Death Classification: Line of Duty Death

Agency: Chicago Police Department

Served: 8 years, 5 months, 17 days

Unit of Assignment / Detail: 26th District - Desplaines

District of Incident (Present Day): 001 - Central

Location of Occurrence: 

Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy

Age at Time of Death: 39


Date of Birth: 26 May 1891

Date of Appointment: 08 Jun 1922

Date of Incident: 001 - Central

End of Watch: 25 Nov 1936

Date of Interment: 29 Nov 1930


Interment Details

 Cemetery: Mount Carmel Cemetery - Hillside, Illinois
 Grave Location: Grave 4, Lot S15, Block 6, Section N
 Interment Disposition: Burial


Memorial Details

Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # C-2

Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 18

Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 2, Line 28

National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 34-E: 10

Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed



 Military Service: U.S. Army


Incident & Biographic Details

Patrolman James Sylvester Corcoran, Star #5044, aged 39 years, was an 8 year, 5 month, 17 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 26th District – Desplaines.

On November 25, 1930, at 11:36 p.m., Officer Corcoran was off duty and had just left a speakeasy disguised as a tailor shop located at 312 East 29th Street. As he approached the Northeast corner of 29th Street and Indiana Avenue, while driving, he ordered Thomas DeSett to stop. In front of a drug store located at 2843 South Indiana Avenue, Officer Corcoran displayed his police star and DeSett attempted to flee. A struggle ensued in which DeSett gained control of Officer Corcoran’s firearm and fired it, fatally striking Officer Corcoran twice. DeSett then fled the scene taking the firearm with him. Officer Corcoran was transported to Michael Reese Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival on November 25, 1930.

An investigation was begun and police were able to ascertain that prior to Officer Corcoran’s altercation he had been inside the speakeasy. In the absence of the speakeasy’s proprietor, Mabel McKinney and Arline Ray were in charge of the establishment. McKinney was taken into custody and transported to Michael Reese Hospital to identify the body of Officer Corcoran. McKinney identified the body of Corcoran as one of three men who were in the speakeasy earlier in the night. She remarked that the men had been served beer and complained that it was too sweet. After a half hour, she said, the men got up and left together. It was soon after that a Druggist, William Bredenbeck, telephoned the police and reported a shooting outside his store. He then rushed outside and observed two men wrestling on the ground and saw a police star in plain view. Mr. Bredenbeck also stated that he had seen a third man flee after the shots were fired. Through further investigation, Arline Ray related that later on, one of the men that left with Officer Corcoran came back into the speakeasy. She stated that he appeared quite agitated and then left quickly. This was all the information investigators had to solve the case.

The case laid cold and the murder was a mystery for almost two months with the motive unknown until January 31, 1931. On that date one Mrs. Donna Bevier lodged a minor complaint with the police of the 3rd District against another woman, Peggy Smith. Both women were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. In retaliation the latter intimated that Mrs. Bevier knew Corcoran’s slayer, and this Mrs. Bevier readily admitted, naming Thomas DeSett as a Panderer and the murderer. DeSett was arrested in Maywood, Illinois at his brother’s house. He would later sign a statement confessing to the crime. In his statement, he admitted that he had a fight with a man at the Indiana Avenue address months earlier on November 25th. Mrs. Bevier also admitted throwing a gun into the river on request of DeSett at the Halsted Street Bridge. She intimated her lover was a robber and it was the opinion of investigating officers that DeSett attempted to hold up Officer Corcoran, who resisted, and in the struggle to arrest him was shot.

On December 16, 1930, arrest of DeSett was recommended by the Coroner. On January 31, 1931, DeSett was arrested, charged with Intentional Manslaughter and held to the Grand Jury by the Coroner and ordered held without bail by Judge Padden. On July 8, 1931, DeSett was found not guilty by Judge Finnegan.

Officer Corcoran was waked at his residence located at 3729 South Morgan Street. His funeral mass was held in Requiem at Nativity of Our Lord Church located at 653 West 37th Street. He was laid to rest on November 29, 1930 in Mount Carmel Cemetery, 1400 South Wolf Road, Hillside, Illinois. His grave is located in Grave 4, Lot S15, Block 6, Section N.

Patrolman James Sylvester Corcoran, born May 26, 1891, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on June 8, 1922. He earned 1 Credible Mention and 1 Extra Compensation for Meritorious Conduct totaling $180.00 during his career.

Officer Corcoran served in The U.S. Army from May 2, 1918 thru (discharge date unknown) in Company C, 7th American Trail, was a veteran of World War I and was Honorably Discharged at the rank of Wagoner. He was survived by his father, John.

Incident recorded under Chicago Police Historical Homicide Database, Case #9767.