Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 12 years, 6 months, 26 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: District 15, 20th Precinct - Fillmore
District of Incident (Present Day): 011 - Harrison
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 38
Date of Birth: 03 Feb 1881
Date of Appointment: 07 Mar 1907
Date of Incident: 03 Oct 1919
End of Watch: 03 Oct 1919
Date of Interment: 06 Oct 1919
Cemetery: Mount Carmel Cemetery - Hillside, Illinois
Grave Location: Grave 7, Lot S7, Block 1, Section Q
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # B-5
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 23
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 1, Line 58
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 19-W: 10
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Detective Sergeant George C. Burns, Star #207, aged 38 years, was a 12 year, 6 month, 26 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to District 15, 20th Precinct – Fillmore.
On October 3, 1919, at 12:57 a.m., Detective Sergeant and Detective Sergeant Bernard J. Lenehan were on duty inside Mulhern’s Saloon located at 3301 West Madison Street. The two officers were speaking with the bartender, Eugene Morrissey, and had only been inside the saloon for a few minutes when two men entered through a side door. The men came in wearing handkerchiefs over their faces and with their guns drawn. One of the bandits then struck a patron, Vernon Lambert of 2517 South Millard Avenue, on the knee with their gun and ordered him to hold up his hands. This caused Lambert to scream drawing the attention of the officers. They turned to see what the commotion was about and were recognized by the bandits as police. The bandits immediately opened fire as both officers reached for their weapons. Before Sergeant Burns could draw his service revolver he was struck four times in the abdomen and side. He was able to return fire as he ran after one bandit to the rear of the saloon before he slipped out a back door to the alley. Sergeant Lenehan in the meantime struggled with the other bandit and was shot in the forehead, at close range, as he attempted to restrain the robber. Despite being shot in the head, he continued to struggle with the bandit, the fight moving out the side door to the sidewalk. It was here that Sergeant Lenehan fell unconscious from loss of blood. The robbers then fled the scene to a waiting auto occupied a driver and another man. The flivver sped off driving South on Spaulding Avenue then turning west onto Van Buren Street and disappearing. Sergeant Burns was taken to Garfield Park Hospital where he died a half hour after arriving. Sergeant Lenehan was taken to St. Anthony Hospital where he lingered for two days before succumbing to his wounds on October 5, 1919.
Detectives investigating the shooting combed the city for the owner of a hat that was recovered at the scene. The hat had a trademark “Gus the Square Hatter.” In addition to the hat, police recovered a white handkerchief and a.38 caliber blue steel Smith and Wesson revolver, serial #22560, at the scene. The serial number was made public in the hope that a previous owner would step forward and provide a clue as to the owner. Description of the holdup men were also put out as 35 years old, one being about 5’10” tall with dark hair and a smooth face and the other slightly shorter with light brown hair and a clear complexion. A reward of $1,500, collected by fellow detectives was offered for any information leading to the arrest of the bandits.
One of the bandits involved was tentatively identified as John Kristoveck, a left handed shooter, after he shot and killed Sergeant Edward W. Marpool on October 26, 1920. The second gunman remains unknown and is still at large.
Sergeant Burns was waked at his residence located at 3939 West Fillmore Street. His funeral mass was held at Visitation Catholic Church located at 843 West Garfield Boulevard. He was laid to rest on October 6, 1919 in Mount Carmel Cemetery, 1400 South Wolf Road, Hillside, Illinois. His grave is located in Grave 7, Lot S7, Block 1, Section Q.
Detective Sergeant George C. Burns, born February 3, 1881, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on March 7, 1907. He earned 2 Credible Mentions during his career. On November 8, 1913, he was promoted to 2nd Class Detective Sergeant, becoming effective on November 10, 1913 and his title being officially changed by order of the city council on January 11, 1915. Prior to joining the Chicago Police Department he was a City Fireman.
Sergeant Burns was a member of the Chicago Policemen’s Benevolent & Welfare Association. He was survived by his wife, Mae and children: Edward, Hugh, Katherine, Maria, William and a sixth child.
Incident Recorded under Chicago Police Department homicide file, Case #3119.