Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 4 years, 2 months, 26 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: District 3, 3rd Precinct - Cottage Grove
District of Incident (Present Day): 002 - Wentworth
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 29
Date of Birth: 24 Jun 1889
Date of Appointment: 05 Feb 1915
Date of Incident: 01 May 1919
End of Watch: 01 May 1919
Date of Interment: 05 May 1919
Cemetery: Odd Fellows Cemetery - Campbellsville, Kentucky
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # B-5
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 24
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 1, Line 56
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 36-E: 17
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman Cornelius Wilson, Star #2902, aged 29 years, was a 4 year, 2 month, 26 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to District 3, 3rd Precinct – Cottage Grove.
On May 1, 1919, at 2:00 a.m., Officer Wilson was in plain clothes walking home after his tour of duty. At 37th and State Streets he observed three men, Herman Dykes and Dan Harlan, suspected of committing a series of armed robberies. Officer Wilson approached them and asked a few questions. Without warning, the men produced handguns and began firing. Officer Wilson was able to return fire and fatally wound one of the assailants. A passing motorist came upon the scene and loaded Officer Wilson into their auto and rushed him to Provident Hospital. Their efforts were in vain as Officer Wilson succumbed to his injuries while en route to the hospital. At the same time another citizen notified the Cottage Grove Avenue Station of what had taken place and officers responded to the scene. An ambulance was summoned but was too late to help Officer Wilson. By the time it arrived he had already been taken to the hospital. Upon arrival officers searched the area and found one of the assailant’s dead body about a half a block away. On his person were found a mask and gun. The man also had a stocking cap which led investigators to believe he was a former soldier.
Two weeks after the incident, the Hooded Bandit Gang, a group of hoodlums who in the past six months had been robbing banks, coal yards, payrolls and pedestrians, confessed to the murder of Officer Wilson. Herman Dykes and Dan Harlan were arrested. While in custody, Harlan confessed to his part in the crime while being treated for a gunshot wound at Cook County hospital. He sustained the gunshot after Wilson’s murder. On May 14, 1919, they were charged with murder and held to the Grand Jury by the Coroner. On August 25, 1919, both men were found guilty and sentenced to life in the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet by Judge Guerin.
Officer Wilson was laid to rest on May 5, 1919 in the Odd Fellows Cemetery, George Williams Street, Campbellsville, Kentucky.
Patrolman Cornelius Wilson, born June 24, 1889, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on February 5, 1915. He earned 4 Credible Mentions during his career.
Officer Wilson was survived by his wife and parents: Matthew and Virginia (nee Miller). He was preceded in death by his wife.
Incident Recorded under Chicago Police Department homicide file, Case #5551.