Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 2 years, 2 months, 3 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: District 19 - Desplaines
District of Incident (Present Day): 012 - Near West
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 31
Date of Birth: 17 Mar 1893
Date of Appointment: 07 Jun 1922
Date of Incident: 012 - Near West
End of Watch: 10 Aug 1924
Date of Interment: 14 Aug 1924
Cemetery: St. Adalbert Catholic Cemetery - Niles, Illinois
Grave Location: Lot 41, Block K, Section 11
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # B-8
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 14
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 2, Line 11
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 31-E: 11
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman Harry Gaster, Star #4913, aged 31 years, was a 2 year, 2 month, 3 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to District 19 – Desplaines.
On August 10, 1924, Officer Gaster was off duty and working a second job as a watchman in plain clothes. He was working for “Paddy” Harmon, owner of the Dreamland Dance Hall located at Van Buren and Paulina Streets. The dance hall was located near Officer Gaster’s beat and after several auto thefts, Gaster asked Harmon for the side job at his establishment. Harmon agreed and gave him the job. Officer Gaster arrived for work at 8:00 p.m. and at 9:20 p.m. he noticed some suspicious activity in front of the dance hall. He observed two slender youths, Richard Raymond and August Rice, with dark complexions and black sideburns monkeying with a car as if they were trying to start it. When Gaster walked over to investigate the youths jumped from the car and started running. Officer Gaster shouted, “Hey, you. Come Here!” He then started to chase after them as the two ran under the elevated “L“ railroad structure south of Van Buren Street behind the dance hall. From the darkness one of the youths fired a gun striking Officer Gaster and he fell slumped against the dance hall wall. As Officer Gaster lay against the wall he was able to return fire as the youths fled, striking one of them in the back of the head and then falling unconscious.
Dancers inside the hall heard the gunfire and called police and Frank Harmon, son of the dance hall owner, ran outside to investigate with Patrolman James J. Ivers, who was on duty inside the hall. Harmon and Iver’s placed the wounded officer inside Harmon’s car and rushed him to Cook County Hospital where he died within one hour of arriving without regaining consciousness.
Shortly after midnight, Richard Raymond and August Rice, were taken into custody at Cook County Hospital. The youths had flagged down a taxicab chauffeur, Mark Munn, at Van Buren and Aberdeen Streets. Munn stated that he had been hailed by a drunken youth, Raymond, and requested to drive his injured friend, Rice, to a doctor. Munn took them to Cook County Hospital who then called the Desplaines Station to report the shooting. The boys were taken into custody and Rice was transferred to the Bridewell Hospital. Once there he gave his name as August Geracie and claimed to live in Cincinnati, Ohio. Later on he gave his real name, August Rice, and his address of 5 East Illinois Street. Rice was believed near death by surgeons. The intoxicated boy, Raymond, gave his real name and address of 1142 West Van Buren Street. He made a statement and said that Rice was shot in a quarrel with a woman in a moonshine joint. A third offender, Louis Damico, was later identified, and on August 15, 1924 a message was sent out for his arrest. On August 19, 1924, his arrest was also recommended by the Coroner. It is unknown the fates of the boys or if anyone was ever charged with the murder.
Officer Gaster was waked at his residence located at 1646 North Lincoln Avenue. He was laid to rest on August 14, 1924 in St. Adalbert Catholic Cemetery, 6800 North Milwaukee Avenue, Niles, Illinois. His grave is located in Lot 41, Block K, Section 11.
Patrolman Harry Gaster, born March 17, 1893, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on June 7, 1922. On August 10, 1924, he was advanced into the grade of 1st Class Patrolman at a salary of $2,000.00 per annum for Meritorious Conduct.
Officer Gaster was survived by his expectant wife, Pauline (nee Straube) and daughter, Jeanette, age 6. On October 16, 1924, his wife gave birth to a baby boy, Leonard Harry Gaster.
Incident recorded under Chicago Police Historical Homicide Database, Case #7472.