Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 7 years, 9 months, 27 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: District 2, 2nd Precinct - Harrison
District of Incident (Present Day): 001 - Central
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 28
Date of Birth: 22 Jul 1872
Date of Appointment: 29 Jun 1893
Date of Incident: 001 - Central
End of Watch: 25 Apr 1901
Date of Interment: 28 Apr 1901
Cemetery: Graceland Cemetery - Chicago, Illinois
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # A-4
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 4
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 1, Line 30
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 18-W: 2
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: U.S. Army
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman William Frederick Messenger, Star #71, aged 28 years, was a 7 year, 9 month, 27 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to District 2, 2nd Precinct – Harrison.
On April 24, 1901, at 12:20 p.m., Officer Messenger, who was the acting desk sergeant for the afternoon shift, and Desk Sergeant James J. Scully were reviewing the court sheets. Few people were inside the 2nd Precinct station located at No. 365 Pacific Avenue (present day 545 South LaSalle Street). Richard D. Houghteling entered the station and exchanged a few words with Officer Messenger, apparently referring to a quarrel earlier in the day.
“I want you to take back what you said to me,“ he called to Messenger through the wicket. Messenger came from behind the desk out of a door and told Houghteling to get out of the station, as he did not want any trouble with him. Houghteling drew his revolver as Officer Messenger approached and fired. Sergeant Scully looked up, and drawing his revolver, fired through the wicket window at Houghteling. Then Sergeant Scully ran through the wicket door and continued firing. Officer Messenger also fired several times as Houghteling backed toward the Pacific Avenue entrance, working his revolver as rapidly as possible, firing apparently at Sergeant Scully and Officer Messenger. Sergeant Scully fired four shots, Officer Messenger six, and Houghteling four. All the shots were fired at close range. One of the bullets from Sergeant Scully’s revolver struck the cartridge chamber of the weapon held by Houghteling, and disabled it. Houghteling had it turned toward himself and the bullet struck the back of the cylinder, in the opening through which cartridges were loaded into the chamber, wedging itself against the cylinder in such a way that it was immovable. Sergeant Scully fired again and the bullet knocked the pistol out of Houghteling’s hand. At this point the room was filled with smoke, while from half a dozen passageways policemen ran towards the sound of gunfire. Finally, finding that his revolver would not work, Houghteling started down a corridor, but ran into the arms of Lockup-keeper James Meaney, Bailiff John Griffin, and Fireman Michael Hurley who took charge of him. They dragged Houghteling back into the office and put him on the floor. Police Operator William Mahoney led Officer Messenger to an inner room. Once inside the room, Officer Messenger said, “I guess I am done for this time, Billy.“ Police Operator Mahoney replied, “O, you’re worth a dozen dead men,“ in an encouraging response. Later Houghteling was moved to the steps, where he lay until taken to the hospital.
Houghteling was shot in the side, while Officer Messenger received two wounds, one in the chest and the other in the side. Officer Messenger was transported to St. Luke’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead the following day on April 25, 1901. Houghteling was transported to the County Jail hospital where he would recover.
Considerable mystery surrounded the shooting until 4:oo p.m., when Patrolman J. F. Riecks entered the station. Until that time it was believed another man than Houghteling had done the shooting. Riecks informed Inspector Hartnett that two girls had requested him and Messenger to keep an unknown man from following them at 12 o’clock near Clark and Harrison streets. Messenger, he said, told the man to move on, and some words passed between them. This statement led to the identification of Houghteling, who Riecks said, was the man who was following the girls.
Houghteling’s wound was serious. The bullet was lodged in the right lung, and the attempt of Dr. D. M. Brecker of the County Jail Hospital to probe for it was abandoned as dangerous. Houghteling was conscious during the examination of the physician and talked freely. “The bullet is now in the right lung,“ said Dr. Becker. “I will attempt to remove it tomorrow when he has partially recovered from the shock.“ The man was under the influence of liquor when brought to the County Jail hospital and told him that the policeman whom he had shot was unknown to him. He declared that he had wandered into the station, and, after an altercation with the policeman, was shoved away from the desk. He also stated that he intended to commit suicide.
“As he turned to remonstrate, he says, he was slapped in the face by the policeman, and, infuriated by the blow, fired at the policeman. Instantly realizing what he had done, he said, he lifted the weapon again to shoot himself, when it was struck from his hand by the bullet fired by the desk sergeant. He asserted that he had neither grievance nor any reason for entering the station. The man probably will recover.“
For five years Houghteling had resided in the Spain House, No. 177 West Illinois Street (present day 64 West Illinois Street), and until two months prior had been a motorman on the Lake Street Elevated road. He was one of the first employees of the line, running a steam locomotive previous to the introduction of the electric system. Two months prior he resigned. Houghteling had been heard at the Spain House to talk of revenge on some policeman. “We never discovered who the policeman was,“ said William Spain, proprietor of the hotel. “The only information given us was that he belonged on the South Side. During his stay Houghteling drank little, and was quiet and reserved.“
Officer Messenger was laid to rest on April 28, 1901 in the Boldenweck Mausoleum at Graceland Cemetery, 4001 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois. Please note that although the date of death reads April 27, 1901 on his grave marker, he actually died on Thursday, April 25, 1901 according to Chicago Police Department and Cemetery Records as well as the Newspaper accounts of the time.
Patrolman William Frederick Messenger, born July 22, 1872, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on June 29, 1893. He served as a Patrolman, License Officer and Acting Desk Sergeant during his career.
Officer Messenger served in the U.S. Army for five years in the Seventh United States Cavalry and was Honorably Discharged. He was also a member of Syracuse Lodge No. 500 Knights of Pythias. Officer Messenger was survived by his wife; father, William and siblings: Caroline G. and Walter G. He lived at No. 808 Washtenaw Avenue (present day 1529 North Washtenaw Avenue).
Incident recorded under Chicago Police Historical Homicide Database, Case #1509.