Retired Seattle Police Officers Association


By: Officer Mike Severance #2866

Officer John Bartlett
John Bartlett

During the evening of March 7, 1968, Seattle Police Motorcycle Officer John E. Bartlett, 37, was working in an unmarked traffic car. Around 9:30 p.m., he stopped a taxi cab for speeding at Aurora N. and N. Motor Place. The traffic car was positioned in the normal manner to afford the officer protection from oncoming traffic. While Officer Bartlett was standing by the taxi, a northbound pickup truck passed the police car, and then deliberately swerved towards the officer. The truck’s outside mirror hit the officer, pushing him against the cab and throwing him about ten feet. Officer Bartlett was rushed to University Hospital with fractures and internal injuries. A call went out for blood donors. More than 100 Seattle Police Officers and Firefighters answered the call.

Officer R.T. Ballantyne located the abandoned pickup truck about one block away. He located the driver, Wayne L. Roberts, an insurance underwriter, near N. 42 St. and Whitman Ave. N. Roberts denied any knowledge of the accident. He was arrested for drunken driving,

Officer John Bartlett died at University Hospital at 4:42 p.m. on March 9, 1968. He was survived by his wife, Barbara, and his children, Bruce and Karen. He was also survived by his brother, Seattle Police Officer Bill Bartlett. Officer Bartlett’s funeral was held on March 12, 1969 at the Acacia Funeral Home Chapel. He was buried at Acacia Memorial Park.

Wayne L. Roberts was convicted of Negligent Homicide and Hit and Run. The prosecutor recommended a prison term of up to twenty years with a minimum of two years. King County Superior Court Judge Richard F. Broz sentenced Roberts to six years’ probation, court costs, and 200 hours of community service to an organization doing alcoholic rehabilitation work. Roberts was also ordered to pay $10,000 to Officer Bartlett’s widow at a rate of at least $150 per month.

John E. Bartlett was born in Seattle on January 19, 1931. He grew up in Seattle and graduated from Roosevelt High School. He worked for the railroad before enlisting in the U.S. Navy, and served during the Korean War. When he returned from Korea, he worked for Seattle Transit before joining the Seattle Fire Department. John married Barbara J. Stewart on February 11, 1955. He was commissioned as a Seattle Police Officer on January 2, 1959. John’s daughter, Karen, was killed in an automobile accident in 1979 in El Salvador where she taught English. Barbara died in Seattle in June 2000. As of 2013, John’s son, Bruce, was a sergeant with the King County Sheriff, and was assigned to the Shoreline Police Department.

In May 1998, Officer John E. Bartlett was one of forty Seattle Police Officers, killed between 1881 and 1977, who were posthumously awarded the Washington Law Enforcement Medal of Honor. A sworn member of SPD had been tasked with locating surviving families of our Fallen, and he had from 1995 to 1998 to do it. He managed to locate four surviving families who attended the 1998 presentation ceremony. The Bartlett family was one of those four families. After 1998, the Department made no effort to locate surviving families of the other thirty-six officers. At the 1998 ceremony, Officer Bartlett’s widow and children were presented his Medal of Honor.