Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 11 years, 11 months, 16 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: 21st District - Wabash
District of Incident (Present Day): 009 - Deering
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 39
Date of Birth: 08 Aug 1926
Date of Appointment: 03 May 1954
Date of Incident: 19 Apr 1966
End of Watch: 19 Apr 1966
Date of Interment: 22 Apr 1966
Cemetery: St. Mary Catholic Cemetery - Evergreen Park, Illinois
Grave Location: Lot S1/2 539, Block --, Section M
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # D-4
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 24
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 3, Line 13
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 26-E: 1
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Sergeant Claude Melvin Fisher, Star #1570, aged 39 years, was an 11 year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 21st District – Wabash.
On April 19, 1966, at 1:30 a.m., Sergeant Fisher was off duty at O’Reilly’s Tavern located at 4622 South Western Avenue. While sitting at the bar he observed four suspicious subjects walk by the front of the tavern. A few seconds later, the front door opened and three men walked in, Alfred Armstrong, age 23, armed with a shotgun, Andrew L. Hale, age 19, Vern Rhodes and Jerry Sumlin, age 18, armed with a revolver. They immediately announced a hold up. Seeing their weapons, Sergeant Fisher drew his service revolver. Armstrong wheeled on him and fired twice from the shotgun. Sumlin, still standing at the door, also fired delivering the fatal shots. Armstrong then fired another blast. Sergeant Fisher returned fire twice striking Armstrong in his hand before slumping unconscious to the floor as the gunmen fled the tavern. During the firefight, Sergeant Fisher raised his hands toward his face at the moment Armstrong fired and his thumb and finger on one hand were severed by the shotgun blast. Armstong, Sumlin, and Hale fled and were met by a fourth man, Vernon Rhodes, age 19, waiting in a light colored Cadillac in which they made good their escape. Sergeant Fisher was transported to Central Community Hospital where he succumbed to his wounds an hour later.
The following day, Area 4 General Assignment detectives had a suspect in custody for complicity in an assault upon a teacher at Marshall High School. It appeared he had gunshot wounds of the left hand and forearm. Detectives noted the physical similarity to one of the wanted men. Confronted with the evidence, the suspect confessed and gave the names of his three accomplices. They were quickly rounded up and all admitted to being present during the incident.
On April 29, 1966, All four defendants were indicted by the Grand Jury for murder and two counts of robbery. Sumlin entered a plea of guilty. On September 16, 1966, Andrew Hale was acquitted of murder by Judge Edward J. Egan. Alfred Armstrong and Vernon Rhodes also stood trial and were found guilty. On October 17, 1966, Rhodes and Sumlin were sentenced to 50 to 100 years and Armstrong was sentenced to 100 to 150 years in the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet.
Sergeant Fisher was waked at Rozdilsky & Sons Funeral Home located at 5040 South Western Avenue, his funeral mass was also held at Rozdilsky & Sons Funeral Home. He was laid to rest on April 22, 1966 in St. Mary Catholic Cemetery, 3801 West 87th Street, Evergreen Park, Illinois. His grave is located in Lot S1/2 539, Block –, Section M.
Sergeant Claude Melvin Fisher, born August 5, 1926, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on May 3, 1954.
Sergeant Fisher was survived by his wife, Gloria Mae (nee Halko), age 39; children: Catherine, Gail, Karen, Michael Leonard and Sandra; mother, Pearl (nee Prestin) and siblings: Ethel, Grace Nimczak, James and Ralph. He was preceded in death by his father, Leonard.