Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 2 years, 6 months, 14 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: 27th District - Warren
District of Incident (Present Day): 012 - Near West
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 28
Date of Birth: 10 Aug 1904
Date of Appointment: 08 Jan 1931
Date of Incident: 012 - Near West
End of Watch: 22 Jul 1933
Date of Interment: 26 Jul 1933
Cemetery: Resurrection Catholic Cemetery - Justice, Illinois
Grave Location: Lot 440, Block I, Section EE
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # C-4
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 9
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 2, Line 35
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 17-W: 2
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman John J. Skopek, Star #6614, aged 28 years, was a 2 year, 6 month, 14 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 27th District – Warren.
On July 22, 1933, at 9:30 p.m., Officer Skopek and his partner, Patrolman Elmer Ostling, were on patrol when they observed an auto with three suspicious males matching a description of a stolen auto driving Westbound on Washington Boulevard. The vehicle had been stolen three weeks earlier and was being used in the commission of crimes. As the occupants of the car spotted the officers, they sped off in an attempt to get away. The officers initiated a pursuit and were able to force the car to the curb in front of 2838 West Washington Boulevard. The officers then began to approach the car to question the occupants. When they were within a few feet of reaching the car two of the occupants exited the vehicle and opened fire on the officers. Both officers were shot several times and were only able to return fire one time each before they collapsed to the pavement. Officer Skopek was so close to his shooter the muzzle flash from the revolver burned his face, he was shot six times by .45 caliber and .380 millimeter rounds. Officer Ostling was shot five times by .45 caliber rounds. As Officer Ostling fell, he slid off the curb and came to rest under the bandit’s stolen car. It was at this time that the gunman got back into the car, one being helped by his accomplice, after suffering a gunshot wound in the exchange. The car then sped off running over Officer Ostling’s body. The auto fled Westbound on Washington Boulevard before turning northbound onto Francisco Avenue.
By this time traffic had become congested as hundreds of citizens crowded around the wounded officers. Four of those citizens picked up Officer Ostling’s body and placed him into the squad car and rushed him to Franklin Boulevard Hospital. As he lay in the bed he repeated, “They didn’t give us a chance, they didn’t give us a chance,” according to the Chicago Daily Tribune. Officer Ostling died one half hour later just as his wife, who was escorted by Patrolman Otto Jicha, approached his hospital room. Another citizen picked up Officer Skopek’s body and rushed him to Washington Boulevard Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
The stolen auto was eventually recovered in front of 1829 West Huron Street with a blood stained back seat.
On October 8, 1937, two inmates, Edward Moorehead and James Progue, age 28, at the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet attempted to escape. The men were sentenced to prison in 1934 for their parts in other unrelated crimes. Progue was apprehended and Moorehead was shot during the escape and died two days later on October 10, 1937. A third man, Sam Turriano, age 22, had also been sentenced to the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet in 1934, but his sentence was shorter. He was transferred to Pontiac Reformatory in July of 1934 and then paroled in December 1936. It wasn’t until February of 1937 that the first information implicating the three men in the officer’s murder surfaced. On October 10, 1937, Progue confessed to the murders and he named two accomplices, Edward Moorehead and Sam Turriano. On November 11, 1937, Progue entered a plea of guilty. On December 12, 1937, Turriano also entered a plea of guilty. Both men stood trial and were sentenced to serve 199 years in the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet.
Officer Skopek. He was laid to rest on July 26, 1933 in Resurrection Catholic Cemetery, 7201 Archer Avenue, Justice, Illinois. His grave is located in Lot 440, Block I, Section EE.
Patrolman John J. Skopek, born August 10, 1904, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on January 8, 1931.
Officer Skopek was survived by his wife, Rose (nee Antontz), age 27 and Children: Richard Joseph, age 5 and Robert, age 7.