Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 11 years, 5 months, 16 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: District 2-A - Stanton
District of Incident (Present Day): 002 - Wentworth
Cause of Death: Illness - Gangrene
Age at Time of Death: 44
Date of Birth: 25 Aug 1881
Date of Appointment: 05 Feb 1915
Date of Incident: 002 - Wentworth
End of Watch: 21 Jul 1926
Date of Interment:
Cemetery: Holy Sepulchre Cemetery - Alsip, Illinois
Grave Location: Grave 2, Lot N15, Block 10, Section 6
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # B-10
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 4
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 4, Line 38
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Inclusion Request Declined
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman Robert L. Johnston, Star #3259, aged 45 years, was an 11 year, 5 month, 16 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to District 2-A – Stanton.
In August 15, 1925, at approximately 8:55 p.m., Officer Johnston and his partner, Patrolman Joseph A. Stautz, were interviewing a man and a woman at the rear of a residence on the Southeast corner of 31st Street and Giles Avenue. At 9:00 p.m., a third person arrived and interrupted the interview. The man, Michael Torvelson of 3526 West Jackson Boulevard, was intoxicated and when asked to leave by the officers he refused. Torvelson said, “I’m a Chicagoan now and I can do as I please.” A struggle then ensued between Torvelson and Officer Stautz. Stautz was punched in the face causing him to fall to the ground. Torvelson then kicked Officer Johnston in his chin causing him to sustain a laceration. During the struggle, the two people the officers had been questioning slipped away, Torvelson was arrested and fined $10.00 plus processing fees.
Officer Johnston remained on duty and sought medical attention for his cut at home. The seriousness of the cut did not come to light immediately. Johnston complained that it hurt, but remained on duty for several weeks. The pain eventually became too great and he was taken to St. Bernard Hospital for treatment. Officer Johnston spent two weeks in the hospital before he was discharged. He then went home and spent another three months confined to his bed. His condition continued to worsen and the cut became infected and gangrene set in. In January 1926, he was taken to Presbyterian Hospital for treatment. On March 27, 1926, his leg was amputated however his condition continued to get worse. Officer Johnston was released from the hospital and returned home. He lingered there until he passed away on July 21, 1926.
Michael Torvelson was never charged in connection with Officer Johnston’s death. While the cause of Office Johnston’s death was officially listed as “sarcoma of the lung metastasized from sarcoma of the tibia caused by a kick on the leg,” his death was not initially ruled in the line of duty. The Coroner’s Inquest ruled in favor of a line of duty death, but the Chicago Police Department did not list his death as such. This was despite the fact that the Chicago Police Department did payout line of duty death benefits to Johnston’s family.
Officer Johnston was waked at his residence located at 3032 West Quinn Street. His funeral mass was held at St. Bridget Church located at 2928 South Archer Avenue. He was laid to rest on July 23, 1926 in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, 6001 West 111th Street, Alsip, Illinois. His grave is located in Grave 2, Lot N15, Block 10, Section 6.
Patrolman Robert L. Johnston, born August 25, 1881, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on February 5, 1915. He earned 5 Credible Mentions and 2 Extra Compensations for Meritorious Conduct totaling $240.00 during his career.
Officer Johnston was a member of the Chicago Policemen’s Benevolent & Welfare Association. He was survived by his wife, Katheryn (nee Carr) and twin daughters: Helen, age 10 and Irene, age 10. Johnston’s grandson, William Kushner, became a Chicago Police Officer and after his retirement became the Chief of Police in Berwyn, Illinois.
Paperwork for inclusion on the National Law Enforcement Officers Fund (NLEOMF) was submitted in December 2013 by the Chicago Police Department. On February 4, 2014, the Chicago Police Department received word that the NLEOMF did not approve Officer Johnston’s name for inclusion on their wall as a “Line of Duty“ death. NLEOMF stated the circumstances of Officer Johnston’s death did not meet their criteria for inclusion because their pathologist concluded that an injury to the leg would not cause metastases to the lung was and unable to link the cause of death to the initial injury.
Chicago Police Historical Homicide Database case not found for this incident.
On November 14, 2006, Officer Johnston’s star was retired by Superintendent Philip J. Cline and enshrined in the Superintendent’s Honored Star Case, located in the lobby at Chicago Police Headquarters, 3510 South Michigan Avenue.