Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 23 years, 1 month, 2 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: 27th District - Warren
District of Incident (Present Day): 012 - Near West
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 52
Date of Birth: 11 Aug 1903
Date of Appointment: 23 Dec 1932
Date of Incident: 012 - Near West
End of Watch: 25 Jan 1956
Date of Interment: 30 Jan 1956
Cemetery: Mount Carmel Cemetery - Hillside, Illinois
Grave Location: Grave 3, Lot 16, Block 3, Section S
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # D-3
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 7
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 3, Line 1
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 15-W: 15
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Detective Lyons Kelliher, Star #6695, aged 52 years, was a 23 year, 1 month, 2 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 27th District – Warren.
On January 25, 1956, Detective Kelliher and his partner, Detective William Derrig, were conducting a routine investigation to check reports that a club was a hangout for narcotics addicts. Detective Kelliher and Derrig entered the Boulevard Hotel located at 2801 West Warren Boulevard and approached James Worthy, age 22, and Donald Lawrence, age 17, in the hotels Colonial Room Tavern, a combination tavern and restaurant. As Detective Derrig was searching Lawrence, the man pulled out a revolver from his belt and shot Detective Derrig in the right hand and in the right foot. Detective Derrig’s wounds prevented him from reaching for his own gun. Meanwhile, Detective Kelliher was searching James Worthy. Detective Kelliher lunged at Lawrence, who then shot him twice in the chest. Lawrence fled the tavern and Detective Derrig pursued. As the two ran out of the hotel they passed Linda Spears, age 26, who was waiting for a bus and had heard the shots. Spears remarked that she saw Lawrence run past her with a gun when he dropped his scarf, which was covered in blood. She also saw Detective Derrig in pursuit with a bloody right hand. At that time, Spears said she joined the pursuit with Derrig and saw Derrig fire one shot at Lawrence as he ran. She said to Derrig that he was hurt, and Derrig said “pay me no attention, go inside and lookout for my partner.“ Spears obeyed and went inside to find Detective Kelliher lying on the floor. She told the people inside to call the police and asked for ice water and a towel. She wiped the blood from Kelliher’s face and moistened his lips. She didn’t want to say it at the time, but she thought it was too late for Kelliher and she sobbed. Meanwhile, outside, Lawrence made good his escape. Detective Kelliher was taken to Illinois Research hospital where he died. Detective Derrig was taken to St. Anne’s Hospital where he made a full recovery. The gunman, unknown at the time of the shooting, was described as 5 feet 7 inches tall. He was wearing a light colored hat, light gray trousers, and a black jacket. He was armed with a snub nosed .38 caliber revolver.
The biggest police manhunt since the capture of Richard Carpenter, police slayer, from August of 1955 was under way for the murderer of Detective Lyons Kelliher. Virtually without clues top police officials, including Lieutenant Patrick Deeley, Chief of Detectives, and Captain John Ryan of Warren Avenue Station admitted that they had only the faintest leads to the murderer. More than 20 police squads, aided by details from virtually every District and policemen who offered their services on their days off concentrated on the search. Detective Derrig gave police an entirely different description of the murderer from that given by witnesses in the tavern, said to have had about 38 customers at the time. Three of the witnesses, James Worthy of 2667 West Maypole Avenue; Andrew Jones, age 48, of 3000 West Washington Boulevard, assistant manager and bartender at the saloon, and Caroline Cooper, age 23, of 2801 West Warren Boulevard, a waitress, were given lie detector tests because their descriptions of the assailant did not tally with Derrig’s, but were released. The conflict over their descriptions was not resolved. Derrig said the murderer was a light skinned black man, about 19 or 20, 5 feet 5 inches in height, weighing 130 pounds, wearing a salt and pepper blue coat of fingertip length, light blue pants, and a light blue gray fedora hat. The others described him as darker skinned, older, and wearing darker clothes.
Donald Lawrence was brought to justice because Patrolman Julian Ford; a young black policeman, made an investigation of the case in a fashion for which there would never be a substitute in good police procedure. Ford knew Detective Kelliher, and had formerly served with him in the Warren Avenue District. He also felt that the murder, by a young black man, would reflect on his people if it were not solved quickly. On his time off he went about the District, patiently asking questions. He got the feeling that people who had information were withholding it from him. But he persisted, talking to hundreds of people. Word of his activities got about. A woman, whom he didn’t know, telephoned him and told him where she thought the killer could be found. Thru her information Ford found three men who named Lawrence, who was found in custody at Fort Sheridan. He had been picked up running through a park, arrested, and turned over to military authorities the night of the killing. Lawrence was an AWOL soldier from Camp Carson Colorado, rank of Private.
Ford’s commendable work raised a point in the recent discussions, at the time, over whether Chicago policemen should be required to live within the city. The policeman who did live in the city had an advantage when he started an investigation. People who knew him as a neighbor would be more ready to give him information than they would be to talk to a stranger.
Lawrence later confessed that he shot Derrig when Derrig felt a gun in his pocket while searching him, and then shot Kelliher in the chest. He turned and once again shot Derrig as he ran out of the tavern. During the Coroner’s inquest, Lawrence refused to testify on the advice of his attorney.
Donald Lawrence’s trial began on March 26, 1956; he was found guilty on a plea of murder and convicted of Detective Kelliher’s murder. On March 27, 1956, Lawrence was sentenced to 199 years in prison by Judge James R. Bryant. Lawrence was ineligible for parole until he reached 84 years of age.
Detective Kelliher was waked at Williams Funeral Home located at 412 North Austin Boulevard. His funeral mass was held at St. Catherine of Sienna St. Lucy Parish Church located at 38 North Austin Boulevard, Oak Park, Illinois. He was laid to rest on January 30, 1956 in Mount Carmel Cemetery, 1400 South Wolf Road, Hillside, Illinois. His grave is located in Grave 3, Lot 16, Block 3, Section S.
Detective Lyons Kelliher, born August 11, 1903, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on December 23, 1932. He earned 6 Credible Mentions and 3 Extra Compensations for Meritorious Conduct totaling $360.00 during his career. Detective Kelliher was also a professional football player with the 1928 Chicago Cardinals.
Detective Kelliher was a member of the Chicago Policemen’s Benevolent & Welfare Association and the St. Jude Police League. He was survived by his wife, Mary Jane (nee Apps), age 47; children: David Patrick, age 23 and Thomas Lyons, age 24; siblings: Agnes, Ann Lynch, John J., Marie, Richard T. and Rose Goedert; and grandson, David M. Kelliher. He was preceded in death by his parents: Bridget (nee Lyons) and Patrick (CPD). Officer Kelliher’s father was a retired Captain; retiring after more than 36 years of service.
On December 31, 1957, Detective Kelliher’s star was retired by Commissioner Timothy J. O’Connor and enshrined in the Superintendent’s Honored Star Case, located in the 4th floor Office of the Superintendent at Chicago Police Headquarters, 1121 South State Street. The Honored Star Case was later relocated to the lobby of Chicago Police Headquarters, 1121 South State Street. In 2000, Chicago Police Headquarters moved to a new facility at 3510 South Michigan Avenue, Detective Kelliher’s Star was re-encased in the new headquarters building lobby.
In June 1962, the police department honored Detective Kelliher’s memory by naming the brand new M-3 police boat in the Department’s Marine Unit after him.