Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 20 years, 1 month, 7 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: Bureau of Operational Services - Patrol Division, Special Functions Group: Unit 092 - Special Operations Section
District of Incident (Present Day): 002 - Wentworth
Cause of Death: Illness - Cancer (Duty Related)
Age at Time of Death: 45
Date of Birth: 17 Jun 1944
Date of Appointment: 07 Jul 1969
Date of Incident: 002 - Wentworth
End of Watch: 14 Aug 1989
Date of Interment: 17 Aug 1989
Cemetery: St. Mary Catholic Cemetery - Evergreen Park, Illinois
Grave Location: Grave NW, Lot N1/2 818, Block --, Section AM
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Not Enshrined
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 14
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 3, Line 44
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 53-W: 20
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: YES, Branch Unknown
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman William “Pinky“ Joseph Luce, aged 45 years, was a 20 year, 1 month, 7 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, and was assigned to the Bureau of Operational Services – Patrol Division, Special Functions Group: Unit 092 – Special Operations Section.
On August 27, 1980, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Officer Luce was on duty participating in a field exercise at the Argone National Laboratory located at 9700 South Cass Avenue, Argone, Illinois. He was part of a special training seminar at the Laboratory in conjunction with the Department of Energy Police for the Chicago Police Containment Team. This exercise involved special training with the Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES). Two teams consisting of two Lieutenants, six sergeants and eight Patrolmen were sent. Originally Patrolman R. Strom was chosen to attend the exercise. This officer could not attend and Officer Luce was chosen to go in his place. During the training, Officer Luce’s scope broke and he was exposed to a small dose of Promethium 147, a radioactive material used in the scope for night vision. Upon leaving the Argone Laboratory several officers, including Officer Luce, set off an alert indicating radioactive contamination. They were subsequently detained, examined and decontaminated. Officer Luce was the only officer in the group to suffer direct contamination to the skin area. He was exposed to radiation from a night vision scope mounted on the M-16 rifle, modified and equipped with an electronic sensor aiming device, he was assigned for the training. The radiation eventually caused severe burns to his face and body. At the time of the incident it was believed that the officers’ exposure was very minor and did not constitute a health hazard. However, the exposure was greater than believed and led to the development of cancer in Officer Luce’s neck.
On December 7, 1988, Officer Luce began seeing Dr. Michael Goldman for carotid gland swelling in his neck. Upon obtaining Officer Luce’s history of radiation exposure, he was diagnosed with a high grade carcinoma of the right parotoid with metastatic disease to the lymph node of the neck. On December 8, 1988, Officer Luce went on the Medical for sickness as a result of his cancer. The same day Officer Luce underwent surgery to remove the tumor. Following the surgery he required radiation therapy to prevent local recurrence of the tumor. Officer Luce was later admitted to Michael Reese Hospital, following a battle with the disease, and was pronounced dead by Dr. Michael E. Gorman at 8:06 p.m. On October 26, 1989, The Medical Services Director, Paul S. Mesnick, M.D., for the Chicago Police Department changed Officer Luce’s medical status from code 3 (sickness) to code 1 (injury on duty). With this change of status, the police department ruled Officer Luce’s death in the performance of duty.
The Chicago Police Department Personnel attending the training on August 27, 1989 are as follows: Lieutenants Richard Dwyer and John Seamans #621; Sergeants Richard Braithwaite #2099, James Dolan #1451, John Hennessy, Roy Swanson and Donald Torres; Patrolmen Henry Adema #15078, Frank Amato #15819, Dennis Capetto #13762, William Kaminski #3331, William Luce #14287, Walter Monk #14701, Donald O’Dette #7340 and Ronald Palmer #15652
Officer Luce was waked at Michael Coletta Sons Funeral Home located at 544 West 31st Street. His funeral mass was held at Santa Lucia-Santa Maria Incoronata Parish located at 3022 South Wells Street. He was laid to rest on August 17, 1989 in St. Mary Catholic Cemetery, 3801 West 87th Street, Evergreen Park, Illinois. His grave is located in Grave NW, Lot N1/2 818, Block –, Section AM.
Patrolman William Joseph Luce, born June 17, 1944, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on July 7, 1969. He had previously served on the Area 4 Task Force, Narcotics Unit and in the Special Operations Group.
Officer Luce served in the Armed Forces, was a veteran of the Vietnam War and was Honorably Discharged. He was also a member of the Fraternal Order of Police. Officer Luce was survived by his wife, Janet Matilda (nee Condic), age 49; children: Brian Andrew, age 13, Janet Lynn Schuman, age 18, Lisa Britt, age 16, Nickie Sean, age 14, Peter Allen, age 29 and Richard. He was preceded in death by his parents: Marcella (nee Basso) and William. His son Adam later became a Chicago Police Officer.