Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 3 years, 7 months, 27 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: District 6, 11th Precinct - Fiftieth Street
District of Incident (Present Day): 002 - Wentworth
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 28
Date of Birth: 22 Dec 1886
Date of Appointment: 19 Apr 1912
Date of Incident: 002 - Wentworth
End of Watch: 16 Dec 1915
Date of Interment: 20 Dec 1915
Cemetery: Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery - Chicago, Illinois
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # B-3
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 10
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 1, Line 46
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 9-E: 16
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman John C. Burke, Star #1287, aged 28 years, was a 3 year, 7 month, 27 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to District 6, 11th Precinct – Fiftieth Street.
On December 16, 1915, Officer Burke was on patrol when George Dykema, a delivery boy, reported that a 19-year-old delivery boy, Herbert Gergston, was just robbed of $1.40. Dykema described the robber as 5’10” tall, well dressed wearing a dark fedora hat with a round face and pointed in the direction the robber had fled. Officer Burke then set off in search for the robber.
The robber was believed to be the same robber that had been wanted for twenty-five delivery truck robberies. He would usually end up stealing $2.00 to $3.00 and then throw red pepper in his victim’s eyes to prevent them from chasing him. His name was Fred Logue, also known as the “Red Pepper” bandit. He had been terrorizing neighborhoods on the North and South sides for months.
At 5:15 p.m., Officer Burke observed a man matching the description of the robber and he began walking up an alley near Prairie Avenue. As Officer Burke crossed the street in front of 212 East 57th Street to question the subject, the subject fired three shots after spotting him. Officer Burke sustained two gunshot wounds; once in the left arm and once in the chest. The fatal shot struck him just above his police star, bending one of the points, and he died instantly. The suspect then disappeared into an alley and made good his escape. Officer Burke was rushed to Washington Park Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
It was originally believed that the man who murdered Officer Burke was the Red Pepper bandit. However, Fred Logue was later arrested and confessed to all of his crimes but denied killing Officer Burke. Eventually a man by the name of William J. Lyle was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee. A warrant for his arrested had mentioned he used the same tactics as the Red Pepper bandit. Lyle was extradited back to Chicago and was identified by three of his victims as Officer Burke’s killer.
On February 3, 1916, the Coroner was still unable to determine who fired the fatal shot. The gunman is still at large.
Officer Burke was waked at his residence located at 837 West 54th Place. His funeral mass was held at Visitation Catholic Church located at 843 West Garfield Boulevard. He was laid to rest on December 20, 1915 in Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery, 2755 West 111th Street, Chicago, Illinois.
Patrolman John C. Burke, born December 22, 1886, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on April 19, 1912. He earned 1 Credible Mention during his career.
Officer Burke was a member of the Chicago Policemen’s Benevolent & Welfare Association and Englewood Council No. 1041 National Union. He was survived by his wife, Rose (nee Flanagan); parents: Margaret (nee Fitzgerald) and Patrick and siblings: Joseph P. and Norah F. Griffin.
Ironically, The morning of Officer Burke’s murder he told his wife, “Don’t wait dinner for me, Rose. I’m going to get that red pepper robber and I’ll be late.”
Incident recorded under Chicago Police Historical Homicide Database, Case #3022.
Patrolman Burke was involved in another unrelated shootout with his partner, Patrolman James F. Mitchell, who was also killed in the line of duty one month, one day prior on November 15, 1915.