It is National Police Week and once again the Alexandria Police Department is serving as the host agency for the families of police officers who have died in the line of duty.
This year is special because the department has produced a booklet with photographs and biographical data on the 15 Alexandria police officers and one Alexandria deputy sheriff who have died serving the city.
"This is truly a tribute to the officers who have been killed, especially in the city of Alexandria," said Cpt. John Crawford, a spokesperson for the department. "This is the week when we honor all of the officers who have been killed in the line of duty from here to California and back again. Thousands of people will be visiting the city and participating in many events.
"In the past, the information which has been revealed in the church ceremony at the Baptist Temple Church on Commonwealth Avenue has been, in a way, almost distant. We read the names of the 16 officers from Alexandria and you know that these men gave their lives in the line of duty, but Amy [Bertsch] wanted to find out more — who were these men? What were their lives like? What were their families like? Where are they buried?
"She started this project a year ago and now we have this wonderful booklet with their pictures, pictures of their graves and more information about them than we have ever had before. I am very proud of the work she has done and Chief Samarra is looking forward to sharing this with the retired officers at our luncheon on Thursday," Crawford said.
Amy Bertsch works with Crawford in the police department's public information office. She has personally visited most of the officers' graves. She became interested in researching the 16 slain officers because, "We wanted to update the department's web page and I wanted to have a page where people could read about the officers whose lives were lost in the line of duty," Bertsch said.
"I wanted to include photos and images and not just text and I looked at what we had, even as far as text, and found that some of the dates were wrong and we had even spelled one officer's name incorrectly. There were so many things that weren't correct that I just wanted to update the information and I wanted to get photos of the officers," she said.
BERTSCH HAS FOUND every officer's grave and photos of all of the officers except Officer George W. Crump. He was shot on Oct. 28, 1893, and died from his wounds on Dec. 28, 1893. Like so many of the cases, Crump's story is compelling.
Crump and Officer Gayton Arrington were returning to police headquarters after a call for disorderly subjects. They joined a third officer, James McCuen, who was on duty at the police station, then housed on the first floor of City Hall. Between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., McCuen went to sleep. He awoke suddenly, drew his pistol and shot Crump in the left knee. Arrington stopped McCuen from shooting again.
"Because medical science wasn't then what it is today, he died from an infection two months later," Bertsch said. "The mayor held an inquiry into the incident and McCuen was found guilty of falling asleep and dereliction of duty. He was suspended for 30 days."
The police department has no photo of Crump but Bertsch has a lead. "I was able to verify that Officer Crump was a member of the Friendship Fire Company and have found a picture that they have from around the time that he was a police officer. We just need to figure out if he is in the picture and which one he is," she said.
JULIAN F. ARNOLD was the first officer to be killed in the line of duty. He was killed on May 14, 1887. Arnold and Officer Joseph Martin overheard two men planning to rob a saloon on King Street. "The officers did just what they should have done and called for backup," Bertsch said. "Even then, citizens in Alexandria were very involved in city government. The backup that the two officers obtained was two citizens."
The two officers and their assistants found the two suspects in a circus ring. As Arnold told them that they were under arrest, they began firing. Arnold returned fire but had already been shot in the torso. He died just hours later.
The two suspects fled. One was caught immediately and the other was apprehended a month later. One suspect was acquitted but Billy Williams was convicted of Arnold's murder. He served five years in prison.
While there were no known photographs of Arnold, Bertsch found a sketch of him in the Washington Post. Arnold was sworn in as an officer just one month after the department was organized in 1870 and had a 17-year career there.
In addition to not having a photograph of Arnold, Bertsch had problems locating his grave. "Newspapers have been incredibly helpful in finding much of this information," she said. "The Gazette was a daily then and said that Officer Arnold was burried at St. Mary's. I walked the cemetery many times and talked with the people at St. Mary's who were incredibly helpful. They found a diary from the priest who was at St. Mary's at the time. He noted that he buried Officer Arnold but there was no grave.
"I found the names of his children and found out that they were buried in the cemetery in the Wilkes Street complex. That's where I found Officer Arnold's grave. Apparently at some point, he was moved," she said.
Private Whitfield W. Lipscombe's grave was also hard to find. "I have a real special attachment to this officer because so many things about him were incorrect in our records," Bertsch said. "His name was spelled wrong when we gave the information to the National Law Enforcmeent Officers Memorial but I found his oath that he signed with the correct spelling. Now it is correct in our new listings."
Lipscombe was killed on the afternoon of Sept. 4, 1930. He was at the fire station on Windsor Avenue when an alarm sounded and firefighters were called to a car and brush fire along Four Mile Run. Lipscombe jumped on the back of the truck to assist.
They were traveling north on Route 1, approaching Four Mile Run. A truck cut in front of the fire engine and the firefighter swerved to avoid a collision. The fire engine overturned in a ditch, killing Lipscombe instantly. Three firefighters on the truck were also injured but survived. After his death, police officers were barred from riding on fire apparatus while on duty. Lipscombe was only 22 years old.
"The records and the newspaper accounts indicated that he was buried at Bethel Cemetery," Bertsch said. "His father died about four years after he did and he was also buried at Bethel. But they're not there anymore.
"The obituary also indicated that Wheatley buried Lipscombe so I checked with Everly-Wheatley and they were able to tell me that a woman named Loving had requested that both father and son be disinterred and moved to Lynchburg where she lived. I was able to find and visit his grave there," she said.
TWO BROTHERS served as Alexandria police officers and were killed in the line of duty. Sgt. Charles R. McClary was killed on June 20, 1929, and his brother, Cpl. Clarence J. McClary was killed on March 17, 1935.
Sgt. McClary was investigating a liquor complaint at a residence in the 500 block of N. Patrick Street. He was in front of the residence when he saw a man emerge from a dark alley. The man fired repeatedly, striking Sgt. McClary once in the neck. Sgt. Sims, who was working with McClary at the scene, put McClary in a car and rushed him to Alexandria Hospital. They attempted to operate on him but he was dead. His weapon was still holstered. He never had a chance to defend himself.
Cpl. McClary was killed while serving in a posse with eight other Alexandria officers and various federal state and local officers in Leesburg. They were searching for a moonshiner who was wanted for shooting a federal prohibition agent. In the hills alongside a farm south of Goose Creek in Loudoun County, they saw the wanted man in the distance with a rifle across his knees. Cpl. McClary, a sharpshooter, was armed with a high-powered rifle. He and the fugitive exchanged shots as McClary ran into the open before reaching a barn. McClary fired but missed and the suspect fired and struck McClary in the stomach. Cpl. McClary died minutes later. One McClary brother was 32 at the time of his death and one was 28.
"We have a memo to the city manager from the police chief regarding Cpl. McClary's death," Bertsch said. "He described Alexandria officers risking their lives to retrieve the body of their fallen comrade, even though the fugitive was not in custody. They stayed with his body until the fugitive was taken into custody and they could transport him."
THE SADDEST of the stories for Bertsch and Crawford is the story of the most recently killed officers. "I know people who worked with these officers and who were there that night," Bertsch said.
One of those officers is Crawford. "I worked with Charlie Hill and Andy Chelchowski," Crawford said. "I remember that night like it was yesterday. I never want to go through anything like that again and hope that none of our officers ever has to witness one of their colleagues being killed."
The incident began at around dark on the evening of March 22, 1989. The Special Operations Team or SWAT team, was called to the 300 block of Hopkins Court. Jamie M. Wise, a 34-year-old escapee from a Washington, D.C., halfway house, had taken five hostages inside a home to collect a drug debt. At 6:35 p.m., Wise emerged, holding a sawed-off shotgun to the head of a teenaged hostage. A police marksman fired and hit Wise but Wise, high on drugs, fired twice before other officers opened fire. Wise was killed but his two shots hit Cpl. Hill in the head and Officer Chelchowski in the legs. Hill was pronounced dead at 8:15 p.m. at the Washington Hospital Center. Officer Chelchowski endured months of recovery and rehabilitation. He returned to light duty status later that year and assumed his full duties with his K-9 partner in 1991, despite having more than 100 shotgun pellets in his leg. He remained in that assignment until his death on July 29, 1993.
"I still remember the noise of people running and Andy screaming after he was hit," Crawford said. "He never recovered completely." Chelchowski took his own life.
The stories of these and the other officers who have died in the line of duty will be available on the police web site later this year. Those who attend the memorial service at the Baptist Temple Church on Commonwealth Ave. on Thursday, May 13, at 7:30 p.m. will receive a copy of the booklet that Bertsch has produced. The service is open to the public.
If anyone has historic pictures that show Alexandria police officers or information about any of the slain officers, Bertsch is continuing to search for data. Descendants of slain officers or those with information can contact her at 703-838-4636.