OFFICER HAROLD E. WILLIAMS, EOW: 8-2-1931
By: Officer Mike Severance – North Precinct
On August 2, 1931 around 4:20 a.m., Officer Harry E. Williams, 32, was visiting some friends, Mr. and Mrs. John Fitzpatrick, at the Manzanita Hotel, 1607 1st Avenue. Officer Williams was off-duty and in plain clothes. John Fitzpatrick was the proprietor of the hotel. Williams, the Fitzpatricks, and another man were in the Fitzpatricks’ hotel room. Two other men came to the room. They were Bernard Byrne, 30, and Allen Price, 27. A disturbance started, and resulted in a gun battle in the hallway between Officer Williams and Byrne or Price. Officer Williams fired five shots before his pistol jammed. Officer Williams was shot and fell to the floor near a stairway. Police officers arrived, and Officer Williams was rushed to Virginia Mason Hospital. Seven people at the hotel, two women and five men were arrested. Those arrested included the Fitzpatricks, Price, and Byrne. Officer Williams never regained consciousness. He died around 4:30 p.m. that day. He was survived by his wife, Sophie, and his daughter, Harriett.
Officer Harry Williams’ funeral was held at the Butterworth Chapel on 8-4-1931. He was buried at Evergreen Cemetery.
An inquest jury listened to conflicting stories from the seven people who were arrested after the shooting. The jury did not assign blame for Officer Williams’ death to anybody. Nevertheless, Bernard Byrne and Allen Price were charged with the murder of Officer Williams and with a robbery which had occurred in a different part of Seattle several hours before the shooting. On January 24, 1932, before the trial date, the Prosecuting Attorney dropped the murder charges, and stated that it was hopeless to expect a conviction based upon the evidence. Price and Byrne were convicted for the robbery.
The Police Pension Board reserved its decision on a pension for the widow, Sophie Williams. The Pension Board stated that if Officer Williams was off-duty and attending a drinking party, as had been reported, the Pension Board might deny the pension, usually allowed only when a policeman is killed in the line of duty. No record was found to indicate if the Pension Board granted or did not grant a pension to Sophie Williams.
Bernard Byrne lived at the Manzanita Hotel. There was bad blood between him and John Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick told police that Byrne and Price had come to the door of his hotel room. When he opened the door, Byrne had a gun in his hand. Williams drew his gun and ordered Byrne and Price to leave. Officer Williams went into the hallway where the shooting started. Byrne told police that he and Price went to Fitzpatrick’s room because they thought John Fitzpatrick was beating Mrs. Fitzpatrick. When the door was opened, Williams opened fire. Byrne ran back to his room and got his own gun.
Harold E. Williams was born in March 1897 in the Spokane area. In 1900, the family was living in Spokane. Between 1900 and 1926, no records have been found to indicate where he lived or what he did for a living. On 2-26-1926, he married Sophie Bisiadski in King County. He was commissioned as a Seattle police officer on 9-1-1926. His name first appears in a Seattle Directory in 1927. No records, dated after Officer Williams’ death and pertaining to Sophie or Harriett Williams, have been found.
In May 1998, Officer Harold E. Williams was one of forty Seattle police officers, killed between 1881 and 1976, who were posthumously awarded the Washington Law Enforcement Medal of Honor. Officer Williams’ medal has been in the custody of the Seattle Police Department since 1998.