Ridgefield Park, NJ – A police memorial dedicated to a Ridgefield Park police officer who was murdered with his own service weapon almost 100 years ago was vandalized on Friday morning.
Ridgefield Park Acting Police Chief Joseph Rella said the attack on the memorial happened between 8 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. on July 17, the Daily Voice reported.
The vandals painted the words “Bad Cop Rella” on the monument in an apparent reference to the chief.
The Ridgefield Park Police Department addressed the vandalism in a post on their official Facebook page.
“Today the Ridgefield Park Police Monument was vandalized. This cowardly behavior is unacceptable,” the post read. “If you have a message for Chief Rella he welcomes a conversation. If you have any information regarding this incident please contact the police desk.”
Police have asked that anyone who may have witnessed anything unusual in the area of Euclid Avenue and Poplar Street on Friday morning come forward and talk to investigators, the Daily Voice reported.
Today the Ridgefield Park Police Monument was vandalized. This cowardly behavior is unacceptable. If you have a message for Chief Rella he welcomes a conversation. If you have any information regarding this incident please contact the police desk. pic.twitter.com/xx2v1TmOvG
— Ridgefield Park Police Department (@RPPDNJ) July 17, 2020
Authorities have also asked nearby neighbors to check their home security cameras to see if surveillance footage captured the vandalism.
Patrolman Ritter was fatally shot after another officer responded to a call about some men creating a disturbance at the Little Ferry Saloon on Sept. 7, 1920, according to the Ridgefield Park Police Department’s website.
That officer took one man into custody and began walking him to the station house about a mile away for booking.
Two of the man’s friends followed behind the officer, harassing him and demanding that he release their buddy, the website said.
Patrolman Ritter was on his way to lunch on duty when he encountered the entourage near the corner of Main and Brinkerhoff Streets and stopped to assist the other officer.
He decided to arrest William Gleason based on the other officer’s description of his attempted intervention in his friend’s arrest, the website said.
But when Patrolman Ritter went to handcuff Gleason, his wingman stepped in to intervene.
Police said Cyrus Oberson lifted up the patrolman’s coat and snatched his gun out of the pouch it was carried in, according to the police department’s website.
Patrolman Ritter quickly turned to face Oberson and the man shot the officer five times, including in the wrist and the nose.
He died at the scene.
Oberson and Gleason fled, and the officer whom Patrolman Ritter had been assisting rushed to headquarters to get help for the wounded hero.
Police got a tip that the two suspects had boarded a trolley to Hoboken and they were captured in Fairview, the website said.
Patrolman Ritter’s weapon was recovered from a hedge nearby where he was shot with one bullet left in the revolver’s chamber.
Gleason confessed voluntarily first, and then Oberson admitted that he had fatally shot the patrolman, according to the website.
Both men were tried and convicted of Patrolman Ritter’s murder, and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Gleason and Oberson served 20 years each and then were released.
The murdered hero had been a very popular patrolman in the village, and three dedications to him have been made on police memorials, according to the website.
Patrolman Ritter’s name is on the National Law Enforcement Memorial Wall in Washington, DC and on the Bergen County Police Memorial at the police academy in Mahwah.
The Ridgefield Park Memorial Monument that was vandalized on Friday morning was established in 1993 and is dedicated to the fallen hero.