Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 12 years, 2 months, 9 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: District 11, 15th Precinct - Thirty-Fifth Street
District of Incident (Present Day): 009 - Deering
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 39
Date of Birth: 25 Feb 1880
Date of Appointment: 08 Apr 1907
Date of Incident: 16 Jun 1919
End of Watch: 16 Jun 1919
Date of Interment: 19 Jun 1919
Cemetery: Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery - Chicago, Illinois
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # B-5
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 23
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 1, Line 56
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 34-E: 7
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman Richard J. Burke, Star #1236, aged 39 years, was a 12 year, 2 month, 9 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to District 11, 15th Precinct – Thirty-Fifth Street, detailed as a Parole Agent.
On June 16, 1919, at 1:35 a.m., Officer Burke entered O’Brien’s Saloon located at 33rd and Halsted Streets. The tavern was open past the legal closing time. He entered and announced that he was closing the establishment. A verbal altercation began resulting in John “Smiling Jack“ O’Brien firing several shots at Officer Burke. Officer Burke was struck and mortally wounded. After the shooting the patrons of the tavern dragged Officer Burke’s body and dumped him on the sidewalk outside the tavern. The men then jumped in a taxicab and sped away.
A witness, Miss Harriet Galewski of 749 West 33rd Street, stated that she had gone to her window when she heard the gunshots. She was able to observe three to four men dumping Officer Burke’s body on the sidewalk and speed off in a taxicab. Another on duty Patrolman was stationed nearby and also heard the gunshots. He ran to investigate and observed the taxicab speeding down the street. He fired his service revolver at the vehicle in an effort to force it to stop. The vehicle stopped and he arrested the driver, George Thompson of 635 West Woodland Avenue (present day Grace Street), and six passengers assuming the shooter may be among them. The taxi bore Illinois license number #71436 and was registered to the Emory Motor Livery Company located at 59 East 34th Street. It turned out he was right as John O’Brien and William “James” Kelly were among the six and eventually charged with the murder.
On July 18, 1919, O’Brien was held to the Grand Jury by the Coroner together with William Kelly as an accessory. On December 20, 1919, O’Brien was sentenced to hang on February 20, 1920 by Judge Kersten. On January 9, 1920, the case against Kelly was stricken off the record by Judge Kersten. On February 20, 1920, O’Brien was hanged at the Cook County Jail.
Officer Burke was waked at his residence located at 3331 Union Avenue. He was laid to rest on June 19, 1919 in Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery, 2755 West 111th Street, Chicago, Illinois.
Patrolman Richard J. Burke, born February 25, 1880, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on April 8, 1907. He earned 3 Credible Mentions during his career.
Officer Burke was survived by his wife.
Incident Recorded under Chicago Police Department homicide file, Case #3104.