Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 10 years*
Unit of Assignment / Detail: 4th Precinct - Rawson Street Station
District of Incident (Present Day): 014 - Shakespeare
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 43
Date of Birth: 1839
Date of Appointment: 1872
Date of Incident: 014 - Shakespeare
End of Watch: 04 Feb 1882
Date of Interment: 05 Feb 1882
Cemetery: Graceland Cemetery - Chicago, Illinois
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # A-1
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 1
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 1, Line 13
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 21-W: 16
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman John Huebner, Star #490, aged 42 years, was a 10 year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 4th Precinct – Rawson Street Station.
On February 4, 1882, at 3:00 a.m., Officer Huebner and his partner Patrolman Matthew Foley were walking their beat when they heard a loud report. The two officers paused for a moment and heard another report coming from the same direction. Judging that the shots rang out in the vicinity of Division and Milwaukee Avenues, the officers ran to investigate. The officers separated an Officer Foley cut through an open prairie running towards Ashland Avenue. As Officer Foley ran he observed two men running east towards him. He ordered them to halt, but instead the two men continued to run, turning south through the first alley. Officer Foley, assuming something was wrong continued to pursue, firing three shots at the men. As Officer Foley reached Dixon Street (present day Bosworth Avenue), he heard another gunshot. Concerned for his partner’s safety he ran towards Officer Huebner after losing sight of the bandits. As he ran he heard another four to five shots followed by a scream. Running through an alley, Officer Foley came to a vacant lot with frontage on Holt Street (present day Greenview Avenue). He heard another scream and as he reached the sidewalk he found Officer Huebner lying on the sidewalk.
Officer Huebner stated that he was shot three times and begged Officer Foley not to leave. He could not provide a description of the murderers and did not know who they were. The two officers were soon joined by Patrolman Kearns. Both officers Foley and Kearns quickly set off in search of the murders, but after a short search they returned after failing to locate any suspects.
After Officer Huebner split from his partner, he ran to the intersection of Bradley Street (present day Potomac Avenue) and Holt Street (present day Greenview Avenue). Once there, Officer Huebner observed two burglars, Michael Rock and James Tracy, age 36, in the commission of a crime. Almost immediately a scuffle ensued. Officer Huebner began fighting with the smaller of the two bandits and threw him to the ground. As he held the man down Tracy said, “Let him go, you ____, or I will kill you!” Instantly Tracy fired three rounds from his gun and Officer Huebner was struck. The men then quickly fled the scene, not before Officer Huebner returned fire, firing three times. Shortly thereafter Officer Foley ran up after he had heard the gunfire to check on his partner. Officer Huebner died shortly thereafter.
During the ensuing investigation, it was learned that the course of events began when a citizen, seeing the burglars, Rock and Tracy prowling fired a blank cartridge at them. In return one of the two burglars fired one shot at the citizen. Those were the two shots the Officers initially heard. As the officers ran to investigate, the two men Officer Foley chased were the same two that Officer Huebner would encounter after running through the alley and falling from Officer Foley’s sight. The two men ran right into the arms of Officer Huebner.
On February 15, 1882, Patrolman John Stift arrested James Tracy. On July 20, 1882, Tracy was found guilty of murder by a jury and sentenced to death on the gallows. Tracy filed a motion for a new trial, but it was denied. On September 15, 1882, he was hanged at Cook County Jail. Rock was also arrested and his case was later dismissed. Prior to dying, Tracy donated his body to science. He authorized a group of doctors’ permission to revive him after he had been declared legally dead. After his execution, his body was taken to a laboratory in the jail and electrodes were attached to his body. The doctors administered electric shocks, which made Tracy’s heart and leg muscles contract. A moment of excitement occurred after one electric shock in which Tracy’s eyes opened. However, reviving him proved impossible as his neck was snapped from the hangman’s noose.
Officer Huebner was waked at his residence located at No. 365 North Paulina Street (present day 860 North Paulina Street), his funeral mass was also held at his residence. He was laid to rest on February 5, 1882 in Graceland Cemetery, 4001 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois.
Patrolman John Huebner, born in 1839, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department in 1872.
Officer Huebner was a member of the Chicago Policemen’s Benevolent & Welfare Association and Court Jefferson No. 35 Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He was survived by his wife and seven children. He was preceded in death by two children within the past year and three others in the years previous.
Incident recorded under Chicago Police Historical Homicide Database, Case #2800.