Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 2 months*
Unit of Assignment / Detail: 2nd Precinct - West Chicago Avenue Station
District of Incident (Present Day): 012 - Near West
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Friendly (Accidental)
Age at Time of Death: 27
Date of Birth: 17 Jan 1905
Date of Appointment: Dec 1870
Date of Incident: 18 Feb 1871
End of Watch: 18 Feb 1871
Date of Interment:
Cemetery: Unknown Cemetery
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # D-9
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 6
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall:
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 17-E: 10
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Probationary Patrolman Niels L. Hansen, Star # Unknown, aged 27 years, was a 2 month veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 2nd Precinct – West Chicago Avenue Station.
On February 18, 1871, at 11:30 p.m., Officer Hansen was leaning against a building at the Northeast corner of Chicago Avenue and Noble Street conversing with Officer John Hanratty and a Milwaukee Avenue Car Conductor named Sohle. The two men were standing at a distance of about five feet from Officer Hansen. Hansen was talking about the coldness of the weather and suddenly the report of a pistol was heard quite close by to where the three men were standing. So close in fact, that the flash was observed by Officer Hanratty and Mr. Sohle. Officer Hansen then collapsed to the ground and the two men leaped forward and picked him up. Officer Hansen was dead. Officer Hanratty then ran to the Chicago Avenue Station and made report of the shooting. The news of the affair produced a most profound sensation in the station, and several officers ran to the spot, while others procured a wagon to bring the murdered officer to the station. Mr. Sohle was standing over him, a crowd of anxious citizens around him. He endeavored to staunch the blood that flowed in torrents from the nose and mouth of the dead officer. Their efforts were useless, he being beyond mortal aid. Officer Hansen was taken to the station and laid out upon the floor.
The eager inquiries of the bystanders could elicit no further information from Mr. Sohle than that he saw the flash of a pistol, heard the report then saw Hansen fall to the ground. Hanratty said that he felt certain that the ball was from Hansen’s own pistol, the sound appearing to come from under his clothes. That this is absurd needs no demonstration in the face of the assertions of both witnesses that they saw the flash of the pistol. The policemen then examined the clothing of Officer Hansen in order to find the weapon that it was supposed he carried, but none was found on him, or, as it was afterward ascertained near the scene of the tragedy.
The officer appeared reluctant to make examination of the body to discover where was the fatal wound, until the Coroner should have viewed the remains. Shortly after 1:00 a.m. the bother of the dead officer, Abraham Hansen, Star #111, who was also a policeman at the Union Street Station, in company with reporters, arrived at the station. An examination of the body showed conclusively that no wounds were to be found. The head was covered with blood, though there where the wound was situated could not be determined.
It was believed, later, that Officer Hanratty was reaching into his overcoat pocket and accidentally discharged his revolver. The shot struck Patrolman Hansen in the face, killing him instantly.
Officer John Hanratty denied that the shot was fired from his pistol. He was subsequently charged with murder for refusing to admit that it was an accident or to provide any information. A jury found him not guilty.
Officer Hansen’s resting place is unknown. His death record was destroyed in the Chicago Fire.
Patrolman Niels L. Hansen, born in 1844, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department in December, 1870.
Officer Hansen was survived by his wife, two infant daughters and brother, Abraham (CPD).
Chicago Police Department homicide file not found for this incident.
On March 2, 2010, Officer Hansen’s star was retired by Superintendent Jody P. Weis and enshrined in the Superintendent’s Honored Star Case, located in the lobby at Chicago Police Headquarters, 3510 South Michigan Avenue.