RPPD Memorial Monument

In 1993 The Ridgefield Park Police Department celebrated its 100th anniversary. A Police Memorial was dedicated on the island at Euclid Avenue and Poplar Street. The memorial remembers John Ritter a Ridgefield Park Police Officer killed in the line of duty on September 7, 1920.

 

 

POLICEMAN JOHN “DOC” RITTER


The one occasion which every police department never wishes to attend is the funeral of one of their own members killed in the line of duty.  Unfortunately the Ridgefield Park Police Department had to do just that in September of 1920. 

POLICEMAN JOHN RITTER OF RIDGEFIELD PARK
VICTIM OF COWARDLY MURDER

Cyrus Oberson, of That Town, Confessed This Afternoon to Having Shot the Policemen, Corroborating an Earlier Confession of William Gleason, a Companion and Eye Witness of the Tragedy—Three Others Held as Material Witnesses—Murder Outcome of a Drunken Brawl.

Policeman John Ritter, of Ridgefield Park, was murdered last night in a most cowardly and wanton manner while endeavoring to assist a brother officer in taking three men to the police headquarters for acting disorderly.  Five men are under arrest, and it is believed the murderer is in a group, if a confession will count for anything.

There have been several versions told of just how the tragedy concurred, but the police of Ridgefield Park give this story:

Five young men, under the influence of liquor, had been arrested for creating a disturbance in a Little Ferry saloon, but were discharged when taken before the recorder there.

The men traveled east into Ridgefield Park and began to resume their boisterousness.

Policeman Taylor concluded to arrest George Duncan, of 110 Tenth Avenue, New York, and proceeded with him to the headquarters a mile distant.

William Gleason, of 109 East 127th Street, New York, and Cyrus Oberson, of 42 South Street, Ridgefield Park, followed the policeman and kept insisting that he release their friend Duncan.

When near the corner of Main and Brinkerhoff streets, Policeman Ritter met the trio.  He had just left headquarters and was on his way to the lunch wagon near the Little Ferry depot for a cup of coffee.  Policeman Taylor told him of the efforts of Gleason and Oberson to release their friend, and Ritter concluded to put the handcuffs on Gleason and take him to headquarters, too.

According to the confession said to have been made by Gleason, Oberson quickly raised the coat of Policeman Ritter and removed the Officer’s revolver from his pouch.  As the latter turned, Oberson fired five shots at the policeman, who doubtlessly was instantly killed by one of the bullets that lodged in his body, one passed through his wrist and another struck his nose.

Policeman Taylor hurried to headquarters with Gleason and notified Policeman Larson of what had happened, urging that a physician  be sent to the spot.  Larson hurried to where the trouble occurred and Dr. Mellwaine soon followed.  One glance told the doctor that medical aid was not needed, and an ambulance with Dr. Caldroneoy returned to Hackensack with the remains, which were placed in Hill’s morgue.

Arthur Fitspatrick, returning home, heard the shooting and was probably the first to reach the body of the murdered policeman.  Not knowing the circumstances he hurried to give headquarters the information.

Motorcycle Policeman Moore was soon on the job.  A search for the two men in the neighborhood was fruitless.  Then came a tip that the men had boarded a trolley car on the Pike line for Hoboken.  Then began a chase that ended near Fairview, when the policeman boarded the car and ordered Gleason and Oberson to leave, displaying his revolver to back up the order.

The accused men were taken to headquarters and then brought to the office of Prosecutor A.C. Hart by County Detectives Taylor and Dawson and men sent by the Sheriff’s office to assist in the capture including John Agar and Captain Ninks.

Others arrested as material witnesses were Ducan, Joseph Tracy, of Preston Street and Kaut Thompson, of 507 Austin Street, of Ridgefield Park.  The confessions of Gleason was said to have been made voluntarily.

Tracy and Thompson were with the party when the trouble occurred in Little Ferry, but they are said to have been in the lunch wagon when the shooting took place.

The murder created no end of indignation in Ridgefield Park, for Policeman Ritter was extremely popular in that town because of his fearlessness and fairness.  He leaves a widow and two children, and Mayor Hunter was asked to notify Mrs. Ritter of the death of her husband.  The Mayor who was at the police station at 4 o’clock thought it advisable not to awaken Mrs. Ritter at that early hour, and the task of notifying her was placed in the hands of Mrs. John Moore, who lives in the same house with the slain officer’s family.

About two years ago, Policeman Ritter fatally wounded Gus Dierck, who was found burglarizing the Susquehanna freight house at Ridgefield Park.  Dierck’s companion is now serving a term for that offense.

Much praise is being bestowed on the Ridgefield Park Police for their success in capturing the men implicated.

The revolver used in the murder was found this morning by Policeman Taylor near a hedge not far from where the shooting occurred.  Five bullets had been discharged and one bullet remained in the chamber.  It was identified as belonging to the dead policeman.

Roundsman Ritter had been on duty at a very enjoyable block dance on Euclid Avenue, had just reported to headquarters and was on his way for lunch when he was so cowardly shot down.

Word was sent out to the surrounding police stations and ferries to keep a watch for the men sought, and Captain Frank Kirk lost no time in posting the local men of the tragedy.

Oberson this afternoon also made a confession of the murder to Prosecutors A.C. Hart, Assistant Prosecutor C.J. McCarthy and Detective Taylor.  This statement corroborates the confession made by Gleason early today.

To the best of knowledge, both Cyrus Oberson and William Gleason were brought to trial, convicted, and sentenced to twenty years in state prison.  Both were released after serving 20 years for the crime.

A dedication to Officer Ritter exists at three different police memorials; one at the National Police Memorial in Washington D.C., one at the Bergen County Police Memorial located on the grounds of the Police Academy in Mahwah, NJ, and now one at the Ridgefield Park Memorial Monument at Euclid Avenue and Poplar Street, dedicated June 26, 1993.