Spencer  Thornton Jr. | Star #327

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): 001 - Central

Location of Occurrence: 3100 South Lake Shore Drive

Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy

Age at Time of Death: 37


Date of Birth: 31 Aug 1908

Date of Appointment:

Date of Incident: 03 Sep 1945

End of Watch: 03 Sep 1945

Date of Interment: 11 May 1834


Interment Details

 Cemetery: Lincoln Cemetery - Chicago, Illinois
 Grave Location: Unknown
 Interment Disposition: Burial


Memorial Details

Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # D-2

Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 15

Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 2, Line 44

National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 54-E: 3

Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed



 Military Service: No Military Record Found


Incident & Biographic Details

Park Policeman Spencer Thornton, Jr., Star #327, aged 37 years, was a veteran of the Chicago Park District Police Department, assigned to the South Section.

On September 3, 1945, Officer Thornton, Jr. was on duty at the 2nd Ward Democratic Picnic being held at the 31st Street Beach. While patrolling the event, he intervened in a quarrel between two men, James Coppage, age 44 and Will Robinson, age 45. Coppage produced a handgun and opened fire, killing Officer Thornton and Robinson. Two other police officers, Patrolman Edward Hall of the 8th District – Chicago Lawn station and Park Policeman Joseph Ryan who had also been assigned to the picnic heard the gunfire and rushed to the scene. They returned fire and shot Coppage in the face, shoulder and side. Officer Thornton was rushed to Michael Reese Hospital where he died shortly after his arrival from his wounds. Coppage was arrested and taken to Michael Reese Hospital before being transferred to the Bridewell Hospital where he recovered.

James Coppage stood trial and one year later was found guilty on two counts of murder. He was sentenced to two life sentences to be served concurrently.

Officer Thornton was laid to rest on September 7, 1945 in Lincoln Cemetery, 12300 South Kedzie Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.

Park Policeman Spencer Thornton, Jr. was born on August 31, 1908.

Officer Thornton was survived by his wife, Wilda (nee Holmes), age 33 and daughter, Myrdese, age 13.

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 Officer 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.