Willis Wood “Johnny” Sides, Jr

Willis Wood “Johnny” Sides, Jr

Dallas, Dallas County, Texas, USA
Death 7 Feb 1951 (aged 22)
Dallas, Dallas County, Texas, USA
Burial Dallas, Dallas County, Texas, USA
Plot Floral Hill
Memorial ID 12221997 · View Source
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He was a City of Dallas, Texas police officer who was killed in the line of duty. Officer Sides and his partner, Harold Dawson, stopped a vehicle for failing to stop at a red light at Fourth and Pennsylvania Avenues in Dallas, Texas on January 22, 1951. As Officer Sides and his partner approached the vehicle, the four white males in the vehicle began shooting at the officers. Officer Sides was shot in the abdomen. Officer Sides was taken to Parkland Hospital and died from his injuries on February 7, 1951 at 6:31 p.m. His assailant was executed on April 9, 1952.

The Johnny Sides Rookie of the Year Award is presented annually to a Dallas Police Officer by the Dallas Junior Chamber of Commerce.
"Johnny Sides, a Dallas native and graduate of Sunset High School, went to work for the Dallas Police Department at the age of 17. Over the next four years he quickly advanced through the department's administrative office and then applied to take the police examination at the age of 21—the minimum age required to attend the police academy.
Upon his acceptance, Sides was reclassified as an apprentice policeman on Nov. 6, 1950–one of the happiest days of his life. No surprise to his classmates, Sides took on a leadership role by serving as vice president of his academy class while maintaining his involvement in the Dallas Junior Chamber of Commerce as chairman of the traffic safety committee.
Unfortunately, Sides' extraordinary service was cut short. Twenty-one days after graduating fifth in his class at the Dallas Police Academy, Sides was fatally wounded as he and his partner confronted a band of criminals wanted for vicious crimes in four other states. As he fought for his life in a hospital bed, Sides positively identified all four men involved in the shooting. Shortly thereafter, the criminals were arrested in Arkansas.
A few days later, on Feb. 7, 1951, Sides succumbed to his wounds. Although he was a police officer for too brief a time, Sides has inspired countless police officers and citizens with his dedication, leadership, caring attitude and sacrifice."
- Dallas Junior Chamber of Commerce
BROWNWOOD, Texas, June 12—A jury in Thirty-fifth District Court Tuesday night gave Marvin Johnson, 21, the death penalty for the murder of Rookie Patrolman Johnny Sides of Dallas.
The jury was out an hour and five minutes. It was the first death penalty assessed in Brownwood in more than twenty years.
Johnson took the jury's verdict stoically when it was read by Judge A. O. Newman. The chairman of the jury was Darrell Shelton, only lawyer to have served on a Brown County jury in a major trial in many years.
The slender defendant, clad in shirt sleeves and brown trousers, was hustled at once across the street to the Brown County jail by Texas Ranger Clarence Nordyke.
The courtroom was packed during the trial, which brought some surprises.
Marvin Johnson had maintained it was his Uncle Robert Johnson, not he, who shot Sides.
Marvin testified that Robert did all the shooting that night in South Dallas when Sides and Patrolman Harold L. Dawson stopped a quartet of hillbilly musicians in a stolen car for running a red light.
Sides was about to shoot him, said Marvin, when Robert came to his rescue and shot Sides, then ran around the car and shot Dawson with another gun.
This was the same story that Robert Johnson told at his own trial in March. A Dallas County jury on March 22 gave Uncle Robert the death penalty for Sides' shooting.
Marvin's story was in direct conflict, however, with that of Patrolman Dawson, who testified Tuesday that Marvin shot Sides from a distance of about two feet.
Marvin's own story had climaxed testimony and rebuttals which included repudiation by Maxwell Billy Pomeroy, 17, of everything he ever had said to incriminate Marvin. Pomeroy, third member of the hillbilly group which also included Marvin's brother, J. W. Johnson, told the jury he had "told a bunch of lies" in the March trial of Uncle Robert.
Co-defendant in the murder case with Marvin, Pomeroy had been called as the state's star witness, but without warning he testified Tuesday that he had never seen Marvin with a gun, either on the night of Jan. 22 or at any other time.
At Uncle Robert's trial, Pomeroy had testified that Marvin fired the fatal shots.
He lied, Pomeroy said, to save himself from the electric chair.
Marvin was the only defense witness at his trial. It was he whom Sides, on his death bed, pointed out as the one who shot him.
The Dallas Police Department Tuesday battled near-flood conditions around Brownwood to bring in two men who said they had seen Pomeroy sign the statement that originally implicated Marvin. They were Dallas County Tax Officers W. A. Jobson and W. H. (Pete) Ballard. Only Ballard got to testify.
Pomeroy denied remembering that he knew what he was signing when he signed the statement—"if I signed it." He was recalled after Ballard testified that Pomeroy went over the statement word for word, signed each page and initialed all corrections.
But still Pomeroy denied knowing what he had signed. He maintained he had been in fear of the electric chair. He still would not even identify the signature on the statement as his own.
Dallas Dist. Atty. Henry Wade testified he had never threatened Pomeroy with electrocution nor guaranteed him any immunity from prosecution. Pomeroy himself first proposed making the statement, Wade said.
But recalled to the stand, Pomeroy steadfastly refused to claim the signature. "Some people write like others," he said.
Brown County Sheriff Ray E. Masters testified that Pomeroy's cell in jail her was next to that of Marvin. He said Marvin's father, William V. Johnson, 45, of Lamont, Calif., had visited Marvin in jail and could have talked to both men. The senior Johnson, brother of the convicted Uncle Robert, was in the courtroom all day Monday and Tuesday.
Mrs. Willis Wood Sides Sr., mother of the slain man, testified in sign language through an interpreter that Sides was her son. She has been totally deaf since infancy.
On first taking the stand, Marvin Johnson spoke hesitantly in a low voice. After a few moments, however, he began to speak smoothly, without fumbling. Robert, he said, shot Sides with the .32 pistol to defend Marvin, and then ran around the front of the car and shot Dawson with the Luger.
Atty. Fred S. Harless of Dallas, who with Atty. William O. Breedlove of Brownwood was appointed to defend Marvin, brought out that Marvin had been in trouble at the age of sixteen for car theft, was let out on probation, got into another car theft scrape and went to reform school for six months.
But Marvin testified Tuesday he didn't know the car in which the quartet was riding was stolen.
He said Robert got the Luger and the .32 pistol in Fort Smith, Ark. He said the band had got two more shotguns and a rifle in Madill, Okla., from a hardware store.
"What were you going to do with all those guns?" asked Asst. Dist. Atty. Jimmie MacNicoll.
"I don't know," said Marvin.
Other witnesses included City Detective J. B. Drake of Dallas, who arrived on the South Dallas scene five minutes after Sides was shot; Dr. Louis A. Kregel, Dallas surgeon; Homicide Capt. Will Fritz and Glenn W. Byrd, investigator for the Dallas District Attorney's office.
Drake said he inspected Sides' firearm, that it was fully loaded and showed no sign of being fired.
Kregel said Sides had lived longer than anyone else in medical history with the kind of wound he suffered. Sides was hit in the aortic artery.
Fritz said Sides on his deathbed pointed out Marvin as his killer with a finger so weak that Sides couldn't straighten it out. "But he pointed to Marvin," said Fritz, "and he said, ‘that's the one who shot me.'"
Byrd said he took down Pomeroy's statement word for word in longhand for three hours before having it typed and giving it to Pomeroy to read and correct. No threats or promises were made to Pomeroy, he said.
Pomeroy concurred with his March testimony in saying that J. W. Johnson and he got out of the left side of the car, with J. W. in front and himself in the rear seat. Marvin got out of the rear seat on the right, and Robert got out of the front seat on the right, Pomeroy said.
But Pomeroy said Tuesday that the doors of the car on the right-hand side were closed after Marvin and Robert got out—so, nobody could see through the car. In March he had said he saw through.
"I couldn't see nobody on that side of the car while Officer Dawson was searching," he said. "I only saw a flash and heard a shot.
Then Robert came around the front of the car, and Dawson shot at him first. Dawson ran across the street and Robert shot him clear across the street, and Dawson kept firing."
Pomeroy said Marvin had no gun when he got out of the car, or when he got back in. "Robert had two guns on him, and nobody else had one. There was a .32 rifle in the back seat."
He said that after they got back into the car and drove away. "Marvin told me that Officer Sides put his gun up and Marvin knocked it aside and it went off. Marvin said it like to make him deaf, and he had little red spots on the side of his head."
Wade read over, line by line, a statement Pomeroy had made to Wade's investigators, and the testimony Pomeroy gave at Robert's trial.
"Did you say that?" Wade demanded after each line.
"I said what you told me to say," said Pomeroy each time. "You all told me you'd give me the electric chair if I didn't say it your way." Once, he added, "I didn't even know a jury would have to give me the electric chair."
"They promised me freedom if I testified their way and they said I'd get the electric chair if I didn't," Pomeroy said. "I was scared, but I figure now my freedom isn't worth killing a bunch of innocent people." He said he made up his mind to change his testimony after reading "what they wrote about us in those detective magazines."
Officer Dawson, who testified next, said Sides never had drawn his gun when Marvin Johnson shot him.
Dawson said it wasn't dark enough for headlights. He said all four car doors were open, and that he could see both through and over the car when the shooting started on the other side.
"Marvin whipped out a gun and shot Sides in the stomach," said Dawson. "It looked to me like the gun was right up against Sides."
On cross-examination by Breedlove and Harless, Dawson said he couldn't positively say that Sides never did fire a shot. "I never saw him fire one," he said.
Did you know," Harless demanded, "that Robert Johnson confessed from the witness stand that he shot Sides?"
Wade and MacNicoll objected, and Judge A. O. Newman sustained them.

Defendant Admits Firing Fatal Shot
It took a criminal district court jury just ten minutes Thursday night to decide that Uncle Robert Lee Johnson should die in the electric chair for the murder of Rookie Policeman Johnny Sides on Jan. 22.
The verdict was delivered just two months and a couple of hours after guns flared on a South Dallas street and Sides fell to the pavement, mortally wounded with a bullet in his abdomen.
As soon as Judge Robert A. (Bob) Hall received the verdict from Jury Foreman R. U. Wright and read it aloud, Deputy Sheriffs John Massey and O.H. Britt hustled the hillbilly fiddle player downstairs to the jail entrance.
Once they were inside, the cocky gunman, a little paler than usual, quipped, "Well, more than I expected. Didn't take them very damn long, did it?"
The jury got the case at 8:37 pm, after brief arguments by counsel, and it knocked on the courtroom door at 8:47. By then, Judge Hall had gone up the street to a café opposite City Hall. Detective Capt. Will Fritz phoned and had another officer interrupt the judge and tell him that the jury was ready.
The judge was back by 9 pm, and another half hour was consumed in waiting for the court-appointed defense lawyer, Fred S. Harless, to appear. Then the jury filed down and the verdict was read.
Impassive at Johnson's side was his youthful third wife. Earlier in the day, he had testified that a baby was expected in about a month.
A few hours earlier, Uncle Robert unexpectedly testified that he, and not Nephew Marvin, had shot Sides.
The sharp-faced defendant said he was confessing that he shot Sides because, "I don't think my conscience would allow me to see someone punished for a crime I commited."
The leader of the hillbilly musical quartet from Lamont, Calif., came off badly in a slashing cross-examination by Prosecutor Jimmy MacNicoll.
Against his testimony at the trial's close stood the following:
1. The statement by Billy Pomeroy, 17-year-old codefendant, that Marvin Johnson, 21, had shot Sides and Uncle Robert had shot Patrolman Harold Dawson, Sides' companion.
2. Dawson's own testimony corroborating this.
3. A dying declaration by Sides himself, identifying Robert as the man who shot Dawson and Marvin as the man who shot Sides.
4. The testimony of City Detective J. B. Drake that Sides' revolver never had been fired in the gunfight at Pennsylvania near Fourth Avenue in South Dallas. Uncle Robert said he shot Sides—and then Dawson—after Sides had fired first.
First witness was Police Chief Carl F. Hansson, who testified that Sides, 22, had worked for the police department since June, 1946, when he was seventeen years old. He progressed from a clerk-typist to a senior stenographer, the chief said, and as soon as he was old enough he took an examination and was appointed a patrolman. Sides' first day on duty was Jan. 1—just three weeks before the gun battle that ended his life.
Pomeroy, the next witness, [a] tall slender youth with a thatch of blond hair, looked like a normal 17-year-old in plaid sport shirt and brown trousers, but he told a story of larceny, murder, flight and capture during the wanderings of the band.
Pomeroy said he had asked Uncle Robert for a job last Christmas with the older man's "western band," and that Robert had started teaching him to play the guitar in Lamont, Calif. On Jan. 16, he said, Uncle Robert, Pomeroy and Nephews Marvin and J. W. Johnson, brothers, left Lamont in Pomeroy's newly purchased 1947 car for Popular Bluff, Mo. He said Robert promised him a job if he worked out all right.
In Ardmore, Okla., said the youth, they stopped and stole a 1950 Oldsmobile because Robert said their older model car "wasn't fast enough." Robert wired around the ignition, he said.
Near the Dallas-Kaufman County line, they stopped in the woods toward evening on Jan. 22 and Uncle Robert wiped the car clear of fingerprints. They did a little target shooting there, Pomeroy said. Their armament consisted Robert's German Luger pistol, a .32 automatic pistol of Marvin's, a .22 rifle of J. W. Johnson's and "an old crippled .32 pistol that wouldn't shoot," Pomeroy said.
They drove into Dallas with J. W. Johnson driving, Robert in the front seat beside him, Marvin in the back seat behind Robert, and Pomeroy behind the driver, he told Dist. Atty. Henry Wade.
They ran a red light making a right turn from the center lane, and a squad car began to follow them. A couple of blocks later, the policemen turned on their red light and siren and J. W. stopped the car. On the officer's orders, they got out of the car from the sides on which they had been riding.
Dawson started to search Pomeroy and J. W.; Pomeroy said he saw some "rassling" on the other side of the car. He said he saw Sides push Marvin's drawn gun down, then Marvin fired about four inches from Sides' abdomen. Sides grabbed his stomach and fell.
At the same time, he said, Robert came around the front of the car, Luger pistol in hand, and fired at Dawson. Pomeroy said he saw no gun in the hand of either officer.
Robert shot four times, and Marvin about eight, said Pomeroy. "I started for the police car, then turned around and ran back to the Olds." he said. He said he was unarmed. A bullet whistled past his head.
When Dawson started shooting, Robert said "Let's go," and everyone piled into the car and took off, Pomeroy said.
As they drove off, Pomeroy said Robert asked if he was scared, and Pomeroy said he was.
"He said he'd have to get us used to it," said Pomeroy.
He quoted Robert as asking Marvin if he had got his man, and Marvin as saying he had.
"Robert said, ‘I know I hit mine, he threw his arm up and went to shooting wild.'" And "Marvin said, ‘I hit mine in the stomach and kept shooting.'"
He said Robert was confident they would get around road blocks in their path, and remarked, "I can't be stopped now; I have my baby with me." Pomeroy said Robert then kissed his Luger. He identified all four guns, taken after their capture.
"Robert was directing where we went all the time," said Pomeroy. He said they stole a license plate off a 1936 Ford in Bonham.
Dr. William N. Fuqua described Sides' wound as entering his stomach and lodging in his pelvis, severing the main artery, the aorta. No man in medical literature has lived with such a wound, he said. Sides died Feb. 7.
As Dr. Fuqua testified, Juror Charles E. Johnson of 6725 North Ridge collapsed in his chair. Dr. Fuqua rushed over and revived him, while the trial momentarily halted.
Later in the day, in the jury room, Juror Johnson fainted again and was examined by the assistant county health officer, Dr. David Bornstein, who said he was nervous but able to continue.
Mrs. G. E. Wilson of Ardmore, Okla., said the car identified as the one the men were driving had been stolen from her on Jan. 20 and was recovered after their capture in Hardy, Ark.
Claude Pierson, Bonham farmer, said license plates recovered in Hardy from the Oldsmobile had been stolen from his 1936 Ford on Jan. 26.
L. B. Hill Jr. of Mesquite said he had seen the four men at the target practice in the woods near the Dallas-Kaufman County line on Jan. 22.
Patrolman Dawson said he and Sides stopped the car for running a red light and decided to search the occupants because "they were dressed very shabbily, needed shaves and haircuts, and looked very out-of-place in that late-model car."
His testimony corroborated that of Pomeroy in every important detail. He was wounded by Robert's Luger, the bullet striking his left wrist and lodging in his shoulder. Dawson said he didn't have a chance to draw his pistol until after Robert wounded him.
"I'll never forget that face (Robert's) as long as I live—that man running at me with a gun," he said.
Homicide Capt. Will Fritz recounted Sides' identification of the captured men from the Parkland Hospital bed where he lay dying.
"He couldn't talk very loud," said Fritz, "and he was so weak he couldn't straighten the finger he was pointing with. But he identified all four, and picked out the two who did the shooting."
Young, brawny Sheriff Guthrie Goodwin of Hardy, Ark., told of capturing Robert and J. W. Johnson in Hardy a few days after the shooting. He said they looked too shabby for their car and were trying to sell a new, single-barrel shotgun at a hardware store. As Goodwin searched the car, Robert pulled a Luger out of his belt and said "he was going to take us for a ride," said the sheriff. With Goodwin was Town Marshal Loyd (Peavine) Clouse.
"I jumped him and he shot the hat off my head. I got hold of the gun, threw it upward and away from me and it fired again, shot a window out of a building. In the scuffle I lost my gun, and we fell into a ditch.
"Then I used the weapon God Almighty gave me, the rock," he said. He stunned Robert with the rock and arrested both men. Clouse arrested Marvin and Pomeroy a little later.
Mrs. W. W. Sides, mother of the dead man, of 1206 South Oak Cliff Blvd, gave the trial another dramatic moment in her brief testimony. Totally deaf, she testified in sign language through Interpreter Mary Anderson that Sides was twenty-two years old and lived at her home. He left home between 2 and 2:30 pm on Jan. 22, and she saw him next at the hospital. With her testimony, the state rested.
Defense Attorney Harless put Robert on as the first defense witness. The defendant spoke hesitantly, in a low voice, occasionally chewing on a wad of gum. He said he was twenty-eight years old, not thirty-three, as Pomeroy had said.
He said Sides had searched Marvin first and found some .32 shells in his pocket, and asked where Marvin had got them. Marvin, he said, replied that he had found them, and Sides replied, "Yeah, damn it, I bet you did."
"He grabbed Marvin's shirt collar and pulled out his gun and held it up toward Marvin's left shoulder. Marvin threw his hand up and Sides' gun went off directly by me. I pushed Marvin aside. I had a .32 pistol and a Luger. I shot Officer Sides with the .32. I had the Luger in my right pocket, and I immediately taken it and went to the front of the car. I was afraid the officer on the other side might have his gun and kill the other boys. Dawson fired a shot and I fired."
Uncle Robert said it was so dark that "no one could have seen the other side of the car." He said Sides fired some shots after he was hit.
Prosecutor MacNicoll tore into the defendant like a buzz saw. Robert admitted he had served terms in the California and Oklahoma penitentiaries for car theft. He admitted stealing the Oldsmobile. He said he had "been drinking."
"So Sides started all this, did he?" the prosecutor demanded.
"Well, if it hadn't been for him grabbing Marvin and his pistol going off, I would have dropped my guns." He said he had been three feet from Sides when he shot him.
"Well, what had this young sheriff done to make you shoot his hat off?"
Robert hesitated a long time, and MacNicoll badgered him mercilessly.
"The other officer made a motion or something behind me," the defendant said. Later, he said, "Only one reason, I wanted to get away."
"Don't you know you're under indictment for shooting an officer in Mississippi last December?"
"I don't know that."
"Didn't you sign a confession?"
Robert did not answer.
The defense's only other witness was Weatherman W. B. Shope, who said the sun had set at 5:30 pm on Jan. 22, and visibility was fifteen miles at sunset. The shooting started about 6:05 pm.
In rebuttal, Officer Drake testified he came on the scene of the shooting five minutes after receiving a call, inspected Sides' gun and found all the shells still in the chamber. "It didn't even smell as if it had been fired," he said.


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Gravesite Details Badge # 337
  • Maintained by: SSBJღ
  • Originally Created by: Ed Brown
  • Added: 31 Oct 2005
  • Find A Grave Memorial 12221997
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  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Willis Wood “Johnny” Sides, Jr (12 Dec 1928–7 Feb 1951), Find A Grave Memorial no. 12221997, citing Restland Memorial Park, Dallas, Dallas County, Texas, USA ; Maintained by SSBJღ (contributor 46954568) .