Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 1 year, 8 months, 8 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: 3rd Precinct, 12th District - Desplaines
District of Incident (Present Day): 001 - Central
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 35
Date of Birth: 1854
Date of Appointment: 01 Dec 1887
Date of Incident: 001 - Central
End of Watch: 09 Aug 1889
Date of Interment: 11 Aug 1889
Cemetery: Graceland Cemetery - Chicago, Illinois
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # A-3
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 12
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 1, Line 23
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 30-E: 9
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman Adam W. Freyer, Star #752, aged 35 years, was a 1 year, 8 month, 8 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 3rd Precinct, 12th District – Desplaines.
On August 5, 1889, Two officers from the 12th Street Station responded to a disturbance in a saloon at 15th and Union Streets. Inside the saloon William Martell, James and John McGrath and other characters of an unsavory reputation were drinking and fighting. Upon arrival the officers attempted to restore order but were met with profanities; several of the patrons brandishing revolvers began firing at the officers. The officers escaped unscathed and swore out warrants for McGrath and Martell as they had made good their escape. Every officer from the 12th Street Station was instructed to arrest the two men on sight.
On August 9, 1889, at approximately 2:20 a.m., Patrolmen Hallihan and Moore were on duty at the corner of Polk and Desplaines Street. While standing at the corner two men passed them. The men had not gone a dozen steps before Officer Moore recognized them as John McGrath and William Martell both wanted on warrants. The officers then started walking towards the men when McGrath looked back. McGrath made a furtive movement with his right hand toward his hip pocket. In response Officer Moore leveled his revolver at him and said, ”I want you McGrath.” It was at this time that McGrath and Martell fled on foot, running northbound on Desplaines Street. They ran to an alley, which runs into Law Avenue (present day Kennedy Expressway). Officer Moore then fired a shot at the fugitives, which resulted in them running faster. Once inside the alley they gained a considerable distance from the pursuing officers and when Officers Hallihan and Moore reached Law Avenue the two men had disappeared.
Officers Hallihan and Moore then proceeded down Jefferson Street. At 2:30 a.m., they reached the corner of Jefferson and Harrison Streets where they heard two shots in quick succession, but could not identify where the sound came from. They had just heard the shots that would take the life of Officer Freyer. Officer Freyer had just reported in at the patrol box located on the Southeast corner of Harrison and Clinton Streets when Martell and McGrath ran into him. Officer Freyer having heard the shot fired by Officer Moore was standing by for developments. He could hear someone running towards him on Clinton Street. A moment later Martell and McGrath came into sight. Officer Freyer ordered them to halt and tried to intercept them. Without hesitation the men pulled their revolvers and with only a few feet between them and Officer Freyer fired their guns. Officer Freyer was struck in the neck. The first bullet severed his carotid artery and jugular vein, and then lodged in the brain. The second bullet struck him in the abdomen. Officer Freyer collapsed to the ground as Martell and McGrath continued to run.
Officer Freyer was then discovered near the patrol box by Watchmen Boyle and Gerhardt. He requested that Boyle, by the use of hand gestures, remove the call box key from his pocket and pull for the patrol wagon. Officer Freyer lived less than five minutes after being shot and died without saying a word. He died just as the patrol wagon was pulling up. Officer Freyer was loaded into the wagon and taken to the undertakers and then to his home located at No. 411 West Huron Street (present day 1833 West Huron Street).
Martell and McGrath made good their escape; it is believed that they ran north to Randolph Street where they boarded a Halsted streetcar. McGrath went home while Martell crossed the river and went downtown. At 6:00 a.m., McGrath and his brother, James, left the house and were spotted on the tracks near 16th Street near the Canal Street Viaduct by Patrolmen Conway and Faley. The officers gave chase, but lost sight of them in the maze of railroad cars. At 10:00 a.m., just below the 12th Street Viaduct between State and Clark Streets officers spotted them again. However, they were able to once again lose their pursuers. Eventually John McGrath and William Martell were apprehended. They were both tried and found guilty. They were sentenced to life in the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet. They appealed their conviction and a new trial was granted. Both Martell and McGrath were later acquitted.
Officer Freyer was waked at his residence located at No. 411 West Huron Street (present day 1833 West Huron Street), his funeral mass was also held at his residence. He was laid to rest on August 11, 1889 in Graceland Cemetery, 4001 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois.
Patrolman Adam W. Freyer, born in 1854, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on December 1, 1887. He earned 1 Lambert Tree Medal during his career.
Officer Freyer was survived by his wife and son, age 9 months.
Incident recorded under Chicago Police Historical Homicide Database, Case #704.