Death Classification: Performance of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 17 years, 11 months, 24 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: Traffic Division (TD)
District of Incident (Present Day): 001 - Central
Cause of Death: Illness - Cerebral Hemorrhage
Age at Time of Death: 44
Date of Birth: 09 Apr 1894
Date of Appointment: 04 Mar 1921
Date of Incident: 001 - Central
End of Watch: 21 Jan 1939
Date of Interment: 25 Jan 1939
Cemetery: St. Adalbert Catholic Cemetery - Niles, Illinois
Grave Location: Lot 39, Block N, Section 52
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Not Enshrined
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 9
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Not Listed
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Not Listed
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: U.S. Navy
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman Leon Theodore Czajka, Star #1257, aged 44 years, was an 17 year, 11 month, 24 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the Traffic Division (TD).
On January 21, 1939, Traffic Patrolman James Moran attempted to question two men, Alex Gerulis, age 22, and William Severa, age 25, in a suspected stolen auto at Dearborn and Lake Streets when they sped away. The policeman had commandeered a taxi cab, but the cab became stuck in traffic and was unable to pursue the offenders further. The pursuing policemen called to Officer Czajka, who then took up the chase by commandeering a different car at the intersection of Monroe and Dearborn Streets. Gerulis and Severa turned onto Westbound Monroe Street and later abandoned their vehicle at Wells Street. At that time Officer Czajka pursued the offenders on foot and apprehended them at Adams and Market Streets. Officer Czajka collapsed as he covered the two suspects with his pistol drawn. Gerulis and Severa attempted to flee the area but were stopped and held by a private citizen, Elwood Zuley, age 23, a police department applicant who was number 1866 on the list. Zuley witnessed the incident, ran over to Officer Czajka’s side and picked up his revolver, gave chase and carried out a citizen’s arrest one block away holding the suspects for Traffic Patrolman Michael J. Deneen. Tragically, Officer Czajka suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died during the incident.
Alex Gerulis and William Severa were charged with auto theft.
Officer Czajka was waked at a John V. May Funeral Home located at 4553-61 North Milwaukee Avenue. His funeral mass was held at St. Cornelius Church located at 5205 North Lieb Avenue. He was laid to rest on January 25, 1939 in St. Adalbert Catholic Cemetery, 6800 North Milwaukee Avenue, Niles, Illinois. His grave is located in Lot 39, Block N, Section 52.
Patrolman Leon Theodore Czajka, born April 9, 1894, received a Temporary Appointment, #598, to the Chicago Police Department on August 8, 1919 and was issued Star # Unknown. He received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on March 4, 1921 and was issued Star #3748. He earned 2 Credible Mentions during his career.
Officer Czajka served in the U.S. Navy from April 6, 1917 thru January 6, 1919, was a veteran of World War I and was Honorably Discharged at the rank of Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class. He was also a member of the Chicago Police Post No. 207 American Legion. Officer Czajka was survived by his wife, Anastasia (nee Chmielewski), age 38; mother, Julia (nee Dominikoski) and siblings: Frank, John Paul and Tillie Talaska. He was preceded in death by his father, Frank.