Officer John H. Spencer

Fallen HeroOfficer John H. Spencer 

2 March 1979

Policeman found Shot Dead near Car

The Sun (1837-1989); Mar 3, 1979; pg. B1

An off-duty Northwestern district policeman was found shot to death beside his parked car at Pennsylvania Avenue in school Street last night, homicide investigators reported.

The officer, identified as John H. Spencer, 40 years old, a 15 year veteran of the Police Department, was pronounced dead on arrival at Provident hospital shortly after 10 PM.

Officer Spencer was wearing civilian clothes. He had been shot once in the chest, according to Dennis S. Hill, the Police Department’s chief spokesman. The dead policeman’s badge and gun missing, Mr. Hill said.

Policeman are required to carry their service revolvers for use in emergencies, even when they are off-duty, according to the detectives on the case.

Colleagues at the Northwestern said early this morning that Officer Spencer was married and had two children.

The sling was discovered after a resident of a house nearby heard a single gunshot and fellow police. Detectives did not identify the caller and would not even say it was a man or woman.

No witnesses to the shooting had been found early today, according to Mr. Hill.

The motive for the shooting was not known, he said, nor wasn’t known if Officer Spencer, although not on duty, was following up on a case he’d been investigating earlier.



 2 arrested in slaying of off-duty policeman

Mar 4, 1979

The Sun (1837-1989); ; pg. B8

City police last night arrested a 23-year-old man and a teenager salt in the slaying of police officer John H. Spencer, 40, who was shot to death in an apparent robbery while off duty Friday night.

Acting on anonymous tip, seven homicide detectives and two uniformed officers went to an apartment in the first block S. Exeter St., “kicked in the door and caught [the suspects] by surprise,” said Dennis S. Hill, the police department spokesman. He said the raid occurred on the seventh floor of a high-rise apartment building.

Arrested and charged with murder last night were Joseph Lee Roy L Wood, 23, of the 500 block of gold Street, and Cedric Eugene Scott, 17, of the 2100 Block Ettings St., police said.

Neither suspect resisted arresting officers, and police found no firearms in the apartment, Mr. Hill said. He was unable to say in whose name the apartment was rented.

The men were held last night at Western district lockup pending a bail hearing today, detectives said.

Mr. Hill said the location of the suspects was learned “through a continuous investigation,” since the slaying Friday night and “an anonymous phone call” to detectives late yesterday afternoon.

Recovery of the slain officer’s badge which had been stolen along with his 38 caliber service revolver, yesterday morning was a great help to the investigation, leading to the issuance of arrest warrants for the two suspects, Mr. Hill said.

The warrant naming Mr. Allen’s listed his address as the same property were a child reported finding the badge yesterday, he said. The child, who was not identified, discovered the badge “in the grass” outside the apartment building in the 500 Block Gold St., he said.

Officer Spencer had been wearing civilian clothes when accosted by two persons at Pennsylvania Avenue and School St., Friday night, police reports said. The 15 year Police Department veteran, assigned to the Northwestern district, was found dead beside his car after a neighbor called police about gunshots in the vicinity, the reports said.

Mr. Hill said the officer’s home address would not be made public, but added that he did not live in the area where the shooting occurred.

Please had no details about why officer Spencer had been in the neighborhood, and Mr. Hill was unable to save the officer had been following up an earlier police case.

The officer was pronounced dead on arrival at Provident hospital shortly after 10 PM Friday. Police said he received a gunshot wound to the chest.

Mr. Hill said robbery was the likely motive for the killing. He declined to elaborate on the evidence detectives collected that led them to issue the two arrest warrants.



 Slain in Apparent Robbery

Mar 5, 1979

The Sun (1837-1989); ; pg. A8

Funeral services for Officer John H Spencer, Sr., of the Northwestern district operation unit, will be held at 10:30 AM tomorrow at St. Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church, Walbrook Avenue and Ellamont streets

Officer Spencer was slain while off duty Friday during an apparent robbery at Pennsylvania Avenue at school Street. Two suspects were charged with homicide last night.

Officer Spencer was 40 and lived in Randallstown.

A colleague, Lieut. Bessie Norris, of the Northwestern district, said yesterday that Throughout officer Spencer’s nine years with the district operation section, his specialty has been working with youngsters.

On his own time, Lieut. Norris said, Officer Spencer worked with children at the Towanda recreation center at Park Heights Avenue and Garrison Boulevard, and earned their respect.

In summer, he also recruited young people for Little League and recreation programs and also to them to the police boy’s club summer camp.

Aside from his interest in people, the Lieut. said, officer Spencer was a dedicated professional who was assigned to special crime-prevention patrols in high-crime areas.

Those areas included the Park Heights Avenue corridor from Garrison South to Virginia Avenue, as well as the area around liberty Heights and Gwynn Oak Avenue.

Lieut. Norris said her colleague was “a quiet guy who never flew off at the mouth,” and that this quality was reflected in his personnel file, which contained no citizen complaints it is 15 years of service in the district and on a narcotic and by squads.

She said Officer Spencer had been urged to study for the sergeants and lieutenants but always rebuffed those suggestions, saying, “There is a place for everybody, my place is as a patrolman.”

His supervisor said she felt officer Spencer may have had a premonition about “his time,” since only Friday had he introduced his mother to people on his post for the first time. Recently he also had gotten some of his things “in the shape,” Lieut. Norris said, “Because I think John somehow knew he was going.”

Also Spencer was born here and was a 1956 graduate of St. John’s College, a military high school, in Washington. He had been a worker at boy’s village in Cheltenham, Maryland. A post-office worker and a merchant seaman before becoming a police officer.

He was a member of the police organization and of St. Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church.

Supervisors include his wife, the former Nancy Burke, three sons, Scott H. Spencer, Brian S. Spencer and John H. Spencer, Junior., All of Randallstown; his mother, Freda Spencer, of Randallstown, and his father, John T. Spencer, of Glen Burnie.



2 Men to be Tried for Murder

Jul 19, 1979

The Sun (1837-1989); ; pg. C2

Judge Mary Arabian cleared the way yesterday for the trial of two men charged with the murder of an off-duty policeman, ruling that a police service revolver was properly seized in a raid on the Exeter Street apartment.

Today, Cedric E. Scott, 17, of the 2100 block of Etting Street, and Joseph L. I went, 23, of the 500 Block Gold St., will face trial on murder and robbery charges in the death of officer John H. Spencer, of the Northwestern district.

Officer Spencer, 40, died to March 1979, after he was shot once in the chest as he was about to enter his private car parked in the 600 block of school Street near Pennsylvania Avenue. He was off duty at the time.

According to arguments by Richard Karceski and Thomas E. Klug, defense lawyers, police in properly searched the Exeter Street apartment, where neither of the defendants lived, a day after the shooting occurred.

However, Judge Arabian agreed with Leslie a Stein, an assistant state’s attorney, the police had obtained a proper warrant for the search of the apartment after a group of seven persons had been taken in the custody.



 Murder Weapon Identified at Trial in Death of Off-Duty Policeman

Jul 24, 1979

The Sun (1837-1989); ; pg. C3

A 38 caliber police service revolver was identified yesterday in criminal court as the weapon which killed Officer John H. Spencer, an off-duty policeman who was shot to March 1979 in a 600 block of school Street.

The identification of the weapon, which belonged Officer Spencer, was the last testimony offered by the prosecution in the murder trial of John L. Owens , 23 of the 500 block of gold Street, and Cedric E. Scott, 19, 2100 block of Etting Street.

Both defendants are charged with killing officer Scott after robbing him of his gun, and two wallets [badge wallet/money wallet] it as he fumbled for the keys to his car which was parked on school Street.

Today, lawyers for Mr. Owens and Mr. Scott in a jury trial before Judge Mary Arabian will open their defense to the charges.

Before closing his case, Leslie A. Stein, an assistant state’s attorney, told the jury that the defense had stipulated to the testimony of the ballistics expert which showed also Spencer was killed by a bullet from his own gun.

A witness, Ralph will it, testified he saw Mr. Owens fire several shots from officer Spencer’s gone after he wants Mr. Owens and Mr. Scott yoke the policeman near the front door of his car.

However, Mr. Allen said in a statement given to police that Mr. Scott found the policeman service revolver after knocking him to the ground and searching them. Mr. Scott in his statement said that Mr. Owens had the gun.

Despite the conflict in testimony, JoAnn Chester, who lives on school Street, testified both Mr. Owens and Mr. Scott were visiting her when they saw officer Spencer staggered to his car in a way they felt showed he had been drinking.

Mr. Chester said she recalled telling the two defendants: “don’t you mess with that man.” Mr. Owens and Mr. Scott left her house, the witness said, and then see heard a noise “that sounded like three or four firecrackers.”

Mr. Willett, who also was visiting Mr. Chester, said he saw both defendants grabbed Officer Spencer and throw him to the ground. The witness said Mr. Owens stood up with the gun and said: “this is my lucky day.”

One shot was fired by Mr. Owens into the air and then he left the revolver and fired Officer Spencer, who had gotten up off the ground, Mr. Willett said.

Police arrested the defendant’s the next day after obtaining information they were at a seventh – floor apartment of a high – rise building in the first block of S. Exeter St.

Detectives testified that a search of the apartment disclosed officer Spencer’s revolver in a paper bag in a drawer of the coffee table in that department.

One of Officer Spencer’s Wallace was found in a similar at Golden Etting streets. His badge was handed to another policeman by a young boy who said he found it in the area was unable to say where, testimony disclosed.


1 black devider 800 8 72

Two guilty in murder of policeman

Jul 25, 1979


The Sun (1837-1989); ; pg. C1

Two men were found guilty last night of what a prosecutor called a “senseless and stupid” murder of an off-duty policeman who was attempting to get into his car to March 1979, in the 600 block of school Street.

Convicted of felony murder charges in the death of Officer John H. Spencer, 44, were Joseph Lee Roy Owens, 23, and Cedric Eugene Scott, now 19.

Held on $260,000 bail of peace, they face sentences of life imprisonment. A jury under Judge Mary Arabian deliberated for six hours before handing down the verdict.

Leslie A. Stein, an assistant state’s attorney, had argued to the jury that the shooting was senseless and stupid because the policeman apparently could not identify those who accosted him. Mr. Stein pointed out that Officer Spencer had been staggering as he approached his car and one witness said he appeared to have been drinking.

Also Spencer was shot once through the heart with his .38 caliber service revolver, which the witness said Owens took from him after knocking him to the street.

According to evidence in the week long trial, Owens and Scott had seen Officer Spencer as a left the house they were visiting in the 600 block of school Street.

A witness, JoAnn Chester, who lived at the school Street address, testified she told Ellen’s and Scott as they left;

“Don’t mess with that man.”

Another witness, wealth Willett, testified that he saw one search the policeman after he was knocked down and took his wallet and service revolver.

Mr. Willett quoted Owens as saying, “this is my lucky day,” after he found the revolver, the witness said Owens fired once in the air and fired again at Officer Spencer.

The next day police raided an apartment in the first block of S. Exeter St. and arrested Ellen’s and Scott, who were attending a party there.

A search of the apartment turned up Officer Spencer’s service revolver in the door of a coffee table in the living room.

During the trial neither Owens nor Scott took the stand in their own defense. They were represented by Richard Karceski and Thomas E. Klug.

However, Owens gave a statement to detectives in which he tried to explain that Scott was the man who took the pistol from the prone policeman. However, Scott gave a statement blaming Owens for the shooting.

Police recovered a while it taken from Officer Spencer, a 15 year veteran of the police force, in sewer at Etting and Gold streets.

Officer Spencer’s badge was handed to a patrolman by 15-year-old boy in the 1300 block W. North Ave. The boy was unable to say where he found the badge.



Man gets life in slaying of policeman

Sep 6, 1979


The Sun (1837-1989); ; pg. C20

Joseph L. Ellen was sentenced to life imprisonment +15 years yesterday for the felony murder of an off-duty policeman who was shot with his own service revolver as he was making fumbling attempts while intoxicated to get into his car.

A co-defendant, Cedric Eugene Scott was also sentenced to life imprisonment but an additional 15 year sentence in his case was not made to run concurrent with a life term.

Judge Mary Arabian, in criminal court, common that evidence showed the victim, officer John H. Spencer, 44, was “vulnerable and apparently helpless” at the time he was shot because he had been drinking.

Both defendants were convicted 24 July, for the fatal shooting of the 15 year veteran policeman, which occurred to March 1979 in the 600 block of school Street, officer Spencer was shot once in the chest with his own 38 caliber service revolver.

Owens, 23, of the 500 block of Gold Street, was identified as the gunman during the trial of the case. Owens and Scott, now 19, of the 2100 block of Etting Street, had just left the house in the 600 block of school Street when they saw the policeman trying to get into his private car.

After also Spencer was knocked down and searched they the two defendants, Ellen is found the policeman’s service revolver and while it, a witness said Ellen’s shouted out, “this is my lucky day,” the witness, Ralph will it, said.

I once fired once in the air and then fired again at Officer Spencer, evidence showed.



2 imprisoned for killing policeman lose effort to overturn convictions

Jun 5, 1981

The Sun (1837-1989); ; pg. C3

Annapolis – two men, convicted of killing an off-duty Baltimore city police officer during a robbery, yesterday lost in their efforts to have their convictions overturned.

The court of special appeals found no error in the trial of Lewis L. I went, 25 and Cedric E. Scott, now 21 that would justify sending the case back for a new trial. Both men are serving lifetime terms in prison

According to court records, the two men were about to enter the school Street apartment of a friend in March, 1979 when they saw officer John H. Spencer, 44, trying to unlock the door of his car.

Officer Spencer “was very drunk, and it looked it,” the appeals court observed, the two men “immediately decided to… .. Rob him.”

According to eyewitness testimony, Owens threw Officer Spencer to the ground and kicked him... Both then once found the officer’s revolver and exclaimed, “This is my lucky day.”

The men fire the gun twice in the air before sending two shots toward the officer, according to a witness.

Owens and Scott were arrested within 24 hours of the crime. Each man admitted participation in the robbery but blamed is companion for the murder.

On appeal, defense lawyers argued that the convictions should be overturned in part because the confessions by the two men should not have been used in a joint trial.

Referring to some Supreme Court decisions, the court of special appeals said the defense lawyers to write about the use of the confessions. But an opinion written by Judge H. Daniel, the appeals court said that the error was not serious enough to warrant throwing out the convictions.



DeviderMore Details

End of Watch 2 March, 1979
City, St. 600 School St
Panel Number N/A
Cause of Death Gunfire
Weapon - Officer's Handgun
District Worked Northwestern



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