Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 9 years, 1 month, 5 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: 22nd District - Maxwell
District of Incident (Present Day): 012 - Near West
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 35
Date of Birth: 15 Sep 1899
Date of Appointment: 26 Apr 1926
Date of Incident: 31 May 1935
End of Watch: 31 May 1935
Date of Interment: 04 Jun 1935
Cemetery: Acacia Park Cemetery - Norridge, Illinois
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # C-5
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 8
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 2, Line 38
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 22-E: 4
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman Thomas Kelma, Star #427, aged 35 years, was a 9 year, 1 month, 5 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 22nd District – Maxwell.
On May 31, 1935, at 9:30 p.m., Officer Kelma was off duty and playing a game of cards in a rear room of Ray Curran’s Tavern located at 2023 South Ashland Avenue. Two gunmen, Edward Derlack, age 27 and Jerry Reporto, age 24, entered the tavern, one ordered Kelma and his friends to raise their hands while the other moved towards the card table. Officer Kelma was sitting with his back to the door and was unaware of the gunman’s presence until they announced a stickup and demanded a card player, Joseph Jira, hand over his winnings. Once Kelma realized what was taking place he reacted by flipping the card table over at the same time he drew his weapon and fired at the gunmen. The gunman then got nervous and fled the tavern without any proceeds to an awaiting Ford sedan. They were met by their accomplices, Thomas Arelando, age 21 and Frank Bankes, age 28. Officer Kelma followed the gunmen outside the tavern and was met by a barrage of gunfire from the cars passengers. Kelma returned fire, but was struck two times in chest, one bullet hitting his heart causing him to collapse onto the sidewalk. The bandits then made good their escape.
Soon after a police squad in command of Sergeant Richard Adamek responded to the scene and transported Officer Kelma to St. Anthony’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
All four suspects were eventually apprehended, arrested and were charged with Officer Kelma’s murder. On July 26, 1935, Thomas Arelando was sentenced to serve 14 years in prison; Edward Derlack was sentenced to serve 199 years in prison; and Jerry Reporto was sentenced to serve life at the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet. Frank Bankes committed suicide in Cook County Jail before he was sentenced.
Officer Kelma was waked at a chapel located at 1021 West 19th Street, his funeral mass was also held at the chapel. He was laid to rest on June 4, 1935 in Bohemian National Cemetery, 5255 North Pulaski Road, Chicago, Illinois.
Patrolman Thomas Kelma, born September 15, 1899, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on April 26, 1926.
Officer Kelma was a member of the Chicago Policemen’s Benevolent & Welfare Association. He was survived by his wife, Agnes (nee Wachuta), age 29; children: Patricia Ann, age 8 and Rosemary Ann, age 5; father, Peter Szymkowak, Sr. and siblings: Anna, John, Joseph, Lillian, May and Peter, Jr.