Tuesday, 10 September 2019 18:55

Officer John R. J. Block

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In the early hours of April 21, 1933, three young men robbed several United Bus drivers. According to reports, the buses were held up at their northern terminal, Charles and Thirty-ninth Streets, by two men who had boarded a bus driven by William Hoffmaster, 2600 block Hampden Ave, at Charles and Franklin streets and had ridden to the end of the line. There, as they left the bus, they held up Hoffmaster and later forced Lawrence Muster, 3400 Keswick road, who was at the wheel of a waiting bus, into the Hoffmaster bus and took all the money both of them had, $63.00. A lookout for the possible get-away car was broadcast and Officer Block stopped it. As Officer Block approached the car, he was shot and killed. The three suspect escaped and began a two state manhunt including the District of Columbia. Law enforcement agencies from surrounding counties, the city, and the FBI joined efforts to locate the assailants.

 Police Officer John R. J. Block

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On this day in Baltimore Police History 21 April, 1933 we lost our brother, Police Officer John R. J. Block to gunfire based on the following; In the early hours of April 21, 1933, three young men robbed several United Bus drivers. According to reports, the buses were held up at their northern terminal, Charles and Thirty-ninth Streets, by two men who had boarded a bus driven by William Hoffmaster, 2600 block Hampden Ave, at Charles and Franklin streets and had ridden to the end of the line. There, as they left the bus, they held up Hoffmaster and later forced Lawrence Muster, 3400 Keswick road, who was at the wheel of a waiting bus, into the Hoffmaster bus and took all the money both of them had, $63.00. A lookout for the possible get-away car was broadcast and Officer Block stopped it. As Officer Block approached the car, he was shot and killed. The three suspect escaped and began a two state manhunt including the District of Columbia. Law enforcement agencies from surrounding counties, the city, and the FBI joined efforts to locate the assailants.


The entire incident can be read hear the way it was printed in April of 1933 - Found wounded beside his police car a few moments after he had halted an automobile suspected of figuring in the hold-up of two Charles street busses earlier in the night, Patrolman, John Block, Southern district, died at 1.34 A. M. 21 April 1933 at the South Baltimore General Hospital. The machine, bearing Florida licenses No. 115345, was reported to be headed for Annapolis, and 'Baltimore police were put on guard at all points where the car might leave the city while State police were guarding all highways. They hoped to capture the automobile before daylight. Three men being sought in the case are believed to have registered at an apartment house in the 600 block North Charles Street Monday noon as Buck Slade, Bill Drake and Joe Green, of St. Augustine, Florida. According to their landlady, Mrs. Howard R. Yourtee, they paid a week's rent in advance, were especially well dressed and rather quiet, but "had a serious look for such young men." The police all-round for the Florida car was given out at the roll call going on in all districts of the city at the time of the Charles street bus hold-up.


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Speeding Car Is Seen

Shortly after the bus drivers, Lawrence Huster, 3400 block Keswick road, and William Hoffmaster, 2600 block Hampden avenue, had been forced at pistol point to hand over their day's receipts, the machine shot past them at a high rate of speed, with its headlights doused. Patrolman Robert L. Campbell, Northern district, who had arrived, on the scene and was listening to the bus drivers' troubles, jotted down the license number, but at the time didn't connect it with the hold-up.

Hold-Up, Shooting Linked

It was only afterward, when a fuller account of the hold-up men's actions and the news of the policeman's shooting had been pieced together, that the incident took on significance. Hoffmaster told the police that the two men boarded his bus shortly before midnight at Charles and Franklin streets and rode to the end of the line, Charles and Thirty-ninth streets. There they deposited their fares in his coin box-one of them putting in a dime and the other eleven cents. Then they produced their pistols.

Money Demanded

"Let's have the change rack-and whatever bills you've got,"they ordered. As Hoffmaster handed over the money the shorter of the two men said to his partner: "You get the other man. I can take care of this fellow!" The taller man returned to the bus in a moment with Huster and forced him into Hoffrnaster's bus. After stripping them of their money-they took $34 from Huster and $29 from Hoffmaster.  The pair stepped to the pavement and, turning to the frightened drives, they said, "You stay right there. We're coming; back in five minutes - if either of you has moved, we'll kill you deader than hell!".

Bandits Flee

They then fled down Thirty-ninth Street. It was but a few minutes later that Patrolman Campbell jotted down the number of the speeding Florida car. Headquarters was notified, and every policeman in the city was put on the lookout for the machine.

Block Found Wounded

Soon afterward there came to the Southern district police a report that Patrolman Block had been found with one bullet in his head and another in his chest-beside his police Car at Hanover Street and Belle Grove road. Meanwhile, to the Southwestern district, had come an excited taxicab driver, telling of a mysterious journey he had just completed.

Picked Up Two Men

The driver, Louis Boyle, 4402 Lasalle avenue, reported that he had picked up two fares, bearing three suitcases, on Charles street about midnight. Pointing to a small sedan waiting at the curb, they told him, he said, to follow it and the two cars set out for Fairfield. On the way, he said, a Kentucky license plate dropped from the rear, of the leading machine, revealing underneath it a Florida license tag, No. 115345. He felt then, he said, that there was something queer about the whole business, but continued on his way.


Florida Car Halted

As they reached Hanover Street and Belle Grove road, he said, the Florida car was halted by a police car - which later developed to have been that of Patrolman Block. The men in his cab, however, told him to go ahead, and he obeyed. A short distance farther on, he said, they told him to 'stop and wait. 'Ten minutes later the Florida car came up, the police were told, and his fares got out and clambered into the other machine. Somebody in the car asked him the way to Annapolis, Boyle said, and then the machine sped away. He drove immediately to the Southwestern district police station and reported the incident - not knowing anything at all, at the time, of the shooting.


Talked To Patrolman

Sergt. Edward Pansuka, Southern district, said that he had talked to Patrolman Block only ten minutes before the shooting occurred. Block told him, he said, that he was going to the Hanover Street - Belle Grove road intersection and watch for a hold-up car. He also intended, according to the Sergeant, to tum off the traffic light at the intersection. The point at which the cab waited for the Florida car was at Audrey street and Annapolis Boulevard, about eight' blocks beyond the scene of the shooting. Patrolman Block, who was 33 years old, was appointed to the Police Department October 22, 1920. He resigned by request February 25, 1925, but was reinstated October 13 of the same year, being transferred from the southern to the southwestern district he lived at 6306 Frederick Ave.



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More Details

NameDescription
End of Watch 21 April, 1933
City, St. Charles and 39th Streets
Panel Number 28-E: 13
Cause of Death Gunfire
Weapon - Handgun
District Worked Southern

 

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