Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 1 year, 4 months, 12 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: 32nd District - Shakespeare
District of Incident (Present Day): 018 - Near North
Location of Occurrence: Cleveland Avenue and Wisconsin Street
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 22
Date of Birth: 01 Dec 1935
Date of Appointment: 1956
Date of Incident: 13 Jan 1958
End of Watch: 13 Jan 1958
Date of Interment: 11 May 1834
Cemetery: Queen of Heaven Cemetery - Hillside, Illinois
Grave Location: Grave 4, Lot 41, Block 10, Section 36
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # D-3
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 19
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 3, Line 5
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 64-W: 6
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: U.S. Marine Corps
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman John William Quirk, Star #9866, aged 22 years, was a 1 year, 4 month, 12 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 32nd District – Shakespeare.
On January 13, 1958, Officer Quirk was off duty on his second date with a young woman, Mrs. Caroline Smith, age 18. One of their first stops that evening included a tour of the Shakespeare Avenue Station located at 2131 North California Avenue where he was assigned. Their second stop was a restaurant located at 3801 West Fullerton where they had a chance meeting with his partner, Carmen Abbate, age 27 and visited for some time.
Officer Quirk drove the young woman home and pulled in front of the Towne Home Girls Residence, 22 East Banks Street at approximately 2:30 a.m. The moment the vehicle came to a stop, two men, Nicholas J. LaPapa, Jr., age 20, and George Starcevic, age 23, jumped into the back of the car from each side with guns drawn. The two robbers demanded their money and took jewelry. They then forced Officer Quirk to drive in the area of the north side. At Cleveland Avenue and Wisconsin Street, he crashed his vehicle into a parked auto. While drawing his service revolver from a shoulder holster, he spun around and fired into the rear of the vehicle. Officer Quirk used his body to shield his companion from the bullets as the shooting started. LaPapa dropped his gun and attempted to grab Officer Quirk’s gun as he continued to fire. LaPape was shot in his right hand. Three more bullets from Quirk’s gun passed through LaPape’s jacket and shirt but did not wound him. Officer Quirk then slumped over in the seat and LaPape and Starcevic exited the car and fled in different directions. Mrs. Smith, hysterical, blew the car horn until help arrived. Officer Quirk was mortally wounded and was transported to Grant Hospital where he died. He had been shot twice in the back and once in the chest.
After a city wide manhunt, LaPapa was apprehended at Henrotin Hospital while seeking first aid for a gunshot wound to his right hand sustained in the gun battle. LaPapa told hospital staff that he had cut his hand on a broken pitcher in his home. Physicians noting powder burns on his hand called Detectives Anton Bielski and Edwin Kirkwood. The detectives went to Quirks home and recovered five revolvers, including Quirk’s, from a paper bag located in a bureau drawer. LaPapa was arrested and confessed that he and Starcevic along with three other men had been committing robberies in Chicago for several months.
On January 13, 1958, Starcevic surrendered to the FBI agents at 51st Street and Racine Avenue accompanied by his attorney. The FBI agents went to that location after receiving a tip that Starcevic would be there. Upon his surrender, Starcevic stated “I have been in on a shooting a policeman on the north side and want to give myself up.“ Starcevic was transported to the FBI office at 212 West Montrose Street (present day 73rd Street) and Lieutenant Frank Pape, Deputy Chief of Detectives was notified. While at the FBI office Chief of Detectives Patrick Deeley arrived and questioned Starcevic who confessed to firing three shots and said that LaPapa also had fired, LaPapa had denied firing any shots. Starcevic also said that as he fled he threw his revolver on a roof of a nearby building. Police would later recover the gun at 1839 North Larrabee Street. Starcevic was transported back to the Detective Bureau handcuffed to Sergeants Patrick O’Connor and Charles Fitzgerald. While at the Detective Bureau both men were identified by Mrs. Smith as the two men who had kidnapped Officer Quirk and herself. LaPapa said “I’m sorry it happened,“ and Starcevic said “I’m sorry too.“ Starcevic was a former inmate of the Illinois State Training School for Boys in Kane County, who had escaped from the school four times.
The incident began when the two men drove in LaPapa’s 1957 automobile to a south side auto agency, where LaPapa planned to trade the car in for a newer model. Upon arrival they found the car dealer closed and decided to have a few drinks in two taverns near 63rd Street and Stewart Avenue until. At 1:00 a.m., they returned to LaPape’s home and parked the car. While inside, LaPape gave Starcevic a .38 caliber revolver and they started walking, looking for someone to rob. They spotted Quirk’s car in front of Mrs. Smith’s home and forced their way in.
LaPapa and Starcevic were held to the Grand Jury by the Coroner and a True Bill was returned for murder. On July 2, 1958, the two men plead guilty in criminal court. Nicholas J. LaPapa, Jr. received a sentence of life in prison and George Starcevic 199 years in prison.
Officer Quirk was waked at Rago Brothers Funeral Home located at 5120 West Fullerton Avenue. His funeral mass was held at Our Lady of Angels Church located at 3808 West Iowa Street. He was laid to rest on January 16, 1958 in Queen of Heaven Cemetery, 1400 South Wolf Road, Hillside, Illinois. His grave is located in Grave 4, Lot 41, Block 10, Section 36.
Patrolman John William Quirk, born December 1, 1935, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on September 1, 1956. He earned 1 Credible Mention during his career. Quirk was promoted to the rank of Patrolman First Class on October 30, 1957. Patrolman Quirk was recommended for promotion to Detective, only four days prior to his death.
Officer Quirk served in the U.S. Marine Corps, was stationed in Japan and was Honorably Discharged. He was survived by his parents: Caroline (nee Onofrio) and John R. and sister, Jo Ann Pluta.
On December 30, 1958, Detective Quirk’s star was retired by Commissioner Timothy J. O’Connor 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, Detective Quirk’s Star was re-encased in the new headquarters building lobby.