Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 9 years, 4 months, 13 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: 26th District - Desplaines
District of Incident (Present Day): 012 - Near West
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 38
Date of Birth: 19 May 1895
Date of Appointment: 09 May 1924
Date of Incident: 012 - Near West
End of Watch: 22 Sep 1933
Date of Interment: 25 Sep 1933
Cemetery: All Saints Catholic Cemetery - Des Plaines, Illinois
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # C-4
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 21
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 2, Line 36
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 15-W: 8
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: U.S. Army
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman Miles Cunningham, Sr., Star #1150, aged 38 years, was a 9 year, 4 month, 13 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 26th District – Desplaines.
On September 22, 1933, at approximately 12:15 a.m., Officer Cunningham and his partner, Patrolman Maurice Fitzgerald, were just starting their tour of duty. Two Federal Reserve Bank Messengers, Victor Plontkoski and Otto Wizran, were walking down Jackson Boulevard, halfway between Clark and LaSalle Streets, pushing a small cart used to carry the mail from the old post office to the bank, located at the Northwest corner of Jackson and LaSalle Streets. The messengers were being escorted by two guards, John McGilien of Dobson Avenue and Proctor Lisle of Wheaton, when two vehicles suddenly pulled up to the curb. A Hudson sedan and a Ford coupe. The Hudson contained four men and the Ford one man. The driver of the Hudson stayed behind the wheel while the other three men, wearing masks, exited the vehicle with machine guns drawn. They approached the messengers and their guards and demanded they hand over the two sacks of first class mail and money they were transporting. The guards were unable to draw their weapons and could only watch as the men got back into the Hudson, the two cars speeding off.
At 12:25 a.m., while standing at the Southwest corner of Halsted and Adams Streets, Officers Cunningham and Fitzgerald, observed the Hudson collide with the Ford at the intersection. The impact of the crash sent the Hudson into a light post, disabling the vehicle. Unknown to the two officers, the occupants of the Hudson had just robbed the two Federal Reserve Bank Messengers and their guards’ moments before. The two officers ran to assist. Officer Cunningham ran to the Hudson while Officer Fitzgerald headed for the Ford. One of the bandits had seen the two officers standing on the corner during the crash and warned his accomplices of the police presence. As Officer Fitzgerald approached the Hudson the occupants, Doc Barker, Bryan Bolton, Fred Barker, Alvin Karpis, and “Shotgun“ George Ziegler, exited the vehicle. As Bolton exited, he opened fire on Officer Cunningham striking him six times. The bandits then commandeered a passing vehicle and made good their escape. Neither Officer Cunningham nor Officer Fitzgerald was able to return fire. Officer Cunningham was taken to Cook County Hospital where he died a short time later.
Although the bandits were able to escape, three would eventually pay for their crimes, even though they would never stand trial for the murder of Officer Cunningham. They would either be incarcerated or killed due to the lifestyle they lived. On March 10, 1934, “Shotgun“ George Ziegler was murdered by fellow gangsters in Chicago. On January 8, 1935, Doc Barker and Bryan Bolton were arrested separately for a different crime. On January 16, 1935, Fred Barker was killed in a shootout with the FBI in Florida. On May 1, 1936, Bryan Bolton, of the Barker-Karpis Gang, was arrested again.
The Hudson sedan used in the crime was owned by George R. “Machine Gun” Kelly. On September 26, 1933, Kelly was arrested in Memphis, Tennessee and later sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping of Charles Urschel of Oklahoma. Gus Winkler, and associate of Kelly, was sought in connection with Officer Cunningham’s murder. It was believed by investigators that he was involved in the crime because the vehicle used was equipped with a special smoke screen device, installed in a garage owned by a former associate of his. Winkler was one of the known killers involved in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Winkler was discovered when police followed his chauffeur to a residence on Lake Shore Drive where he was living under an assumed name, M. M. Michael. Evidence of Winkler’s involvement was strengthened by ballistic tests that matched one of the guns used to murder Cunningham to a Kansas City Union Station massacre Winkler was involved in. Verne Miller was also sought for the robbery and murder of Cunningham. Miller was also a well-known gangster in Chicago who had shot his way out of a police dragnet in November 1933. A World War I veteran, Miller turned to a life of violent crime after returning from France. He was on the run for less than a month when his body was discovered, beaten to death, in a ditch outside of Detroit.
Officer Cunningham was waked at his residence located at 4731 North Kiona Avenue. His funeral mass was held at St. Edward’s Church located at 4350 West Sunnyside Avenue. He was laid to rest on September 25, 1933 in All Saints Catholic Cemetery, 700 North River Road, Des Plaines, Illinois.
Patrolman Miles Cunningham, Sr., born May 9, 1895, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on May 9, 1924. He earned 1 Credible Mention and 1 Extra Compensation for Meritorious Conduct totaling $180.00 during his career.
Officer Cunningham served in the U.S. Army from May 25, 1918 thru April 26, 1919 in the 340th Ambulance Company, 310th Sanitary Train He was also a member of the Chicago Policemen’s Benevolent & Welfare Association and the St. Jude Police League. Officer Cunningham was survived by his wife, Margaret (nee McGuire), age 29; children: Margaret Mary, age 4 and Miles, Jr., age 6 and sister, Annie.