Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 15 years, 6 months, 27 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: District 13, 42nd Precinct - Town Hall
District of Incident (Present Day): 001 - Central
Cause of Death: Struck - By Horse Drawn Wagon
Age at Time of Death: 48
Date of Birth: 30 Jan 1905
Date of Appointment: 04 Oct 1889
Date of Incident: 27 Apr 1905
End of Watch: 01 May 1905
Date of Interment: 08 May 1905
Cemetery: Calvary Cemetery - Evanston, Illinois
Grave Location: Lot N10, Block 4, Section 10
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # B-1
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 20
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 1, Line 35
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 27-E: 7
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrol Sergeant Richard Francis Cummings, Star #101, aged 48 years, was a 15 year, 6 month, 27 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to District 13, 42nd Precinct – Town Hall.
On April 27, 1905, shortly after 10:00 a.m., Sergeant Cummings was directing a squad of officers during a labor strike. The group of officers was assigned to the area as it was experiencing serious labor problems. Verbal conflict flared between strikebreakers and strike sympathizers. The sergeant and his squad were assigned to escort a caravan of wagons from the Montgomery Ward & Company heading Westbound on Washington Street near Dearborn Street. The caravan was led by a Patrol Wagon filled with policeman as well as another Patrol Wagon at the rear loaded with patrolman. The entire caravan was flanked on either side with a column of picked officers. The sidewalks on each side were overcrowded with teamsters and other strike sympathizers. This was among the first wagon trains to go out after the strike was called and its drivers were non-union.
Sergeant Cummings had fallen back to the rear where a dozen union truck drivers were harassing police. They were attempting to force their wagons alongside the procession to obstruct it. Immediately behind the rear Patrol Wagon was a yellow bus owned by the Weber & Bochu Company. John Ceresa whose job was to shuttle passengers between Marshall Field’s and the railway stations was driving it. Ceresa had pulled behind the Patrol Wagon at State Street and had tried to force his way past the procession several times. Acting aggressively the entire time, Ceresa continued to be obstructive and initiated several altercations with the patrolmen.
Between Dearborn and Clark Streets Ceresa made one final attempt to force his way past the caravan. Meanwhile Sergeant Cummings had been both walking next to and riding on the rear Patrol Wagon’s running board keeping an eye on the strikers. At the very same moment that Ceresa urged his horses to move forward past the caravan, Sergeant Cummings stepped off of the running board of the Patrol Wagon. Looking ahead at the line of police, Sergeant Cummings had stepped in front of Ceresa’s horses and without a chance to move. A policeman from the wagon yelled, “Look out there, Sergeant!” Sergeant Cummings was struck and trampled under the feet of the horses. Seconds later, the wheels of Ceresa’s bus passed over the Sergeant’s body. A score of policemen threw themselves onto the horses while a half dozen more grabbed Ceresa from his seat. The bus was stopped and emptied of its passengers. The strikers and passerby rushed in from all sides.
Sergeant Cummings was pulled from underneath the bus and was taken into No. 99 West Washington Street (present day 72 West Washington Street) to escape the crowd. A hurried medical examination revealed the sergeant to have sustained several broken ribs. Only one wheel had passed over him, crushing his chest and abdomen. He was rushed to Alexian Brothers Hospital where it was learned that he also had severe internal injuries. Sergeant Cummings died as a result of his injuries four days later on May 1, 1905.
Ceresa was arrested and taken to Central Police Headquarters for questioning. He persisted in declaring that he had not seen the sergeant and was merely trying to pass. On May 10, 1905, another man, Gus H. H., was arrested and held to the Grand Jury by the Coroner for the Sergeant’s death. On October 23, 1906, he was acquitted by a jury trial in Judge Kavanagh’s court. On July 12, 1905, John Ceresa was held to the Grand Jury by the Coroner for the death of Sergeant Cummings. On October 23, 1906, Ceresa was also acquitted.
Sergeant Cummings was waked at his residence located at No. 1794 Humboldt Boulevard (present day 2623 West Humboldt Boulevard). He was laid to rest on May 8, 1905 in Calvary Cemetery, 301 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois. His grave was located in Lot 13, Block 3, Section B. On April 19, 1916, his grave was relocated to Lot N10, Block 4, Section 10.
Patrol Sergeant Richard Francis Cummings, born in 1857, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on October 4, 1889. He was promoted to Sergeant 8 years prior. Sergeant Cummings had served at the Desplaines, Lake, Sheffield, East Chicago and Town Hall Stations. He also was part of the capture of Gustav Marx, the Car Barn Murder, arriving in time to help Detective Blaul overcome the prisoner after the murder of Patrolman John Quinn.
Sergeant Cummings was survived by his wife, Emmaline Latitia (nee Hayes) and children: Francis Emma, Joseph, Leo Patrick, Margaret Edna, Mary Ann, Mayme and Rena.
Incident Recorded under Chicago Police Department homicide file, Case #438.
On October 14, 1910, Sergeant Cummings’ star was retired by General Superintendent LeRoy T. Steward and enshrined in the Superintendent’s Honored Star Case, City Hall, 121 North LaSalle Street, Room 505, Office of the Superintendent of Police. Officer Shea’s star was one of fourteen stars added to the newly instituted memorial to preserve the memory of officers killed in the line of duty. The tradition of retiring a star number was born. In 1928, the star case was moved to the 4th floor Office of the Superintendent at Chicago Police Headquarters, 1121 South State Street. The Honored Star Case was later relocated to the lobby of Chicago Police Headquarters, 1121 South State Street. In 2000, Chicago Police Headquarters again moved to a new facility at 3510 South Michigan Avenue, Sergeant Cummings’ Star was re-encased in the new headquarters building lobby.