Slain Maryland trooper remembered

July 13, 2000

Slain Maryland trooper remembered

By MARC G. AUBER / Staff Writer

Lauren M. RidgeMaryland State Trooper Lauren M. Ridge survived the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, but died in Hagerstown fewer than nine years later.

Fifty years ago today, the WW II veteran became the first Maryland State Police trooper to be fatally shot in the line of duty.

He was 28 years old and left a wife and a young son.

Ridge, a Hagerstown High School and 1946 police training school graduate, was highly regarded for his detective work during his years in Frederick, Md. He wanted to return home with his wife, Alice, and son, William, and began working at what then was the Hagerstown substation.

A story in the Saturday, July 15, 1950, edition of The Morning Herald on Ridge's death reported that he and his wife had bought a home on Salem Avenue in 1949.


Ridge was settled, well-adjusted and respected by his peers, one of his four younger sisters, Zelda Hoover of Hagerstown, said Thursday.

He enjoyed spending time with his friends and, although serious at times "because he would recall what he had been through," he was fun-loving, she said.

William meant everything to him.

"He was so proud of his son," Hoover said, recalling a time when Ridge bought a pair of bib overalls for the youngster.

Hoover remembered Ridge saying, "Sis, come here and look at my big boy."

"He was so proud of him in his bib overalls," she said.

Shortly before 11 a.m. on Friday, July 14, 1950, Ridge left desk duty at City Hall for lunch.

He never had that meal, however.

While on his way, he answered a radio call that directed him to Northern Avenue where 60-year-old Steve Oris had fired at a pair of tax assessors as they fled in their car after a confrontation.

A native of Hungary, described in accounts at the time as "crazed" and a "recluse," Oris had been troubled by plans to widen Northern Avenue.

Oris, a former Vaudeville and circus performer, opposed the plans because of the effect the road widening would have on his property and, he feared, perhaps on his cement block home, The Morning Herald reported.

Ridge arrived at the address and approached Oris, who was holding a .22-caliber rifle.

Assessors Claude Artz and Kenneth Sinn said that Ridge took the rifle from Oris, who then drew a .38-caliber revolver and shot Ridge in the stomach.

Oris fired about five shots at the trooper and then fled inside his house.

Ridge took shelter and despite his injuries continued to return Oris' fire, and may have wounded him.

Then Ridge collapsed and died.

State, city and county officers quickly convened at Northern Avenue and eventually use tear gas to get Oris out of his house. He was taken to Washington County Hospital where he died weeks later, Hoover said.

She loved her brother and still misses him, but in due time forgave Oris.

"He was sort of an eccentric old fellow, but he came from the Old Country," Hoover said. "That is what he had and he wanted to preserve it."

Ridge's July 17 funeral was huge, Hoover recalled. "That church was packed. People had to stand outside because they couldn't get in," she said.

Following a "mile-long" procession, which included police cars from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware detachments, 60 state and 35 city police officers saluted Ridge's remains before he was buried at Harbaugh Cemetery near Rouzerville, Pa.

His second cousin, John Ridge of Greencastle, Pa., was too young to remember, but his mother, Jackie, does.

"It was so long that you didn't think you were getting to the cemetery," she said.

Ridge's brother, Kenneth, who was granted military leave to attend the funeral, was declared missing in action during the Korean War just five months later.

He never returned.

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