Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 1 year, 8 months, 10 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: District 9, 21st Precinct - Maxwell
District of Incident (Present Day): 011 - Harrison
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 32
Date of Birth: 1860
Date of Appointment: 29 Dec 1890
Date of Incident: 011 - Harrison
End of Watch: 06 Sep 1892
Date of Interment: 09 Sep 1892
Cemetery: Oak Woods Cemetery - Chicago, Illinois
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # A-3
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 17
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 1, Line 25
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 44-E: 14
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman John Powell, Jr., Star #1168, aged 32 years, was a 1 year, 8 month, 10 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to District 9, 21st Precinct – Maxwell.
On September 6, 1892, Officer Powell and Probationary Patrolman Henry L. McDowell, while conducting a raid on an illegal racetrack located at Harrison Street and South 40th Street (present day Union Avenue), pursued a racehorse owner, James M. Brown, age 54, who was brandishing a gun while attempting to escape. Officer Powell was shot twice while attempting to apprehend James Brown. As brown attempted to escape after shooting Officer Powell, Officer McDowell caught up with him and ordered him to drop his weapon. Brown refused and a second gun battle ensued in which Officer McDowell was mortally wounded. Officer McDowell was transported to Cook County Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 6:10 p.m. on September 8, 1892. Officer Powell died instantly on scene.
James Brown was shot and killed the same day by other pursuing officers.
Officer Powell was waked at his residence located at No. 358 Center Avenue (present day 2111 West Armitage Avenue), his funeral mass was also held in his residence and was he was laid to rest on September 9, 1892 in Oak Woods Cemetery, 1035 East 67th Street, Chicago, Illinois.
Patrolman John Powell, Jr., born in 1860, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on December 29, 1890.
Officer Powell was survived by his wife and two children.
Incident recorded under Chicago Police Historical Homicide Database, Case #123 and Case #2812.
DEATH AT GARFIELD: Excerpt from the Chicago Daily Tribune, September 7, 1892
On September 6, 1892, Officer Powell, was involved in a raid by city authorities to suppress the resort of the defiant Garfield Park Race Track Club. The raid was not unexpected, but no one looked for such sudden and exciting events of the following. The Police had invaded the park in much the same way as they had on September 5th, and had loaded their patrol wagons with park employees, bookmakers, and patrons of the resort. The action of the police on September 5th had the effect of scaring people away from the race track, and the entire attendance did not exceed 1,500 persons, of whom a large percentage were in the custody of the police within five minutes after the bluecoats had entered the park, which was at 4 o’clock, and just after the third race of the day had been ruined. Everybody wanted around the grandstand had been corralled and 50 policemen were chasing frightened sportsmen through the inner field and returning with them to the patrol wagons, which were located behind the grand stand. Squads of policemen chased along the stables, picking up hostellers and rubbers, while Inspector Lewis and Captain Mahoney and other officers were arranging for the transportation of the prisoners to the Des Plaines Street Station. A great crowd of bookmakers and hangers on about the track had gathered outside the park on Crawford Avenue (present day Cicero Avenue), and found some pleasure in jeering the police, but the bluecoats seemed to recognize that they had by far the better part of the game and took the chaff in good naturedly enough.
A SHOT IS HEARD
As the patrol wagons were ready to depart with the prisoners the shrill noise of the police whistle was heard coming from the direction of the Southwest portion of the park. Then a shot was heard. There was more blowing of whistles and then more firing, and Inspector Lewis ordered his men, most of whom had returned to the wagons, to hurry to the scene of the alarm. The bluecoats sped away readily. They knew there was mischief in the air, for they had heard threats that their efforts to arrest James M. Brown, 54, owner of the race track, whose stables were located near the Southwest gate would be met with force. They knew that Brown had a record earned as Sheriff in Texas, of twelve notches on his gun, and it was known that he had boasted within 24 hours that he would shoot down any officer who attempted to arrest him, to enter his stables, or to take away any of his employees. As 200 policemen started away from the grandstand a bookmaker who was in captivity, cried out from one of the wagons: “That sounds like Jim Brown’s gun.“
Frightened stable boys, hostlers, and hangers on came running from the south, seeking the protection of the police and announcing that a fearful fight was on the prairie outside the southern wall of the racing park. Half way down the gate the police heard the firing as it became more rapid as they bent and knocked men out of their way as they went to the rescue. They raced along on top of the stables, climbed the high fences, and went straight after three or four officers who were pursuing a little man in a grey suit. It was Captain James Brown trying to add to his reputed desperate Texas record. Other fugitives had scattered to the east and west along the prairies, and officers started after them, while a score continued in the chase of Brown. At Flournoy Street Brown halted, took deliberate aim at the closest of his pursuers, fired, and then turned and ran again, and disappeared behind a little group of houses near Jan Huss Avenue (present day Springfield Avenue) and Flournoy Street.
HE ANSWERS WITH HIS GUN
A policeman in the lead cried out to Brown to put up his gun and quit shooting, and several more policemen fired into the air, thinking to cower Brown, and at the same time keep back the crowd of citizens which had joined in the pursuit.
Brown’s only answer, as he came out from the shelter of the little houses, was to fire again at his pursuers, after which he started on a run towards Lexington Avenue (present day Lexington Street), where he continued his flight through a narrow opening between the high board fence surrounding houses on the corner of the avenue and Jan Huss Avenue (present day Springfield Avenue) and a new house in the course of erection. Carpenters and plasterers working on the house saw Brown coming with his gin, and they dropped into the basement of the place to save their own skins. In the meanwhile, the police had deployed, some going to the west of the new house and others toward Jan Huss Avenue (present day Springfield Avenue) to head off the man who had grown so desperate in the chase. The policemen were now firing at the man and were gaining on him rapidly. Officer John Powell reached the sidewalk west of the house almost at the same time that Brown emerged from a little lane at the end of it. Brown raised his pistol, and before Officer Powell could climb upon the sidewalk, Brown fired, and the bullet struck Officer Powell in the arm. An instant later another ball from Brown’s weapon had passed through the Powell’s left hand and lodged in his abdomen.
BROWN SHOOTS HIS VICTIM AGAIN
Officer Powell fell back on the prairie. He had received his death wound. But the man who gave it was not content. Brown rushed up to his victim, looked into his dying eyes, placed his pistol against the man’s chin, and sent another bullet crashing through his head.
By this time the officers were coming towards the scene on a lively run, and from all directions. It was Brown’s evident intention to escape by way of the open prairie to the Southwest, but he saw his escape in that direction blocked by the police, and, leaping over the body of Officer Powell, he started towards the north, the bullets of the officers who had seen their brother fall and then brutally shot again, whizzing past his head. As Brown reached the little alley near the new house, Officer Henry L. McDarrell of the Des Plaines Street Station turned into Lexington Avenue from Jan Huss Avenue and cried out to Brown: “Don’t shoot anymore! Put up your gun! I will not shoot!“
“But I will,“ Brown yelled as he lifted his weapon and pulled the trigger.
The gun misfired. Brown looked at the weapon coolly and critically, and finding another cartridge in it determined to do and die right there. McDarrell carried his revolver in his hand, and as Brown who was not more than 30 feet away, lifted his gun for a final shot, McDarrell raised his weapon. Both men fired at the same time, and then both fell. A hundred officers had surrounded Brown by this time, and more were coming up after. Several shots had been fired at him from different directions during the minute of his encounter with McDarrell, but the bullet under the force of which he fell evidently came from the weapon of the officer into whose right side Brown had sent home his last shot.
McDARRELL’S AWFUL DEATH STRUGGLE
McDarrell fell on the sidewalk, but quickly rose again and ran around the corner of Jan Huss Avenue, where he half tumbled into the gutter. Other officers who came up cared for him in every possible way, while a hundred bluecoats surrounded Brown, every one of them with the gleam of desire for vengeance in his eyes. Other officers had cared for and placed in a comfortable position on the sidewalk Officer Powell, in whose throat the death rattle was already heard. He was unconscious and died almost before the smoke of the revolver that had been in such active play on the prairie had vanished. Several of his companions stood guard over his body, while others joined the throng which surrounded the Texan who was making as strong a struggle for life as any man could whose heart had been grazed by a bullet. His pale face was turned toward the sky and his little frame, for the man only weighed 135 pounds, quivered with the agony he was undergoing. He had fallen right in his tracks and his slouch hat was still half fastened om his head. Drops of blood were coming through a little hole in his shirt right above his heart, and in one of his spasms he half spat out a quantity of blood, some of which trickled over his face. He was conscious when he first fell, but only for an instant, and he tried to speak, probably some word of defiance and hatred for his enemies, the police, for there was a bitter glare in his eyes as he rolled them from one side to another as if attempting the recognition of someone in the crowd.
The pistol with which he had killed Officer Powell and wounded Officer McDarrell was lying by his right hand. It was a .44 caliber , automatic weapon with pearl handle, all its chambers were empty.
Before Brown died the patrol wagon was called to the scene and hurried away towards the County Hospital, its crew offering tender duties to McDarrell, who was failing rapidly. Another patrol wagon came along and six officers lifted into it the body of Powell, which was taken home.
The officers who crowded around Brown sought to secure no services of a physician for him. His head was allowed to rest on the hard ground. There were no words of pity for him, for the resentment the bluecoats felt over the slaughter of one of their number in so merciless a way was strong in their hearts. The first policemen to arrive were actually as fierce as lions that have just tasted blood, and only the coolness of some few of them saved a repetition of the cruel thing that Brown had done to Powell after that officer had fallen fatally wounded. Two officers were forced to restrain one brother officer who insisted that Brown should be treated just as he had treated Powell.
“I saw him myself,“ said the angry officer, “run up after Powell was dead, stoop over him like a wild beast, put that big gun of his in his mouth, and fire. You can go and see for yourselves. He nearly burned the face off him with the powder, which sent the bullet through Powell’s head.“
“It is true,“ said another officer. “I saw him do it, too. He hadn’t a bit of mercy in him and he doesn’t deserve any mercy from us. He never had any mercy on anybody. I knew him. He killed a dozen men in Texas.“
And the big bluecoat stooped as if it would be great satisfaction to him to throttle the man who just at that moment gave a convulsive shudder and died.