Sergeants office doing some paperwork and heard the call come out for an armed robbery at Murrays Steaks on Minnesota Avenue. Joe, who always wore his bullet proof vest, and for reasons unknown, did not put his vest back on when responding to Murrays that night. Minutes later the call came out for an officer shot at the Metro bus stop directly across the street from Murrays. As the Watch Commander that night I responded to the scene and found Joe.

It was the saddest moment of my entire career and unfortunately something that I can picture in my mind even though it has been almost 29 years. We all lost a good friend and by far one of the most dedicated police officers to serve with the Metropolitan Police Department. Rest in Peace Joe.
Wednesday, 18 December 2013 09:58

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JOHN RENTZ
Joe was a close friend of mine in 1D and I saw him in court the morning of his January 29, 1985 murder. Ever the good friend, Joe was one of the finest people I ever met. I look forward to your retelling of his murder. Sylvester King threw away two lives that day, his and Joe’s.

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FRANCIS GREENWELL Regarding Sgt. Cournoyer’s death, I believe I caught the shooter in a 5D burglary in the 70s. We had searched the house looking for the bad guy with negative results. A witness, however, said that the burglar never left the house.

I went back in and, while searching the high-ceilinged bathroom, looked up and there was the dirt bag lodged against the ceiling. He jumped down at me but I had my service revolver right in his face and subdued him. I can’t recall if he was armed or not. I felt terrible when I later learned of Sgt. Cournoyer’s death