Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 9 months, 4 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: Town of Chicago - 9th Ward
District of Incident (Present Day): 018 - Near North
Cause of Death: Aggravated Battery - Blunt Trauma
Age at Time of Death: 39
Date of Birth: 1814
Date of Appointment: 01 Mar 1853
Date of Incident: 018 - Near North
End of Watch: 05 Dec 1853
Date of Interment:
Cemetery: New Catholic Burial Ground - Chicago, Illinois
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # D-9
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 22
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Not Listed
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 24-E: 26
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Constable of Police James Quinn, Star # Unknown, aged 39 years, was a 9 month, 4 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, elected to the Town of Chicago – 9th Ward.
On December 5, 1853, Constable Quinn succumbed to injuries sustained during two previous incidents in which he was attacked and severely beaten while in the discharge of his duties. The first attack occurred on Friday night, December 2, 1853, after Quinn, armed with a warrant, had arrested a man, Paul Parmilee, for theft in a notorious criminal hideout known as “The Sands“ a shantytown of brothels and saloons north of the Chicago River and east of present day Michigan Avenue. Quinn was escorting Parmilee to the Watch House when he asked Quinn if he could return to the place in the Sands in which he had been arrested to fetch his coat. As the Constable walked Parmilee back inside, ostensibly to get his coat, the establishment’s owner, William Rees, a notoriously violent man, attacked the Constable, breaking his ribs and injuring his jaw. During this altercation Parmilee escaped.
The following evening an arrest warrant was delivered to Constable Quinn ordering him to find and arrest the escapee. He returned to the Sands to conduct his search and again came upon Rees who had assaulted him the previous evening. Rees attacked Quinn, threw him to the ground and kicked him several times, fracturing additional ribs and puncturing the Constable’s lung.
Duty bound, and despite his injuries, Quinn reported back to the Watch House Sunday morning for the 5:00 a.m. end of watch roll call. Quinn briefed the Captain of the Night Watch who ordered his entire 26 men Night Watch to return to the Sands to search for and arrest both Parmilee and Rees. By mid-morning, both were in custody. Constable Quinn’s condition worsened throughout Sunday causing congestion of the brain. He succumbed to the injuries the following day, Monday, December 5, 1853.
On January 9, 1854, Rees was indicted by the Grand Jury for murder. On February 1, 1854, Rees was found guilty and sentenced to five years in in the Illinois State Penitentiary at Alton. On February 15, 1854, He began his sentence.
Constable Quinn’s funeral mass was held at Holy Name Church. He was laid to rest in the New Catholic Burial Ground, on Dearborn Street between North Avenue and Schiller Street. The cemetery was eventually closed and it is unknown if Constable Quinn’s remains were moved. The New Catholic Burial Ground was the direct predecessor of Calvary Cemetery and was located in the area presently bound by North Avenue, Burton Place, Dearborn Parkway and State Street directly west of the present residence of the Cardinal-Archbishop.
Constable of Police James Quinn, born in 1814, was elected on March 1, 1853. In 1853, the Constable served a dual role as Constable and police officer during the early stages of the Chicago Police Department.
Constable Quinn was survived by his wife, Margaret and son, Patrick. His son Patrick, known as Paddy, played major league baseball with the 1874 Chicago Champions of the Federal Club. He later played on Cap Anson’s Chicago White Stockings, the predecessor of the Chicago Cubs. Several of Constable Quinn’s grandsons James, Joseph and William served in the Chicago Fire Department. William J. O’Brien died in the line of duty on July 15, 1917 in a gas explosion. Another grandson, John J. O’Brien, became a Chicago Police Officer in 1901 rising to the rank of Captain before retiring in 1935.
On February 24, 1854, Margaret Quinn filed a petition with the Common Council for assistance because her husband “died while faithfully and honestly discharging his duty as an officer of the City of Chicago.” On March 6, 1854, the Council’s Committee on Judiciary issued a report concurring with Mrs. O’Brien’s petition and recommended a payment of $50.00. This marked the first time duty death benefits were awarded.
In 2007, a panel of seven professional historians from the Chicago History Museum reviewed all of the evidence in this case and unanimously found that Quinn “died as the result of injuries he suffered in the line of duty.“ These historians concluded, “We can say with certainty that Constable Quinn is the earliest known Chicago Police Officer to die in the line of duty.“
Chicago Police Historical Homicide Database case not found for this incident.
On March 2, 2010, Constable Quinn’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.
The Sands was an area located in present day Streeterville. It developed after a pier was constructed at the mouth of the Chicago River to protect a channel cut through the sand bar. Silt and sand accumulated north of this pier, creating usable land that was later nicknamed “The Sands.” When surveyed in 1821 the Lake Michigan shoreline north of the river ran approximately along what is now North Saint Clair Street, just to the east of what is now Michigan Avenue. In 1834, after a number of failed attempts to cut through the sandbar at the mouth of the river, a 1,500-foot (457.2 m) pier was built to protect a channel cut through the bar. The creation of this pier would lead to the creation of present day Streeterville.