Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 13 years, 0 months, 16 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: Bureau of Field Services - Patrol Division: Unit 053 - Area 3 Task Force
District of Incident (Present Day): 018 - Near North
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 38
Date of Birth: 24 Apr 1932
Date of Appointment: 01 Jul 1957
Date of Incident: 17 Jul 1970
End of Watch: 17 Jul 1970
Date of Interment: 21 Jul 1970
Cemetery: All Saints Catholic Cemetery - Des Plaines, Illinois
Grave Location: Grave 4, Lot 23, Block 6, Section 19
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # D-5
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 6
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 3, Line 22
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 35-E: 7
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: U.S. Army
Incident & Biographic Details
Sergeant James Louis Severin, Star #1319, aged 38 years, was a 13 years, 0 months, 16 days veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the Bureau of Field Services – Patrol Division: Unit 053 – Area 3 Task Force.
On July 17, 1970, Sergeant James Louis Severin and Sergeant Ed Wodnicki met in the 18th District Tactical Unit Office before they proceeded to Cabrini with their respective teams to engage in the “Walk & Talk“ program. A previous day’s confrontation necessitated having an additional person on Sergeant Wodnicki’s team for the day. As fate would have it, Officer Rizzato’s brother Nickalos, who was also a policeman, was assigned to Sergeant Wodnicki’s team. What followed was a vicious calculated murder of Patrolman Rizzato and Sergeant Severin.
Officer Rizzato and Sergeant Severin were volunteers for the Chicago Police Department’s “Walk & Talk“ project. The program was designed to cultivate community relations between Chicago Police Officers and residents of the Cabrini-Green housing complex. On July 17, 1970, the officers became victims of sniper fire as they walked across the Seward Park baseball field at Cabrini-Green. Officer Rizzato and Sergeant Severin were shot in their backs by high-powered rifles which erupted from two CHA buildings. The purpose of the shooting was to seal a pact between two rival gangs. Patrolmen Dennis Jurkowski, Bob Sargus, Curtis Crisler, and Sergeant Edward Stetter drove into the middle of the baseball field under a hail of sniper fire to recover the bodies of their fellow officers. Officer Rizzato and Sergeant Severin were transported to Henrotin Hospital where they were pronounced dead on arrival.
Four people were charged and arrested for the officers’ murders, George C. Knight, age 23; Johnnie Veal, age 18; Vernon R. Baker, age 14; Sidney Bennett, Jr., age 18. Knight and Veal were both found guilty of 1st degree murder and were each sentenced to 100 to 199 years in prison. In 1972, Baker’s charges were dropped. Bennett confessed to the murders, but was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial. In 1975, Bennett shot and killed a man while working as an armed security guard. He pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 1 to 5 years in prison. In 2021, Johnnie Veal, age 68, was granted a parole hearing. On February 25, 2021, Veal was granted parole and released. The Illinois Prisoner Review Board voted 8-4 to parole Veal.
Sergeant Severin was waked at John V. May Funeral Home located at 6857 West Higgins Avenue. His funeral mass was held at Immaculate Conception Parish located at 7211 West Talcott Avenue. He was laid to rest on July 21, 1970 in All Saints Catholic Cemetery and Mausoleum, 700 North River Road, Des Plaines, Illinois. His grave is located in Grave 4, Lot 23, Block 6, Section 19.
Sergeant James Louis Severin, born April 24, 1932, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on July 1, 1957. He earned 1 Award of Valor (posthumously) and 1 Blue Star Award (posthumously) during his career. On July 1, 1966, he was promoted to Sergeant.
Sergeant Severin served in the U.S. Army from May 7, 1951 thru April 22, 1953 and was Honorably Discharged at the rank of Corporal. He was survived by his mother, Catherine M. (nee Ireland) and siblings: Katherine Kizorek, William J. and Joan Mudd. He was preceded in death by his father, Louis H.
In June 1981, a new sports complex in the Cabrini-Green Homes complex located at Division and Orleans Streets was named in honor of Officer Rizzato and Sergeant Severin.
Incident Recorded under Chicago Police Department RD #J298263.