Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 3 years, 8 months, 0 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: 25th District - Fillmore
District of Incident (Present Day): 011 - Harrison
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 33
Date of Birth: 30 Nov 1897
Date of Appointment: 30 Sep 1927
Date of Incident: 011 - Harrison
End of Watch: 30 May 1931
Date of Interment: 03 Jun 1931
Cemetery: Mount Carmel Cemetery - Hillside, Illinois
Grave Location: Grave 2, Lot 7, Block 12, Section 14
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # C-2
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 9
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 2, Line 30
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 54-E: 3
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman Edward Francis Smith, Star #4567, aged 33 years, was a 3 year, 8 month, 0 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 25th District – Fillmore.
On May 30, 1931, at 2:50 p.m., Officer Smith was on duty conducting a surveillance at John Marshall High School, 3250 West Adams Street, after recent looting at the school. A janitress, Mae Crabtree of 3303 West Warren Boulevard, and her son, Charles, age 9, alerted the officer that three people had broken into the school and were still on premise. Mrs. Crabtree, Charles and Officer Smith entered the school and began searching the classrooms for the burglars. Officer Smith then heard a splash coming from the school’s pool. While Officer Smith made his way to the pool, Mrs. Crabtree Officer and her son were going to summon assistance from the Fillmore Street police station. Smith walked into the pool area and found three boys, Varner Corry, age 15, his brother, Earl, age 12 and Schuyler Pearson, age 16, swimming. He told the youths to get dressed and leave the premises. One of the teenagers, Vernon Corry, began to dress himself when he drew a weapon and pointed it at the officer, directing him to “stick ’em up!“ He fired twice, as Officer Smith, in the act of drawing his own weapon stepped behind a pillar. It was at this time Mrs. Crabtree, just as she was going to summon the help, heard Officer Smith order someone to get out of the pool and get dressed. She then heard several gunshots and saw two boys climb out a nearby window. Officer Smith was struck several times in the chest, heart and back of the head and died on scene.
Several squad cars responded to the school shortly thereafter and upon arriving found Officer Smith’s lifeless body beside the pool. Responding officers also observed a blood trail leading out of the pool area and to the second floor. Officer Smith was able to return fire and strike one of the boys in the finger causing him to leave the blood trail. Further investigation in the six hours that followed led police to piece together the events and make an arrest.
Patrolman Edward Flynn of the Fillmore Station questioned several boys who had shown up to the scene after the fact. One of them Leonard Zylch, age 12, of 3321 West Adams Street, who was the son of Patrolman Walter Zylch, informed investigators that he had spoken to two boys who had witnessed the killers escape. Officer Flynn and three detectives relocated with Zylch to 3359 West Adams Street where the found William Datz, age 12 and Harold Landis, age 13, the two witnesses. Datz and Landis told the police about the boys they had seen and gave the names and addresses of the boys. The police officers then relocated to 736 South Claremont Avenue where they made a forced entry. Upon entry the officers located Earl and Varner Corry who soon confessed to their roles in the murder. The brothers took Officer Flynn to the back porch and showed him where they threw the revolver used to murder Officer Smith. They also gave the officer the name to the third boy, Pearson, who was with them. The boys were placed into custody and transported to the Fillmore Station.
Once at the station, Varner Corry gave a full account of events to police. He said “We were swimming in the pool when the policeman came in. He told us to dress. I started to put on my clothes, and was half-way dressed when I took hold of my revolver. I pointed it at the policeman and told him to put up his hands. Then he reached for his revolver, and I thought he was going to shoot, so I fired four or five times. I don’t know how many. He got his gun and shot at me and hit me in the second finger of my right hand. I went to the second floor, and got down a drain pipe. I don’t know how my brother or Schuyler got away.”
Chief of Detectives John Norton, Deputy Detective Chief Lawrence Rafferty, Captain Patrick J. Collins and Assistant State’s Attorney E.A. Ferrari interrogated the three boys until midnight. Through the interrogations, they were able to clear a separate case and learn that the boys had broken into the school two months earlier and had stolen the revolver that would be used to murder Officer Smith. The revolver was taken from the gymnasiums office and Varner had said that his father had told him to return the gun, but instead, carried it around.
On June 1, 1931, a Coroner’s Jury held all three boys to the Grand Jury for murder and the State’s Attorney ruled they must stand trial in the Criminal Court instead of the Juvenile Court. In June 1931, the Grand Jury returned an indictment only on Varner Corry. The charges against Earl Corry and Schuyler Pearson were dropped and they were released. On July 28, 1931, Vernon Corry was found guilty of Officer Smith’s murder in a bench trial. Judge Joseph Sabath sentenced him to serve 18 years in the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet. Corry was granted a retrial on the grounds that he should have initially been tried in front of a jury. On January 26, 1933, Corry was acquitted of Officer Smith’s murder.
Officer Smith was waked at his residence located at 334 South Kostner Avenue. His funeral mass was held at St. Mel’s Church located at 4301 West Washington Boulevard. He was laid to rest on June 3, 1931 in Mount Carmel Cemetery, 1400 South Wolf Road, Hillside, Illinois. His grave is located in Grave 2, Lot 7, Block 12, Section 14.
Patrolman Edward Francis Smith, born November 30, 1897, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on September 30, 1927. He earned 1 Credible Mention during his career.
Officer Smith was a member of the Chicago Policemen’s Benevolent & Welfare Association. He was survived by his wife, Helen (nee Clyne), age 26; daughter, Eileen Marie, age 3; mother, Bridget Farley and brother, Hugh. He was preceded in death by his brother, Owen.