Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 5 years, 9 months, 12 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: District 3, 3rd Precinct - Cottage Grove
District of Incident (Present Day): 001 - Central
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 29
Date of Birth: 24 May 1889
Date of Appointment: 11 Nov 1914
Date of Incident: 23 Aug 1920
End of Watch: 23 Aug 1920
Date of Interment: 26 Aug 1920
Cemetery: Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery - Chicago, Illinois
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # B-6
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 19
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 2, Line 2
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 16-E: 9
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: U.S. Navy Reserve
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman William Edward Hennessey, Star #2461, aged 29 years, was a 5 year, 9 month, 12 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to District 3, 3rd Precinct – Cottage Grove.
On August 23, 1920, at 3:48 a.m., Officer Hennessey and his partner, Patrolman James A. Mulcahy, went to the Beaux Arts Club located in the old Pekin Theatre Building at 2700 South State Street. Officer Mulcahy entered the building, while Officer Hennessey stayed outside, climbing the stairs to the second floor where the Beaux Arts Club was located. He entered the club and walked to the bar where someone asked him to break a $100.00 bill. He did so and then walked into the room when Samuel J. Morton, aka Nails, met him. Morton said “Jim, gimme some ice,” which was slang for money. The two men joked a bit before walking to an alcove, where three women, including Lavinia Baldwin of 3511 South Indiana Avenue, had been sitting. The women vacated and the two sat down. While conversing the two men got into an argument and exchanged heated words. Morton then knocked Officer Mulcahy down when Hirschie Miller stepped in to act as a pacifier. The fight continued and Officer Hennessy who was walking outside with W. W. Britton, a former Dairymple agent, both ran upstairs after hearing about the scuffle. When they arrived they observed Officer Mulcahy on the floor of the alcove, bleeding from his lips, with Morton standing over him and Miller hanging onto Morton’s arms. Officer Mulcahy shouted “Stick it on ‘em” to Hennessy. At this point Officer Hennessy drew his gun and Morton slowly backed out of the alcove and then tripped over a chair falling to the floor. Mulcahy then jumped to his feet and came out of the alcove and kicked Morton in the head.
At this point, Miller came to the doorway and drew a gun. He and Officer Hennessy fired almost simultaneously, however witnesses later disagreed on this. Officer Hennessy fired, his round striking a mirror, himself being hit four times and collapsing to the floor. Miller then fired at Mulcahy one time, striking him. Panic set in and the patrons of the club ran out along. Britton then ran outside and called for a patrol wagon. By the time responding officers arrived only 12 of the 75 patrons in the club had remained. They were all held in secure custody. Officers Hennessy was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead at 5:30 a.m. on August 23, 1920. Officers Mulcahy was also transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead at 8:30 a.m. on August 23, 1920. Both officers had survived long enough to give a statement and name their attackers.
General Superintendent John J. Garrity soon arrived and personally took charge of the investigation. Soon after attache’s of the State’s Attorney Hoyne’s office arrived. The story of events was recreated with the help of witnesses who had been detained. The investigation led investigators along Chicago’s infamous Whiskey Trail, a million-dollar illicit liquor trafficking enterprise. The trail of clues took them through cabarets, crooked politics and gambling houses before leading the law to Hirschie Miller. Miller was an ex-boxer and Bailiff of the Municipal Court. He was a well-known runner for the whiskey ring along the trail. He was captured and freely admitted to killing Hennessy and Mulcahy but unrepentantly denied the blame, claiming he did not know they were policemen. Morton was also arrested. On August 31, 1920, Miller and Morton were held to the Grand Jury by the Coroner and were indicted. On October 21, 1921, both men were acquitted, despite Miller’s confession. On May 13, 1923, Morton was killed after being thrown from a horse on Clark Street near Diversey parkway. On July 12, 1939, Hirschie Miller died from heart disease in his sleep at the Sheridan Beach resort in Michigan City, Indiana.
Officer Hennessey was waked at his residence located at 6131 South Morgan Street. He was laid to rest on August 26, 1920 in Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery, 2755 West 111th Street, Chicago, Illinois.
Patrolman William Edward Hennessey, born May 24, 1891, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on November 11, 1914. He earned 1 Credible Mention during his career.
Officer Hennessey served in the U.S. Navy Reserve Force from June 21, 1918 thru December 24, 1918, was a veteran of World War I and was Honorably Discharged at the rank of Seamon 1st Class. He was survived by his fiancée, May Sherkey; mother, Elizabeth (nee Nolan) and siblings: Fred, Irene, Joseph B., Mrs. M. Casey and Sadie.
Incident Recorded under Chicago Police Department homicide file, Case #3933.