Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 4 years, 11 months, 26 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: Detective Bureau (DB)
District of Incident (Present Day): 011 - Harrison
Location of Occurrence:
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 27
Date of Birth: 06 Jul 1901
Date of Appointment: 26 May 1924
Date of Incident: 011 - Harrison
End of Watch: 22 May 1929
Date of Interment: 25 May 1929
Cemetery: Mount Carmel Cemetery - Hillside, Illinois
Grave Location: Grave 5, Lot N13, Block 5, Section 22
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # B-12
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 13
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 2, Line 24
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 14-W: 12
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Detective Joseph J. Sullivan, Star #5421, aged 27 years, was a 4 year, 11 month, 26 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the Detective Bureau.
On May 22, 1929, at 3:00 a.m., Detective Sullivan was found shot to death in his squad car in front of 3133 West Polk Street. Initially it was thought that his murder was in retaliation for assisting Lieutenant William Cusack’s Detective Bureau Squad. However, when Deputy Commissioner Stege received an anonymous call that theory changed. The caller stated that Detective Sullivan was murdered inside the speakeasy of Joseph “Red” Bolton located at 1610 West Polk Street. The caller then said that Elmo Clarke was the killer and that Sullivan’s body was placed inside the squad car and driven to the location where he was found. Stege then ordered Captain John Egan to investigate the claims. Captain Egan went to the location of the speakeasy and found a lamp shop. Not easily identifiable as a speakeasy from the outside, the lamp shop was a front for the speakeasy. The captain entered the building and made his way to the speakeasy, finding an empty room with no signs of a recent struggle.
The speakeasy in question was not unknown by the police, in fact two weeks prior to the murder of Detective Sullivan, a Lieutenant from a Westside station had been severely beaten there. It was at this point that some speculated the murder of Detective Sullivan was payback for coming to the aide of the Lieutenant who was a good friend. The speakeasy’s manager, Elmo Clarke, and bartender, William “Dinky” Quan” were believed to have beaten the Lieutenant. Investigators began looking for the two men so they could be questioned. Also wanted for questioning was Joseph Bolton and Bernard McComb, a patron of the speakeasy. Surprisingly, Bolton turned himself later that night; the same day as Sullivan’s Murder. However, he provided little help to reconstruct the events of the early morning murder claiming he left the place at 12:30 a.m. before Sullivan showed up. Bolton admitted to there being patrons still in the place, but refused to name names. Clarke was next to turn himself in and he also provided little information. He told police that Sullivan was there a short time before the shooting, but claimed he knew nothing else and could not identify the shooter. With no evidence to support the anonymous callers claim that Clarke shot Detective Sullivan, police released Clarke. Messages were then broadcast for the arrest of his bartender, William “Dinky“ Quan and Bernard McComb.
On September 10, 1929, William Quan, was apprehended and police learned that Detective Sullivan had been in the saloon only a short time before he was slain. He was said to be trying to gain information related to the kidnapping in which Detective Raymond Martin was killed. This supported the theory that Detective Sullivan was killed because he found an important clue in the investigation.
A new theory was developed through the course of investigation. Detective Joseph J. Sullivan was investigating the murder of Patrolman Raymond E. Martin who was killed on May 15, 1929 while working as a decoy in the David Blumenthal kidnaping plot. Detective Sullivan’s investigation took him to Joseph “Red“ Bolton’s Saloon, located at 1610 West Taylor Street, he arrived with the intention of gathering evidence in the David Blumenthal kidnaping plot. The bartender, William Quan, of the saloon was being sought for the murder of Officer Martin after police received an anonymous phone tip. After entering the saloon an altercation ensued and Detective Sullivan was shot to death in a hand-to-hand gun battle with Quan.
Another support for this contention was revealed when Detective Sullivan’s fiancée, Alice Bates, told investigators that he had phoned her hours earlier and told her he intended to visit the saloon to search for a suspect in the kidnapping. Others believed Sullivan was investigating the shooting of a post-office inspector, Evan L. Jackson several weeks earlier. Sullivan had gone to the speakeasy in search of William Doody, a notorious baby faced criminal. Official records offer no definitive explanation for Detective Sullivan’s murder, but all theories led to his death being classified as in the performance of his duties.
On May 22, 1929, Bolton was booked for accessory to murder but on June 14, 1929 was discharged by Judge Jonas. On August 4, 1929, William Barry, age 30, was arrested as a suspect in this case, he leaped from a window of the Bureau of Identification, located at 1121 South State Street, onto a moving “L“ train in an effort to escape and was killed. On September 10, 1929, Quan was arrested and after questioning turned over to the Sheriff on a Coroner’s Mittimus. In November 1929, the Grand Jury returned a No Bill and he was released. On December 27, 1929, Quan and two other gangsters were shot to death by Sergeant Patrick B. O’Connell and his Detective Division – Ford Squad 21-A. Quan and his men were killed after they were trapped in a union headquarters, located at 14 North Sacramento Boulevard, which they entered heavily armed with the purpose of extorting $10,000.00 from the president of the union. On November 15, 1929, the Grand Jury returned a No Bill on Quan and he was once again released.
Detective Sullivan was waked at his residence located at 1037 South Mayfield Avenue. His funeral mass was held at St. Francis Assisi Church located at 813 West Roosevelt Road. He was laid to rest on May 25, 1929 in Mount Carmel Cemetery, 1400 South Wolf Road, Hillside, Illinois. His grave is located in Grave 5, Lot N13, Block 5, Section 22.
Detective Joseph J. Sullivan, born July 6, 1901, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on May 26, 1924. He earned 3 Credible Mentions and 2 Extra Compensations for Meritorious Conduct totaling $600.00 during his career.
Detective Sullivan was survived by his fiancée, Alice Bates and father, Sergeant Jeremiah Sullivan (CPD).
Incident recorded under Chicago Police Historical Homicide Database, Case #11046.