Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 27 years, 10 months, 12 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: 41st District - Rogers Park
District of Incident (Present Day): 024 - Rogers Park
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 50
Date of Birth: 01 Jun 1895
Date of Appointment: 22 Nov 1917
Date of Incident: 02 Sep 1945
End of Watch: 02 Sep 1945
Date of Interment: 06 Sep 1945
Cemetery: St. Joseph Cemetery - River Grove, Illinois
Grave Location: Lot 40, Block 7, Section EE
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # D-2
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 20
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 2, Line 44
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 40-E: 4
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: U.S. Navy Reserve Force
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman George Henry Helstern, Star #1124, aged 50 years, was a 20 year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 41st District – Rogers Park.
On September 2, 1945, at 11:10 p.m., Officer Helstern and his partner, Charles A. Brady, working in plainclothes were en route to their beat. They observed a suspicious male near a currency exchange on Lunt Avenue and Clark Street. Knowing the suspect didn’t belong in the area the two officers crossed the street and positioned themselves out of sight. Watching the man for a moment, the officers then approached the subject and announced they were police officers. The offender, Cecil “Red” Smith immediately opened fire, mortally wounding both officers. Both officers returned fire, expending half dozen rounds, as they fell to the ground. Officer Helstern was shot in the cheek and chest and died almost immediately. Officer Brady was struck in the back but didn’t lose consciousness. As he lay on the ground he recognized a local civilian named Paul McMahon. Brady gave McMahon his service revolver and told him to do his best to the criminal. McMahon fired once at Smith as he made good his escape down a nearby alley.
A few minutes later a 41st District squad car driven by Patrolmen Arthur Ackman and George Heckenbech was driving to the station at 7075 North Clark Street. The officers observed a small crowd milling around the corner of Lunt Avenue and Clark Street and stopped to investigate. They quickly discovered Officer Brady lying face down on the sidewalk with his service revolver and spent cartridges scattered about nearby. The officers loaded Brady into their squad car to transport him to the hospital, when a witness informed them that there was another officer injured nearby. The officers ran to investigate and located Officer Helstern about 75 feet south of the corner. Both Officer Brady and Helstern were transported to St. Francis Hospital in Evanston by patrol wagon. Officer Helstern was pronounced dead on arrival on September 2, 1945. Officer Brady succumbed to his injuries three and a half hours after the shooting at 2:40 a.m. on September 3, 1945.
Following the shooting, police squads all over the city were put on alert to hunt down the killer. Several witnesses gave differing descriptions of the shooter. Detectives turned to Officer Brady for clarity as he lay in the hospital fighting for his life. Brady did his best to provide a description of the killer despite receiving multiple blood transfusions. He described the killer as a dirty-faced young man wearing a slouch hat, blue shirt, dark pants and a black rubber glove on his left hand. That led detectives to believe the killer had a prosthetic limb.
Cecil Smith was eventually apprehended and charged with two counts of murder. While awaiting trial he met a different justice. In December, 1945, Cecil Smith was shot and killed by members of his own gang in fear that he would turn in other gang members.
Officer Helstern was waked at Lain & Son Funeral Home located at 5501 North Ashland Avenue. His funeral mass was held at St. Henry Parish Church located at 6335 North Hoyne Avenue. He was laid to rest on September 6, 1945 in St. Joseph Cemetery, 3100 North Thatcher Avenue, River Grove, Illinois. His grave is located in Lot 40, Block 7, Section EE.
Patrolman George Henry Helstern, born June 1, 1895, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on November 22, 1917. He earned 3 Credible Mentions and 1 Extra Compensation for Meritorious Conduct totaling $120.00 during his career.
Officer Helstern served in the U.S. Navy Reserve from May 3, 1918 thru December 19, 1918, was a veteran of World War I and was Honorably Discharged at the rank of Apprentice Seaman. He was survived by his wife, Mary Agnes (nee Metzger), age 47; daughters: Joan Marie, age 10 and Mary Bernice Wenger, age 24; mother, Catherine (nee Schanzel) and siblings: Catherine Hientzelmeir, Cecilia Schuth, Ernest, Fred, Marie Arndt and William.