Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 1 year, 6 months, 4 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: 4th District - South Chicago
District of Incident (Present Day): 004 - South Chicago
Cause of Death: Aggravated Battery - Beating
Age at Time of Death: 27
Date of Birth: 15 May 1961
Date of Appointment: 17 Nov 1986
Date of Incident: 21 May 1988
End of Watch: 21 May 1988
Date of Interment: 24 May 1988
Cemetery: Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery - Calumet City, Illinois
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # D-8
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 20
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 3, Line 43
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 28-E: 17
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: Did Not Serve
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman John William Mathews, Sr., Star #9827, aged 27 years, was a 1 year, 6 month, 4 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 4th District – South Chicago.
On May 21, 1988, at approximately 12:00 a.m., Officer Mathews was off duty at his home when he monitored a police radio call for a disturbance of drag racing and drinking a block and a half away, near the shore of Wolf Lake. Beat 433, Patrolmen E. Hernandez and R. Mierniczak responded to the call and Officer Mathews walked over and assisted them in clearing the scene. Five men: James Kennedy, age 24 of 14018 South Burnham Avenue; Edward Manzo, age 19, of 2850 E. 127th Street; Ralph Gabriel, age 22, of 10710 South Avenue C; Dean Chavez, age 18, of 2847 E 127th Street and Anthony Chavez, age 22, of 2847 E 127th Street; who were at the disturbance ran into the woods to hide before police arrived. Officer Mathews had no contact with the men during the disturbance. Beat 433 effected an arrest and placed the arrestee in their vehicle and Officer Mathews returned home. Shortly after returning home he left again and went back to the scene of the disturbance. It was unknown why Mathews returned to the scene, but upon returning he was confronted by the five men who were hiding in the woods. Armed with two baseball bats and a crowbar the youth were looking for the person who slashed the tires on one of their two cars. When Tony Chavez asked Officer Mathews about the damage to the car, he announced that he was a police officer. Instead of dispersing, Kennedy came up from behind and struck Officer Matthews on the head with a bat. The others then joined in and began repeatedly beating Officer Matthews with the bats and crowbar in addition to kicks and punches. During the beating, Officer Mathews was able to draw his service revolver and get off one shot before it was knocked out of his hand. As the officer lay on the ground, Anthony Chavez took his police star and wallet before delivering one last blow to the head with a large brick. The offenders then dragged Officer Mathew’s body 25 to 30 feet to the edge of the lake when they heard cars coming. Thinking it was the police, which it was, the offenders fled into the woods. The offenders’ fled leaving both of their cars at the scene.
At 12:10 a.m., beat 433 returned to the scene after processing their arrest and discovered Officer Matthews body at 13029 South Avenue M. He had sustained severe injuries and was beaten so badly that he was unrecognizable by the responding officers. Officer Matthews sustained a broken skull, five fractured fingers and his body was covered in blood with cuts and bruises. He was transported to South Chicago Hospital and was pronounced dead on arrival at 4:18 a.m. on May 21, 1988. His weapon was later found along the dirt road where he was attacked. The baseball bat used to beat him was found floating in the lake. A watch, which was believed to be officer Matthews was also recovered from the lake by police divers.
The first two arrested in connection with the murder were Edward Manzo and Dean Chavez who were the registered owners of the cars. James Kennedy, Anthony Chavez and Ralph Gabriel, a soldier who was on leave from the Army at the time were later arrested. All five men were ordered held without bond. They later stood trial and were convicted. Anthony and Dean Chavez were both convicted of second-degree murder and were sentenced to 27 years in prison. James Kennedy pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Ralph Gabriel, an Army Corporal, was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Edward Manzo pleaded guilty to concealing a homicide and was sentenced to two years in prison. All of Officer Mathews killers have since been released from prison, the last two were paroled on March 25, 1999.
Officer Mathews was waked at Frank F. Opyt Funeral Home located at 13350 South Baltimore Avenue. His funeral mass was held at St. Columba Catholic Church located at 13323 South Green Bay Avenue. He was laid to rest on May 24, 1988 in Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery, 801 Michigan City Road, Calumet City, Illinois.
Patrolman John William Mathews, Sr., born May 15, 1961, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on November 17, 1986 and was in Recruit Class 86-8E at the Jackson Street Police Academy.
Officer Mathews was a member of the Fraternal Order of Police. He was survived by his wife, Laura Ann (nee Partin), age 23; children: Anne Marie, age 6, John Thomas, age 3 and Joseph William, Jr., age 4; parents: Lorraine (nee Nangle) and Richard (CPD); siblings: Lori, Richard and Susan and father-in-law, Gary Partin (CPD). Matthews son, Joseph later joined the Marine Corps and became a Cicero Firefighter.
Incident Recorded under Chicago Police Department RD #K201475.
On October 26, 1988, Officer Mathew’s star was retired by Superintendent LeRoy Martin and enshrined in the Superintendent’s Honored Star Case, located in the lobby at Chicago Police Headquarters, 1121 South State Street. In 2000, Chicago Police Headquarters moved to a new facility at 3510 South Michigan Avenue, Officer Mathew’s Star was re-encased in the new headquarters building lobby.