Officer William Woodcock

Sgt Benjamin GrahamOfficer William Woodcock 


On this day in Baltimore Police History 1943 we lost our Brother Police Officer William Woodcock, as he was beat with his own Espantoon, and punched, stomped and kicked while he lay unconscious on the ground, based on the following.

On June 12, 1943 at approximately 10:37 p.m., Officer Woodcock responded to 1004 Brentwood Avenue to investigate an assault or threat thereof. During the investigation, Officer Woodcock took the suspect into custody and was responding to the victim’s house when the suspect Ronald Harris attacked the officer, taking his Espantoon and using it to knock Officer Woodcock unconscious, still while on the ground the officer was kicked, punched and stomped. Some witnesses say, Harris had three friend join him in the beating.

Witnesses said, Harris (39) first struck Officer Woodcock in the face, and knocked him to the ground, he then used Officer Woodcock’s espantoon against him. In fact, Officer Woodcock was taken to the ER where he later died, I tend to think he may have told investigators he was struck with his stick, as we know he came to and gave a statement to Captain Joseph Itzel, in which he gave an account of events to the Captain while naming suspect Harris. Others say Harris was joined by three of his friends who also took part in beating Officer Woodcock in about the head, while kicking and punching him as he lay unconscious and defenseless on the ground. From the newspaper – “Reports say Officer Woodcock regained consciousness at the hospital just long enough to identify one of suspects to Captain Joseph Itzel. Identified was Ronald Harris, 39 at the time was held without bail for grand jury action on a charge of murdering Patrolman William J. Woodcock.” This verse from the papers using the quote “long enough to identify one of suspects” let us know there was more than one suspect. That is all dropped as the case goes on. A hearing was held before magistrate Elmer J. Hammer in Central Police Court. Harris was held in $1,000 bail on each of two charges of assaulting two men who lived near his home in the 400 block East Eager Street. The assault charges were brought by John J. Mulgrew, of the 1000 block Brentwood Avenue, and Salvalor Costa, of the 600 block East Eager Street.

Arrested On June 12, Harris was on the front steps of his home about 9.30 P. M. His Attorneys were James E. Tippett, and Bernard S. Melnicove, who asked for a jury trial on the assault charges, didn’t really need a trail, there are three attorneys in a courtroom, aside from the Prosecuting attorney, and the Defense Attorney, there is the Judge, he is supposed to be impartial but this judge (Eugene O’Dunne) was pro-defense, he already had a disliking for police, and what he believed to be, “a willingness to use their Espantoon”, or as he said to “over use it”, so of all cases he to make a point, O’Dunne, picked this one. To make his point, he let a Police Killer go free, a case of an officer killed in the line of duty, would make headlines and get his point across… 5 Oct 1943, Judge Eugene O'Dunne acquitted Ronald Harris, the so called "maniac bandit," of a charge of Murdering Patrolman William J. Woodcock, holding that Woodcock's attempt to arrest Harris was illegal, and that the defendant did not use “unreasonable” force to repel the arrest. Judge O'Dunne contended that the officer attempted to arrest Harris without a warrant for a mere misdemeanor, which he did not see (i.e. not committed in his presence) was illegal. He pointed out the attempted arrest was based on the complaint of a mother who was not the victim, reported Harris threatened to beat her son. NOTE: If Harris would have admitted to this misdemeanor to Officer Woodcock, the arrest would have been legal, and his resisting wouldn’t have been justified. That said, the judge in this case was still wrong, because the resisting should have only been enough to escape the said “false” arrest, once free he should have gone, but by coming back, or continuing the assault, he was like an officer that uses excessive force, (the judge even eluded to it when he said, “the defendant did not use “unreasonable” force to repel the arrest” But he did, Woodcock made a statement, he told who his killer was, and that while, “down he was hit, kicked and stomped” by the defendant and three of the defendant’s friends. We already know he is guilty of a crime if more force is used than is needed, and if that crime leads to death, he should have been found guilty of at the very least manslaughter. I have read a lot of the judge’s words, and it was obvious he was not a fan of police, and it seems he used his powers, and dislike to free a POS, Police Killer.

The day after being acquitted Harris was arrested for drunk and disorderly. When taken before an afternoon judge, (he was still too drunk for morning sessions) he was asked by the judge if he had ever been arrested for drunk and disorderly, he answered, “I don’t think so?” so he was fined and given no jail time. In December (the 11th 1943) he was involved in a fight where he would be arrested and charged with assault, the courts again were lenient giving him just 60 days. In March of 1944 Harris was arrested with three friends for Theft and Burglary charges Harris wasn’t in court as he was too ill, so he was taken to the hospital, but his partners were sentenced to 4 and 5 years for their part in the crimes. Those arrested were Vince Bateman 21, Withrow Thompson 22, Joe Williams 25… All three signed affidavits saying they refused to assist Harris on a Robbery scheme he cooked up for an area Tavern Owner, that was crippled, Harris called all three, “Chicken Hearted” and told them, “when you go in to rob a man, rob him, and get it over quick!” a soldier who was AWOL was also arrested with Harris, but he was turned over to the military (He is probably getting out of the brig sometime within the next few years)

March 1944 Harris accused of theft of auto twice, the first February 24th and then again on the 28th these would be two auto theft charges, they stole a third from reliable Motors on the 27th of February Ronald Harris was sentenced last night to ten years in the Penitentiary after his conviction by a Criminal Court jury· on charges of larceny, receiving stolen goods and unauthorized use of an automobile. "Your record is extremely bad. Superlatives hardly describe it, "Judge .John T Tucker told the 40-year-old defendant in imposing sentence. "As soon as you get out of one difficulty, it seems you are in another." Convicted On Four Counts Judge Tucker imposed four-yearterms on each of two automobile larceny charges, and one-year terms on charges of receiving stolen goods and unauthorized use of an automobile. The sentences are to be served consecutively. Three other men indicted jointly with Harris on one or more of the charges received sentences ranging from four to five years when tried before Judge Tucker several Weeks ago. They were. Vincent Bateman and Withrow F. Thompson, each 1 given five years, and Joseph F. Williams, who received a four-year I term. According to statements by Joseph G. Finnerty, Assistant State's Attorney, Harris was the "ring leader" of a gang which rode the streets of Baltimore in stolen automobiles seeking places to "slick up." Began Operations In February the evidence disclosed that the defendants began operations last February 20 when Thompson stole the automobile of Robert Farnell Jr., of the 5400 block Jonquil Avenue, parked it on a side street in Westport and then joined the others in a
West Fayette street tavern
Their witnesses said, Harris told them of a man in the tavern who had $500, describing the owner of the money as a "good man to roll." Harris added that an automobile would be necessary before the robbery could be committed, and Thompson then informed the group of the stolen car in Westport and they went there by taxicab to get it, it was testified. When they returned to the tavern, the man had left. So the group rode around the city and nearby counties looking for places to stage holdups, the court and jury were told.
Cars Recovered
Famell's car was recovered on February 26, but prior to that time the gang had gone to a lot in the rear or the 300 block Monastery Avenue and stolen the high powered automobile of Newton Dale Johnson, the evidence disclosed. Witnesses said Mr. Johnson's automobile was recovered on February 27 from a location where it had been parked by the defendants, but the next day they’re turned to the lot and again stole Johnson's automobile. Mr. Finnerty contended they wanted the car because of its' high speed. Harris also was convicted of receiving property stolen from the third-floor apartment of Randolph Hoffman and his wife in the 200 block North Greene street. Criminal Record Read Mr." Finnerty read Harris' criminal record to the court. It follows:

1918- One year In St. Mary's Induatrial School for Larceny.

1923- Nine months in Wilmington, Del., for breaking and entering.

1923- Slx months forreceiving stolen goods

1924- Three years on six burglary charges

1925 - Committed to Spring Grove State Hospital

1925- Escaped Spring Grove State Hospital

1925- Ten years for shooting at four policeman, burglary, assault and

robbery, larceny and receiving stolen goods

1925 - Committed to Spring Grove State Hospital

1925 - Escaped Spring Grove State Hospital (Apprehended In South Carolina.)

1928 - Committed to Spring Grove State Hospital where he remained until 1933

1934 - Two, to five years In Philadelphia for breaking and entering.

1938 - $25 and costs for assault.

1940 - Suspended sentence for assault.

1940 - Elghteen months on two assault charges.

1942 - Elghteen months forassault and robbery.

1943 - Slxty days for disorderly conduct and assault.

1943 - September, Judge Eugene O’Dunne acquitted Harris of a charge of murdering a policeman after ruling that Harris was justified in resisting arrest because the arrest was illegal. What a sick son of a bitch and worthless judge. He went on to make a statement during another trial to try to explain his verdict, it came across as liberal judge with a disliking for police that wanted to make a statement. Judge O'Dunne, in the course of his statement, mentioned his recent acquittal of Ronald Harris, charged with the murder of a policeman, on the ground that the defendant had been justified in resisting arrest because the arrest was unlawful. The case attracted widespread public interest. "May I take advantage of this occasion," the jurist said yesterday, "to say a few words. "Baltimore has just cause to be proud of its Police Department. It is headed by Commissioner Hamilton R. Atkinson, a man risen from the ranks to the head of the department a man beloved by his force and enjoying the confidence and respect of the community.

Puts Them In Two Classes

"I would like the commissioner and the Police Department as a whole to feel that the Criminal Court is disposed to stand behind the department in the just enforcement of law and order, and to compel respect for its members as the representatives of law and order and to promote a feeling that the uniform is a badge of authority and entitled to be respected, and its officers obeyed - when acting within their legal rights. "I am equally anxious to have them know and realize , that the courts will not protect them in illegal arrests, begotten either of ignorance or arrogance; nor will it tolerate them building up a case in court to warrant their illegal action, by the use or false and perjured testimony” Judge O'Dunne stated that from his experience he has observed that police officers fall into two classes. 1 'They are, "Those who are conscious of their power and of its correspondingresponsibility; men who are self-poised, self-restrained and disposed to be firm but polite in the exercise of official duty.
His Second Type

"The other class of policemen may be described as those conscientious in the discharge or duty, zealous in its performance, anxious to make arrests on all possible occasions, ignorant of the law of when arrests may be legally made

without a warrant, fresh and arrogant in the exercise of their authority; utterly oblivious as to what constitutes a disturbance of the peace; men who regard themselves as the public peace, and in their minds, any disturbance of the police, or any question of their authority, is in itself, a crime-the “I am the law” type. "What they call 'back talk,' to such an officer, warrants slapping them in the face, white or colored. They feel free themselves to use any kind of opprobrious language to the victim, and goad him into loss of temper, then they assault or arrest him without warrant of law, and charge him with assault on an officer at the slightest resistance and then come to court and lie out of the facts so as to justify their conduct.

Mullin Case Ruling ·

"There. are comparatively few men on the police force, even from the higher rank down, who know what constitute: disturbing the public peace. They fail to put

the accent on public. Too many are infused with the idea that cursing the police under any circumstance, at any time or place, is not only a greater sin than cursing God, but mounts up to a public crime." Judge O'Dunne ruled that in arresting Mullin on the complaint or his wife and in her presence, the police were acting within their authority. He said that any beating which Mullin received at the hands of the police was provoked by the defendant because of his strenuous resistance.

Still he let a killer go free, because as he said in another statement

Judge Eugene O'Dunne yesterday acquitted Ronald Harris, so called "maniac bandit," of a charge of murdering Patrolman William J. Woodcock, 'holding that Woodcock's attempt to arrest Harris was illegal and that the defendant did not use unreasonable force to repel the· arrest Judge O'Dunne contended that the officer attempted to arrest Harris 'without a warrant for a mere misdemeanor which he did not see. He pointed out the attempted arrest was based on the complaint of a mother who reported Harris threatened to beat her son.

We all saw Harris’ record, and know he was arrested at least four times within the year after being released of Killing Officer Woodcock, the last case of robberies, theft’s etc. he was given 10 years. I was unable to find anything further. Some record indicate he may have gone back into Spring Grove State Hospital, but it is unclear if it is the same Ronald Harris.

Officer Woodcock is no longer with us, but he will never be forgotten. May he rest in Peace, and May God Bless Him.

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More Details

End of Watch 13 June, 1943
City, St. 1004 Brentwood Avenue
Panel Number 18-E: 9
Cause of Death Knife
District Worked Central


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