Served: 6 years
About January 1850, John C. Walker (22) traveled from Indiana to Cincinnati to receive medical attention for diseased eyes. He travelled with a large Bowie knife on his person which was given to him by a friend in Indiana. On June 18, 1850, his sight was restored sufficiently for him to attend the Van Amburg’s Circus that had set up in the vacant block bounded by 12th, 13th, Vine, and Race Streets. The event was very crowded and he left his friends, who were seated, to stand closer to the ring.
He was standing with many others when Alexander Dalzell, a constable, ordered those assembled to stand back. Walker refused. Constable Dalzell ordered him again and he continued to refuse. Constable Dalzell grabbed him by the collar and pushed him back about ten feet. Walker put his hands to his bosom and Dalzell threatened that if he pulled a knife, he would kill him and then punched him in the face causing him to fall.
Upon seeing all this unfold, Constable Davison, according to his dying declaration, rushed in to assist Walker. But, Walker pulled his knife and deftly stabbed both officers. Constable Davison, who carried a cane, struck a blow to Walker’s head, but the damage was done and both officers were critically wounded. The crowd came upon Walker as if to lynch him, but order was restored.
Constable Davison died at the home of Nathan Marchant (later a Cincinnati Police Court judge), on Seventh Street, on June 25, 1850. Constable Dalzell lingered near death for many weeks, but recovered.
Constable Davison left a wife, Elizabeth (Eliza), to whom he had been married for 21 years. She lived alone after his death and worked as a nurse.
Walker was put on trial for Murder but was not found guilty. G. W. Carter prosecuted and four attorneys defended Walker. It might as well been five, for in his charge to the jury, Judge P. J. Warden all but directed the jury to acquit the defendant – which they did “after a few moments” of deliberation.
There are many reporting errors apparent with regard to this incident. Some report that Walker was being directed to give up his seat for some ladies who had arrived late. Still others indicate that one of the officers began the altercation with a “billy” to Walker’s head. The preponderance of this narrative, however, comes directly from court records.
If you have information, artifacts, archives, or images of this officer, please contact the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum at Director@police-museum.org.
This narrative was revised June 22, 2011 by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society President. All rights are reserved to him and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.