The History of the Metropolitan Police Memorial Fountain

The Metropolitan Police Memorial Fountain that currently sits in front of the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police Department, located at 300 Indiana Avenue, NW, was authorized by an Act of Congress on April 22, 1940, under HR 8792.  That Act directed the Commissioners of the District of Columbia to accept and maintain a memorial fountain to the members of the Metropolitan Police Department. HR 8792 was later incorporated into § 5-1301 of the DC Code, entitled, “Memorial fountain to members of Metropolitan Police Department.”  The facts surrounding how and why the Metropolitan Police Department Memorial Fountain came about is a tragic, but amazing, story.

It began shortly before 8:00 a.m., May 21, 1918, when deputy sheriff Lawrence McParland from Charles County, assigned to Indian Head, Maryland, requested the assistance of the Metropolitan Police Department to serve a summons, on a person, whom shall be identified only as the “subject”, wanted as a witness in an embezzlement case and return him to Maryland to testify in the court proceedings.

“Metropolitan Police Officer John Conrad, 37 years old, assigned to the Sixth precinct, joined deputy McParland and they went to 76 I Street NW.  The I Street address was on Conrad’s beat and serving a summons of this nature was considered routine.”

Upon arrival at the I Street address, McParland exited their vehicle, leaving Conrad waiting in the car.  Both officers were under the impression McParland would simply serve the summons and the subject would freely return to Maryland.  “The Indian Head official entered and demanded the subject, who was in bed, rise and go with him.  The subject refused and McParland left the house and joined Conrad.   Conrad and McParland decided to enter the house and bring the subject out by force, if necessary.  They ascended the steps, and as they did so the subject appeared at the door and warned them to keep out.  Ignoring the threat, the two officers went to the door, opened it and entered.  The subject stepped back and opened fire.  McParland, who was leading, is believed to have been the first to fall.  A dum-dum soft nosed bullet from the subject’s weapon, a colt .45 caliber automatic, of the type used in the American army, struck the sheriff low in the neck, killing him almost instantly.  Conrad was shot in the right side of his chest, the bullet penetrating his lung.  He died within a few minutes.”

“The subject went to the rear of the house and was able to jump to freedom from a second story window. Neither officer had time to draw his pistol before overtaken by death.  When other policemen arrived, a general alarm, rousing every member of the police and detective forces in the city on duty and sending all nearby reserves to the I street house, was sent out from police headquarters.  Maj. Raymond W. Pullman, superintendent of police [Chief of Police] aroused from his bed, took personal charge of the man hunt for the slayer.”

“A house to house search for the fugitive started in surprisingly short time.  Four men and as many women, occupants of the house where the shooting occurred, were arrested as witnesses.  The subjects wife and a young man volunteered to lead the police to the home of his half-brother at 1400 Carrollburg place.”

“Lieutenant Dunigan, Lieutenant Bremmerman, together with Detective Sergeant Beckley and other detectives from headquarters and policemen from the Fourth and Sixth precincts armed with Krag-Jorgensen rifles ascended the front stairs and forced the door.  Dunigan leading the way, shouted to the occupants to surrender.  The subject, who was standing in a rear room, answered by firing a shot hitting Dunigan in the groin.  The Lieutenant sank to the floor shouting to Beckley, who was at his side, I’m shot in the leg, Beck, go get him” 

“Meanwhile the subject rushed from the rear of the house, firing as he ran.  Leaving the place by the back door, he bolted for a gate in the fence, only to find it guarded by Policeman Waller, of the Fourth precinct.  Waller emptied his revolver at the subject, while the shots from the rifles and revolvers of other officers rang out, driving the subject back into the house.”

The police surrounded the house.  “Acting Night Inspector of Detectives Weedon ordered 100 gallons of gasoline sent to the scene to set fire to the house and drive the subject into the open if need be.”

“Precinct Detective Write of the Sixth precinct, Lieutenant Bremmerman of the Second precinct and Bicycle Policeman Flaherty volunteered to enter the house and found the subject hiding under a bed.  As they entered the subject fired his last shot from his .45 automatic and he then called weakly’, don’t shoot boys, I’m through.  The subject was quickly subdued by Bremmerman who rushed to the bed and overturned it, while Wright flung himself on the subject, pinning his arms.”  He was taken from the house and transported to Casualty Hospital and treated for four gunshot wounds as a result of the exchange of gunshots between him, Lieutenant Dunigan and Officer Waller.  As the subject was being treated for his wounds, Lieutenant Dunigan was being treated in the same emergency room.  Lieutenant Dunigan died from the gunshot wound a short time later.

The summons McParland was attempting to serve was only to appear as a witness in a case of embezzlement, it was believed, however, the subject thought the police were there to arrest him for murders he committed in Galveston, TX and Alabama.

The subject was released from the hospital and taken to DC Jail to await trial, however, he escaped a few months later.  The bars from the window in his jail cell were found sawed off leaving the window open.  The subject remained at large from 1918 until his re-capture in 1924.

Following his capture it was revealed his escape had been aided by jail guards who wished to ruin the reputation of the superintendent of the DC Jail because of poor working conditions.  “The subject admitted the guards came to his cell, opened the doors and bodily removed him to a waiting taxi cab, took him to a hiding place and returned to jail in the cab.  Not known to the subject, the jail guards attempted to cover his escape by cutting the bars to the window making it look as the subject escaped through the window.”

The subject was hanged at DC Jail on June 22, 1925, for the murders of DC Police officers John Conrad, Lieutenant David T. Dunigan and Charles County Deputy Sheriff Lawrence McParland.  He admitted to having committed twelve murders during his lifetime.  “He went to the gallows grinning a wide, nervous grin, but with no hesitancy.”  The names of the guards who removed him from his jail cell were never learned, but the superintendent of the DC Jail was removed from his post.  The subject’s hanging cleared death row of its last inmate as Congress had passed a law providing for electrocution as the means of capital punishment.  He was the last prisoner hung in DC.

Soon after the deaths of DC Police officers John Conrad and Lieutenant David T. Dunigan in 1918, a movement was started by the business community and the citizens of the District of Columbia to raise funds to build a memorial to honor Conrad, Dunigan and all of the Metropolitan Police Officer’s killed in the line of duty.  Ten thousand dollars [equivalent to $187,091.55 today] was raised and sat in the Bank of Washington for the next twenty years waiting for Congress and the city to authorize the memorial to be built in their honor.  A sculptor by the name of John J. Earley designed the memorial fountain and finally in 1940, Congress and the city approved the bill, provided the land in front of police headquarters and the Metropolitan Police Memorial Fountain was built in 1942 by Italian immigrants using marble purchased in Italy, some 22 years after the officers were killed.

[The events depicted herein is a summary of information written by Don Blake, based on information provided by Nick Breul from historical files of the department and Dave Richardson from historical news articles from the Washington Post. They are all retired members of the Metropolitan Police Department serving on, or helping with, the Metropolitan Police Memorial Project, Inc.  Quotations are used to show language taken directly from the news articles.  The name of the culprit was purposely deleted so as not to allow it or its family or friends to enjoy any media attention or perceived notoriety.  Plans are being finalized to renovate The Metropolitan Police memorial fountain and build a new and iconic Metropolitan Police Memorial.  Please support and follow these efforts on www.dcpolice.us.]