Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 5 years, 0 months, 28 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: District 6, 10th Precinct - Hyde Park
District of Incident (Present Day): 001 - Central
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 31
Date of Birth: 30 Jan 1881
Date of Appointment: 23 Dec 1907
Date of Incident: 001 - Central
End of Watch: 20 Jan 1913
Date of Interment: 23 Jan 1913
Cemetery: Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery - Chicago, Illinois
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # B-2
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 19
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 1, Line 41
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 40-E: 12
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman Peter M. Hart, Jr., Star #1224, aged 31 years, was a 5 year, 0 month, 28 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to District 6, 10th Precinct – Hyde Park.
On January 20, 1913, police received information from Michael Angelo Casella that Robert Webb telephoned his wife’s sister, Belle Hastings, at his apartment located at 1617 South Wabash Avenue, 3rd floor rear. Casella had harbored Webb while knowing of his crimes and that he was wanted for murder, a crime that Casella had witnessed. Webb was the chauffer and member of the notorious Perry Auto Gang. He had been in police custody three times, escaping each time, in the previous eleven days leading up to this incident. Casella told police that Webb would be stopping by sometime in the afternoon. Acting on the information, Captain Patrick Lavin assigned five plain clothes officers, Officer Hart among them, to go to the apartment with Casella. The officers arrived at the apartment at 1:00 p.m. and arrested Mrs. Hastings. Two of the officers made the decision to transport the women to the Hyde Park Station and leave the three other officers to wait for Webb. Two of the officers, of which remained, decided that they would go and visit a garage operated by Frank Madia at 1612 South Michigan Avenue. Madia was a known accomplice of Webb’s and was also known to have relations with Mrs. Hastings. His garage was located across the alley from the apartment. The two officers left the apartment, leaving Officer Hart alone with Casella to wait for Webb to arrive.
At 2:30 p.m., Webb arrived and knocked on the door. Casella went to the door and saw that it was Webb. He turned to Officer Hart and said, “There, that is your man.” Officer Hart opened the door and grabbed Webb by the arm and pulled him into the apartment. Webb did not resist initially and asked Officer Hart what he wanted with him. Officer Hart replied, “You just come in here. You are under arrest.” At this point Officer Hart held his revolver in his left hand against Webb’s chest and commanded him to hold up his hands. The two men were now backed into a corner and Officer Hart began patting him down with his right hand. Officer Hart felt a gun in Webb’s right hand hip pocket. He then laid down his revolver on a table to his left and attempted to remove the gun from Webb’s pocket. Unfortunately he did not have a chance as Webb began to fight. Webb leapt forward in an attempt to grab Officer Hart’s revolver from the table and as the men struggled the gun was knocked off of the table. Both of them went down to the floor, struggling over the weapon. While Officer Hart was on top of Webb, he gained control of Hart’s gun and at the same time had his gun in the other hand. He fired one shot, which missed and went into the wall. Webb fired a second shot and struck Officer Hart fatally wounding him.
Hearing the two gunshots coming from the apartment, the two officers, now across the alley, rushed back to the apartment. Webb fled the scene through and enclosed stairwell leading to the roof and made good his escape. The officers raced up the stairs and found Officer Hart lying dead on the floor and Mr. Casella still in the apartment. Responding officers soon discovered the door leading to the roof. They all went to the roof and looked around for a little bit before one of the officers took note of Webb’s footprints left in the fresh snow. The tracks help police trace his escape route. Webb had slipped back inside the building through a skylight. He was able to gain access to a back stairwell which took him down to the street.
Casella was taken into custody and transported to the Station for questioning. During questioning, Casella claimed he had never see Webb before yesterday. He also claimed to know nothing about the intimacy between his sister-in-law and Webb. Police recovered a suitcase from the apartment belong to Webb. When asked, Casella denied knowing that Webb had visited his apartment before and claimed he knew nothing about the suitcase. Mrs. Hastings claimed that she asked her sister if she could leave the suitcase in the apartment until she could carry it to their mother’s house. Mrs. Hastings claimed that the suitcase contained Webb’s dirty laundry. However, that statement was incorrect as police recovered the suitcase filled with silverware, silk kimonos, table linen and women’s underwear. All of the items recovered had been reported stolen several weeks prior from 1819 South State Street by the same Auto Gang.
Mrs. Casella was also interviewed after the incident and stated that she had only seen Webb three times. The first time was on Friday, January 17th when Webb had called and left a suitcase in which he said belonged to her sister. The second time was on Sunday, January 19th when Webb came and asked for the suitcase back. She stated that she didn’t give him the suitcase because her sister had told her it belonged to her by this point. The third time was Monday, January 20th when Webb knocked on the door and her sister answered. Her sister invited Webb inside. Mrs. Casella got the two beers and as she read the newspaper, came across an article that named Frank Madia as suspected of running a fence for the auto gang. When she read it aloud, her sister dismissed it as speculation. Mrs. Casella knew that Madia was her sister’s sweetheart and thought this to be strange. She also noted that Webb looked suspect after hearing the news. Just then there was a knock at the door. It was two policemen looking for Webb. The men said they were looking for a specific room number. Mrs. Casella told them that there was no room numbers on the third floor and went back into the room. When she went back into the room, she found Webb moving a piano away from a closet door. She said to him, “What’s the matter with you? Have you done something?” Webb stopped moving the piano and went into a bedroom. Webb remained there until the two officers left the doorway. Shortly thereafter the officers returned and arrested Mrs. Hastings. It was at this point that Mrs. Casella watched them take her sister down the street and when she went back into her room, Webb was gone. Mrs. Casella then left the apartment to watch a picture show. Shortly thereafter she left, Officer Hart arrived with her husband, Mr. Casella.
Police caught a break when they arrested James A. Perry, a member of the auto gang. Perry gave a twenty-page confession giving up his accomplices and the location of Webb. Perry listed each of the gang’s exploits including a running gun battle with police and the shooting and stabbing of Patrolman Fred Sticken during a traffic stop. On February 13, 1913, Robert Webb was located and arrested. On July 31, 1913, Webb was sentenced to life in Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet by Judge Kersten. On July 16, 1925, he escaped from the prison’s farm. Webb returned to the same neighborhood in Chicago to continue his life of crime. On September 4, 1925, he was once again arrested and returned to the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet. Over the years he filed for parole several times but was denied each time.
Officer Hart was waked at his residence located at 2915 South Parnell Avenue. He was laid to rest on January 23, 1913 in Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery, 2755 West 111th Street, Chicago, Illinois.
Patrolman Peter M. Hart, Jr., born January 30, 1881, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on December 23, 1907 and was issued Star # Unknown. On July 15, 1911, he was promoted to Acting Sergeant and issued Star #527. On March 11, 1912, he was returned to the rank of Patrolman and issued Star #1224.
Officer Hart was survived by his parents: Mary (nee Murry) and Peter M., Sr. (CFD) and siblings: Albert (CFD), Else, Joseph and Mrs. Anna L. Trippen.
Incident recorded under Chicago Police Historical Homicide Database, Case #3793.