On this day in Baltimore Police History 1940 we lost our brother Patrolman William L. Ryan to knife wounds based on the following:

Sun paper reports dated 14 June 1940 titled,
Accused Slayer Faces Mind Test

Man Held as Attacker of Policeman Slated for Quiz Today -
Witnesses say the victim was stabbed to death without warning.  Mental examinations are expected today for Joseph Abata, 37, who was being held for investigation at the Central District police station in connection with the fatal stabbing yesterday Patrolman William L Ryan. A hearing is scheduled for 9 AM tomorrow at which the results of an autopsy, performed yesterday are expected to be disclosed, Ryan, police said, was stabbed several times with a butcher knife as he approached the accused in front of the mission house (Grace and Hope Mission) in the first block of S. Gay St. to investigate a complaint that Abata was brandishing a knife.


Without a word from Abata, witnesses said, he also was stabbed in the heart. He fired two shots at the flaying man before falling mortally wounded to the ground.


Ryan was pronounced dead at the Mercy hospital. He had been on the force since March 11, 1921. He was 44 years old, his wife Margaret, a son William L Junior 4 and a daughter Patricia Margaret 18 months old survived him. Abata who was captured by several firemen and citizens, lives in the 1400 block of Gulf Street he told police that he was born in Sicily, came to this country at the age of four, served in the Army and has a wife and young child somewhere in New York.  Could Judge O’Dunne have some involvement in this case too, in yesterday’s day in Baltimore Police History 1943, Judge O’Dunne set free a suspect that Killed our Brother William Woodcock, and the news reports dated 1 October 1940 entitled - “Judge O’Dunne to Help - Speed Criminal Cases - To Devote Next Week to Hearings - Will Try Hollins Market Stall Keepers” It is reported as follows;

As there are more than 500 open cases on the criminal dockets and several important cases are scheduled for trial in the next week, Judge Eugene O'Dunne has consented to devote his time next week to hearing cases in a third Criminal Court. Immediately 134 cases were assigned for trial in the third court, Including seventy-one gambling cases. Next Tuesday, Judge O'Dunne will try a number of Hollins Market stall keepers charged with violating a city ordinance.

It is interesting to note that the report ends by naming other judges slated to help with these trials - Slated for trial in the two regular Sessions of the Criminal Court presided over by Judge Edwin T. Dickerson and George A. Solter arc Neil Grant, former deputy city solicitor, and Albert E. Schmidt, former city cashier, both charged with larceny and embezzlement, .members of the Communist party charged with perjury, and John Joseph Abata, accused of killing a policeman. 

Could it be, could the same Judge that would free a Police Killer four years later in the Woodcock case, free this killer… while the above reports make it appear as though this would be the case, the following reports say, “NO!” Judge Edwin T Dickerson, heard this case and freed this defendant, or at least it would seem as though he was freed, he was sent to Shepard Pratt, and then off to a New York Mental Institution (For the record, I did a little research on nut houses of the 40’s… which while it may sound like a category on Jeopardy, they were no game… more like horror houses. It may have been best for a police Killer to have spent the rest of his life in one of these places. After all our brother did nothing more that answer a call, a call made by concerned citizens, citizens concerned for their safety. Officer Ryan, wanted to make the streets safer, rid them of people like Abata, and he did… Adata was never able to walk the streets or harm anyone again, what follows are the final reports on this case in which it says, “Abata Acquitted in Knife Slaying”. And continues, Man Who Killed Policeman Is Declared Insane and Likely to Remain So - Described as Suffering from Delusions, Believing People Are “Out To Get Him” Reported 9 October 1940; Joseph John Abata, 38, yesterday was acquitted, by reason of insanity of the charge of fatally stabbing patrolman William L Ryan last June 13 at Baltimore and gay Street.

Judge Edwin T Dickerson who rendered the verdict, said he based his conclusion on the testimony of two mental experts who testified that in their opinion Abata was insane at the time of the crime, insane now and likely to remain insane.


Abata immediately was taken to the Spring Grove state hospital pending efforts to have the defendant placed in a mental institution in New York where Abata was a resident until shortly before the murder. Dr. Manfred S Guttmacher, medical advisor to the supreme bench, said it is customary to put mental patients in an institution in the state where they maintained residence. The stabbing occurred when patrolman Ryan, who was investigating a report of a man who was wielding a knife was attacked and stabbed several times by Abata.


Patrolman Ryan was unable to defend himself, the attack was so sudden and violent, but he succeeded in drawing his revolver and firing to wild shots afterAbata threw him to the ground. He was pronounced dead shortly afterward.

Dr. Guttmacher and Dr. Arthur a Luttrell assistant superintendent of the Shepherd Pratt Hospital, testified that Abata suffered from delusions and behavior that people were "out to get him" it was because of this delusion that he carried a knife, they said.


Dr. Guttmacher said the defendant had served several Army enlistments and acted in an orderly manner before the stabbing, when he began to suffer from a mental disorders. He said a bot a believed himself and inventor and thought people were attempting to steal his inventions. Abata was represented by Charles C DiPaola, attorney appointed by the court.

It has been reported above but bears repeating, Our Brother William Ryan was survived by his wife, 4 year old son and 18 month old daughter. He is gone, but will never be forgotten. Killed at a time when his family was only give 1 year salary to bring up those kids, his wife was quite the hero too. God Bless him, and may he Rest in Peace.

More details

Name Description
End of Watch 13 June, 1940
City, St. 1400 block of Gulf Street
Panel Number 12-W: 10
Cause of Death Knife
District Worked Central

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