Police Officer John P Burns

Fallen HeroPolice Officer John P Burns

On this day in Baltimore Police History 7 January 1931, we lost our brother Police Officer John P Burns to gunfire based on the following:

Patrolman John P. Burns, and Sergeant Alfred Plitt were patrolling in the area of St. Mary’s Street when Molly Aims ask for their protection from her live-in boyfriend, Willie Smith, who she said had been beating her all day in the house they lived in at 382 St. Mary St. - Officer Burns was quick to lead the way; followed by Sgt. Plitt, they entered the house; Smith was nowhere to be found, as they began to look around the first floor. Their eyes still adjusting from coming in out of the bright light; into the darker house, the suspect, Willie Smith quickly descended a set of stairs from the second floor; he was holding a revolver in each hand, and it wouldn't be long before he began firing from both of them. Smith’s eyes were adjusted perfectly to the limited light in the house giving him the upper hand. He waited on the stairs until the officers reached a point that he would have them off guard, and gave him the best advantage. Firing simultaneously from both guns, Smith began firing on the officers; Officer Burns was closest to Smith, and therefore he was first to be hit. Taking one or two rounds to the upper torso, and a round near his heart put him immediately on the floor. Following the gun battle with the on the officers, a short hand-to-hand fight breaks out between Smith and Sgt. Plitt. Plitt was buffaloed across the back of his head with one of the heavy revolvers, and knocked to the floor. Sgt. Plitt, knew he had to continue fighting, his partner was shot, and possibly dead, the suspect was still standing, and this was not how Plitt would have things end. So as Plitt, makes it back to his feet, Smith was headed out the door, and begins to exit the house. Plitt fired on Smith until he emptied his pistol as Smith went out the door, and began to run up the street. We don’t know if he hit, or missed, but we do know Smith was slowed down. As smith made his way up the street, he could only go a few houses when he decided to barricade himself under a neighbor’s rear steps. 547 Orchard St., before leaving 382 St Mary St. Smith grabbed Officer Burn’s service revolver, but for some reason he sat it on top the steps he was hiding under on Orchard St. 

Barricaded under the steps with 2 of 3 weapons, Mr. Edward T. McIntyre, a civilian employed by the Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., picked up Sgt. Plitt, the two set out after the suspect in McIntyre’s automobile. Mr. McIntyre of 853 Wellington, found Plitt’s gun empty, unable to fire on Smith, he rushed the barricaded suspect, seizing the gun from on top of the steps, and shot Smith in the head; simultaneously Patrolman David S. Weed of the Northwestern District came up on Smith as he was firing shots. Smith now shot by both Mr. McIntyre, Officer Weed, and possibly Sgt. Plitt, was taken to University hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Meantime, Burns was fighting for his life at University Hospital, a call went out across the city asking officers to give blood. A pint of blood was given by Lieut. Henry Kriss of the Eastern District, as well as many other officers from East to West, and North to South, if you wore a Baltimore City Police Officer’s badge, you offered your blood to help your brother.

Sadly on this day, 1931, Officer Burns who had joined the department only ten years, and one day earlier, (January 6, 1921) would succumb to his injuries to 7 January 1931.

As his brothers and sisters of the Baltimore Police Department we will not let him be forgotten, and we will take this time to remember him, think of him and thank him for his service and sacrifice.

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More Details

End of Watch 7 January, 1931
City, St.             382 St. Mary St.
Panel Number 41-E: 9
Cause of Death           Gunfire
Weapon - Handgun
District Worked Northwestern

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