Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 3 years, 8 months, 19 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: District 5, 5th Precinct - Hyde Park
District of Incident (Present Day): 002 - Wentworth
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 30
Date of Birth: 06 Aug 1889
Date of Appointment: 25 Aug 1916
Date of Incident: 002 - Wentworth
End of Watch: 14 May 1920
Date of Interment: 17 May 1920
Cemetery: Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery - Chicago, Illinois
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # B-6
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 21
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 2, Line 1
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 61-E: 16
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman William Arthur Roberts, Star #3566, aged 30 years, was a 3 year, 9 month, 0 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to District 5, 5th Precinct – Hyde Park.
On May 14, 1920, at 1:51 a.m., Officer Roberts observed a suspicious man, Horace Le Roy Walton, carrying a handbag. Unknown to the officer, Walton had just robbed the SanteFe Express an Illinois Central Railroad mail car in Kankakee while it was en route from New Orleans to Chicago. He had jumped onto the mail car as the train was pulling out of Kankakee, Illinois and held four mail clerks at gunpoint. When the train reached Chicago he jumped from the mail car in the Englewood neighborhood taking a Decatur mail satchel with him. When Officer Roberts attempted to question the man in front of 5052 South Drexel Boulevard as to the contents of the handbag, the man drew a revolver and opened fire. Officer Roberts was knocked to the ground and returned fire. A gun battle ensued, in which Officer Roberts was mortally wounded. The gun battle ended when Walton ran out of bullets and fled the scene making good his escape. Officer Roberts continued firing at Walton as he fled despite being hit in the head and side. Walton fled Westbound on 51st Street to Cottage Grove Avenue, dropping the satchel in the process, where he flagged down a taxi. A passing motorist stopped after hearing the gunfire and took Officer Roberts to Washington Park Hospital. He lingered there succumbing to his wounds 8 hours later at 10:30 a.m.
Before Officer Roberts passed away, he was able to give a full account of the events which had taken his life. He stated that he and the gunman exchanged ten shots. The satchel that Walton had dropped was recovered and contained $500,000.00. Witnesses who had seen Walton flee the scene filled in the rest. Officers were able to trace Walton to a residence located at 816 East 51st Street, in which he had a room, early the following morning. On May Officers surrounded the boarding house and Walton was besieged (shot) and killed by police officers at 3:15 a.m. in the ensuing gun battle.
Officer Roberts was waked at his residence located at 7431 South Ingleside Avenue. His funeral mass was held at St. Laurence Catholic Church located at 7140 South Dorchester Avenue. He was laid to rest on May 17, 1920 in Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery, 2755 West 111th Street, Chicago, Illinois.
Patrolman William Arthur Roberts, born August 6, 1889, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on August 25, 1916. He earned 1 Credible Mention during his career.
Officer Roberts was survived by his wife, Anna M.; children: Anna, Arthur, John, Lucille and Margaret E, age 5; parents: Arthur M. and Catherine (nee Clancy) and siblings: Ira J. and John H.
Incident recorded under Chicago Police Historical Homicide Database, Case #4965.