Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 12 years, 1 month, 15 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: Detective Bureau (DB)
District of Incident (Present Day): 012 - Near West
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 36
Date of Birth: 15 Apr 1898
Date of Appointment: 09 Jun 1922
Date of Incident: 012 - Near West
End of Watch: 24 Jul 1934
Date of Interment: 27 Jul 1934
Cemetery: Holy Sepulchre Cemetery - Alsip, Illinois
Grave Location: Grave 7, Lot 23, Block 7, Section 3
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # C-5
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 16
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 3, Line 37
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 40-E: 12
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: U.S. Army
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman William Francis Penney, Star #5365, aged 36 years, was a 12 year, 1 month, 15 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the Detective Bureau.
On July 24, 1934, Officer Penney was conducting an investigation at the Modern Tavern located at 722 South Halsted Street. While at the location, Officer Penney became involved in an argument with several men. The men attacked and severely beat Penney before they fled scene. Officer Penney then left the tavern and realized that his car keys had been lost during the fight. He returned to the tavern and his keys were returned to him by the bartender. Officer Penney then returned to the tavern at 9:50 p.m. the same day with three friends in search of the attackers who frequented the place. While the third friend waited in Penney’s car, the other two walked up to the tavern and found the tavern door to be locked. As they turned to walk back to the car, the front door swung open and a shotgun barrel emerged. Two shotgun blasts followed striking Penney and one of his friends, killing them instantly, the third friend was also struck but only sustained minor injuries.
Follow up investigation revealed that Officer Penney was in civilian clothing for the day and was only identified by his police star in his pocket. He was out of uniform because he was a prosecution witness in a conspiracy case that day. It was also determined that the shotgun blast was fired by Steve Vrionis, a bartender at the Modern Tavern who had also lived in an apartment above the tavern. The murder weapon was recovered in a room adjacent to Vrionis’s apartment. It is unknown whether Vrionis was ever apprehended.
Officer Penney was laid to rest on July 27, 1934 in Holy Sepulchre, 6001 West 111th Street, Alsip, Illinois. His grave is located in Grave 7, Lot 23, Block 7, Section 3.
Patrolman William Francis Penney, born April 15, 1898, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on June 9, 1922. He earned 1 Credible Mention and 1 Extra Compensation for Meritorious Conduct totaling $120.00 during his career.
Officer Penney served in the U.S. Army from November 5, 1918 thru December 31, 1918 in Company A, 343rd Batallion Transportation Corps, was a veteran of World War I and was Honorably Discharged at the rank of Private. He was survived by his expectant wife, Vivian G. (nee Mauck), age 28 and children: Richard William, age 7, Lois Virginia, age 4 and Thomas Francis, age 2. On October 30, 1934, his wife gave birth to a baby boy, Wilma Francis Penny.