Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 10 years, 5 months, 1 day
Unit of Assignment / Detail: District 31 - Town Hall
District of Incident (Present Day): 019 - Town Hall
Cause of Death: Crash - Automobile
Age at Time of Death: 35
Date of Birth: 01 Jul 1891
Date of Appointment: 25 May 1916
Date of Incident: 26 Oct 1926
End of Watch: 26 Oct 1926
Date of Interment:
Cemetery: Mount Carmel Cemetery - Hillside, Illinois
Grave Location: Grave 4, Lot SS12, Block 8, Section 12
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # B-10
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 20
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 2, Line 18
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 1-E: 7
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Sergeant Walter J. Riley, Star #266, aged 35 years, was a 10 year, 5 month, 1 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to District 31 – Town Hall.
On October 26, 1926, Sergeant Riley and Sergeants Thomas Alcock and George Hennesy, were driving in a squad car responding to a report of a riot at the Grayland Theater located at 3940 North Cicero Avenue. While en route his squad car collided with another automobile owned by Cecil Chapel. The violent impact resulted in Sergeant Riley sustaining fatal injuries. Sergeant Riley died at the scene. Sergeants Thomas Alcock and George Hennesy were also seriously injured, but later recovered.
The car crash was an indirect result of the attempted murder of Samuel Werthelmer. The owner of the Grayland Theater, Albert Schmidt, was a very angry man who held onto grudges. Schmidt had a grudge against Samuel Werthelmer who was the previous owner of the theatre. On the night of Sergeant Riley’s death, Schmidt invited Werthelmer to the theatre with a false premise. Schmidt pretended to be eager to learn how the theatres ventilation system operated and asked Werthelmer if he could show him. As Werthelmer was looking over the system, Schmidt drew a concealed revolver from his suit and fired twice at Werthelmer as he tried to run. Werthelmer sustained a gunshot to his arm and leg; thinking he was dead, Schmidt turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. During the commotion, theatre patrons heard the gunfire and began to riot in response. This is what led to police being notified of a riot at the theatre. Seven squad cars were dispatched to the theatre to quell the melee.
Sergeant Riley was waked at his father’s residence located at 2541 West Argyle Street. His funeral mass was held at St. Sebastian Church located at 3021 West Dayton Street. He was laid to rest on October 30, 1926 in Mount Carmel Cemetery, 1400 South Wolf Road, Hillside, Illinois. His grave is located in Grave 4, Lot SS12, Block 8, Section 12.
Sergeant Walter J. Riley, born July 1, 1891, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on May 25, 1916. He earned 5 Credible Mentions and 1 Extra Compensation for Meritorious Conduct totaling $360.00 during his career.
Sergeant Riley was a member of the Chicago Policemen’s Benevolent & Welfare Association. He was survived by his wife, Bertha (nee Reynolds); father, James A. and siblings: Alice A., Florence, William J. He was preceded in death by his brother Hugh T.
Chicago Police Department homicide file not found for this incident.
Ironically, Sergeant Riley’s star number was previously issued to Sergeant Timothy S. O’Connell, who was also killed in the Line of Duty on May 8, 1900.