Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Park District Police Department
Served: Length of Service Unknown
Unit of Assignment / Detail: South Section
District of Incident (Present Day): 003 - Grand Crossing
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 59
Date of Birth: 30 Jun 1886
Date of Appointment:
Date of Incident: 30 Jun 1941
End of Watch: 30 Jun 1941
Date of Interment: 03 Jul 1941
Cemetery: Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery - Chicago, Illinois
Grave Location: Grave N, Lot 220, Block 48, Section --
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # D-1
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 10
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 2, Line 42
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 33-E: 5
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Park Policeman Charles J. Speaker, Star #357, aged 59 years, was a veteran of the Chicago Park District Police Department, assigned to the South Section.
On June 30, 1941, Officer Speaker, while patrolling his beat conducted a traffic stop at 5900 South Lake Shore Drive. He pulled up on Bernard “Knifey” Sawicki, age 19, in a car he had stolen the previous day. Sawicki was in the process of robbing a couple sitting in their car when he was spotted by Officer Speaker. When Sawicki saw Officer Speaker approaching, he drew his .22 caliber gun and fired at the officer. Officer Speaker was mortally wounded and later died.
Bernard “Knifey” Sawicki had a long record. He earned his reputation for violence in the fifth grade. He earned his nickname, Knifey, from those who saw him handle a knife. Officer Speaker became his fourth victim of murder. Sawicki had murdered John J. Miller, age 19, when he resisted him during a robbery in Sherman Park. Charles Kwasinski, age 17, a St. Charles parolee like Sawicki, shooting him after the two argued over whether to rob a hotel at 16th and State Streets. The other murder victim is unknown. Sawicki also shot at Clarence Swak, age 16, but missed.
Sawicki was later arrested on his mother’s front porch while bringing her candy. He was transported to the 18th District – Stock Yards station. He used the same .22 caliber gun in all of his shootings, showed no remorse and claimed that all the shootings were accidents. While in custody he claimed he didn’t fear the electric chair, for he always believed he would not live until the age of 21. Sawicki’s mother, in a statement to a newspaper, stated that he was the black sheep of the family and had always headed in a bad direction.
Bernard “Knifey” Sawicki was tried and found guilty after a long and contentious public trial. He was sentenced to death in the electric chair. On January 17, 1942, he was electrocuted in the electric chair at Cook County Jail.
Officer Speaker was waked at his residence located at 6828 South Drexel Avenue. His funeral mass was held at Holy Cross Parish Church located at 4521 South Wood Street. He was laid to rest on July 3, 1941 in Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery, 2755 West 111th, Chicago, Illinois. His grave is located 2-8 from South Line, in Grave N, Lot 220, Block 48, Section –.
Park Policeman Charles J. Speaker was born on July 18, 1883.
Officer Speaker was a member of the Chicago Park Policeman’s Benevolent Association, Holy Name Society and the Genoa Council No. 1659 Knights of Columbus. He was survived by his wife, Mary (nee Mahoney), age 49; children: Coletta, age 17, Joseph Martin, age 23, Margaret, age 25, Mary, age 20 and Theresa, age 29 and siblings: Frank, Henry, John Warning, Mrs. Fred Hiller and Sophia Kinney. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Infant Speaker, age 0 days and sister, Emma Cuttler.
The Chicago Park District Police Department, in the City of Chicago, was disbanded on December 31, 1957. On January 1, 1958, the remaining officers were transferred to the Chicago Police Department through an intergovernmental agreement. Fallen officers of the Chicago Park District Police Department are currently honored on the memorial wall of the Chicago Police Department as Chicago Police Officers. Their stars are displayed in the Honored Star Case located in the lobby of the Chicago Police Department at 3510 South Michigan Avenue.