Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 1 year, 2 months, 28 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: 10th District - Marquette
District of Incident (Present Day): 010 - Ogden
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 29
Date of Birth: 02 Jun 1945
Date of Appointment: 19 Mar 1973
Date of Incident: 16 Jun 1974
End of Watch: 16 Jun 1974
Date of Interment: 20 Jun 1974
Cemetery: Resurrection Catholic Cemetery - Justice, Illinois
Grave Location: Lot 10, Block 44, Section MM
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # D-6
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 12
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 3, Line 28
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 43-E: 3
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: U.S. Marine Corps
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman Robert James Strugala, Sr., Star #10236, aged 29 years, was a 1 year, 2 month, 28 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 10th District – Marquette.
On June 16, 1974, at 9:08 p.m., Officer Strugala and his partner, Patrolman John Wasco, age 25, were working the third watch on beat 1070. While on patrol and headed Westbound on 26th Street they were stopped at a red light located at Kedzie Avenue. They heard gunshots coming from the Rio Grande Tavern located at 3157 West 26th Street. Hearing the gunfire they left the squadrol in the middle of the street and went into the tavern to investigate. Officer Strugala entered through the front door and Officer Wasco through the side entrance. Two gunmen, Antonio Arias Guillen, age 31 and Jose Guillen, age 43 were inside firing at the bartender, Julian Ortiz. Upon entry Officer Wasco ordered the gunman to drop his weapon. Jose Guillen then turned toward Officer Wasco with his gun drawn. Officer Wasco fired once striking Jose Guillen in the shoulder. Simultaneously, Antonio Guillen Arias opened fire from across the room. Officer Strugala was shot in the chest. Officer Wasco was shot in the arm, abdomen and leg. The force of the bullets from the .38 semi-automatic firearm pushed Officer Wasco out of the doorway and into the street. The firefight lasted only 30 seconds. A barmaid, Guadalupe Lazzaraga, and patron, Jesus Posatos were also shot and injured during the gunfight.
Two other tactical units, beat 961, Patrolmen E. Kodatt and J. Mucharski and beat 962, Patrolmen L. Almanza and G. Leka, were stopped in traffic at the same red light beat 1071 was at when they heard the gunfire. While sitting at the light beat 961 observed a police squadrol stopped in the middle of the street in front of the tavern. The sqadrol’s driver door was open and Officer Wasco was observed standing holding a revolver with his arms extended aimed at the side door of the establishment. Beats 961 and 962 immediately pulled over and asked Officer Wasco what was going on. He stated he had been shot inside the tavern. The officers then notified Zone 6 that an officer was shot and secured both entrances to the tavern. The officers drew their revolvers and began to enter the tavern. As they approached the front door a volley of gunfire was heard from inside. In quick succession an unknown citizen ran out the front door followed by one of the offenders, Jose Guillen. He was ordered by the officers to drop his weapon. He threw the gun down on the sidewalk and attempted to flee Southbound on Kedzie Avenue. He was apprehended and placed into custody by beat 961. Meanwhile beat 962 entered the tavern and discovered Officer Strugala lying behind the bar in a pool of blood.
Officer Strugala was transported to Mount Sinai Hospital by CFD Ambulance #34 and pronounced dead on arrival by Dr. Bala at 9:42 p.m. on June 16, 1974. Officer Wasco was also transported to Mount Sinai Hospital where he was treated and released. He made a full recovery and returned to duty; retiring on June 15, 2004 after 34 years of service. The gunman, Jose Guillen was apprehended and Antonio Arias Guillen made good his escape and fled the state.
In October, 1974, Jose Guillen stood trial and was found guilty of Officer Strugala’s murder, Officer Wasco’s attempted murder, aggravated battery and armed violence. Guillen was sentenced to 50 to 100 years in prison for the murder Officer Strugala and to 10 to 30 years for the attempted murder of Officer Wasco. On July 19, 2004, the Illinois parole board released Jose Guillen from custody, after serving only 30 years of his 100 year sentence. Antonio Guillen Arias evaded capture and was never apprehended.
On October 3, 1986, Antonio Guillen Arias, was captured and arrested in California by the Santa Ana Police Department’s Officer Oliver Lofton after he received information that Arias was wanted for murder. Arias was extradited back to Chicago, stood trial, and was convicted.
Officer Strugala was waked at Lain & Son Funeral Home located at 2121 West 95th Street. His funeral mass was held at Holy Cross Church located at 4541 South Wood Street. He was laid to rest on June 20, 1974 in Resurrection Catholic Cemetery, 7201 Archer Avenue, Justice, Illinois. His grave is located in Lot 10, Block 44, Section MM.
Patrolman Robert James Strugala, Sr., born June 2, 1945, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on March 19, 1973. He attended the O’Brien Street Police Academy and was in Recruit Class 73-2G.
Officer Strugala served in the U.S. Marine Corps from August 22, 1963 thru August 21, 1967 and was Honorably Discharged. He was survived by his expectant wife, Christine Veronica (nee Reid), age 26; children: Robert James, Jr., age 2 and an Unborn Child, Jamie Maria; mother, Florence (nee Lyeek) and brothers, Donald, James, and Richard. He was preceded in death by his father, James Jay.
Incident Recorded under Chicago Police Department RD #P272130.
On October 21, 1982, the police department honored Officer Strugala’s memory by naming the M-2 police boat in the Department’s Marine Unit after him.