Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 7 years, 7 months, 26 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: 15th District - Racine
District of Incident (Present Day): 006 - Gresham
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 35
Date of Birth: 05 Apr 1926
Date of Appointment: 10 Oct 1953
Date of Incident: 006 - Gresham
End of Watch: 05 Jun 1961
Date of Interment: 08 Jun 1961
Cemetery: Holy Sepulchre Cemetery - Alsip, Illinois
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # D-4
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 23
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 3, Line 8
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 19-W: 5
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: U.S. Army Reserve
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman LaVaughn Vasser White, Sr., Star #7473, aged 35 years, was a 7 year, 7 month, 26 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 15th District – Racine.
On June 5, 1961, at 1:30 a.m., Officer White, while off duty, was a patron at the Poinciana Inn Tavern located at 121 East 79th Street. Four men, Donald Curry, age 24, Thomas Jackson, age 19, Harold McEwen, age 20 and Joseph Prewitt, age 24, walked in, placed an order at the bar and began drinking. Curry sat next to Officer White and overheard a conversation White was having with a friend. White was talking about being transferred and from that Curry deduced that White was a policeman and informed the other three bandits. Curry then left the bar and went to his car and got two pistols and returned. At 1:45 a.m., Officer White left the tavern and went to his apartment located above the tavern to walk his dog. After Officer White left, Curry jumped over the bar and covered the bartender while his partners covered the other patrons, some of whom were hoarded into a backroom. While walking his dog, Officer White was approached by a waitress, Juanita Trowell, age 22, who worked in the tavern. She signaled to him indicating a holdup was in progress. Officer White entered the tavern, drew his revolver, and announced his office. His announcement was met with gunfire. Officer White dropped to one knee and returned fire, emptying his revolver. Officer White was shot through the head as he attempted to reload and died instantly. He was able to hit one of the gunmen, striking him in the chest, before collapsing. Miss Trowell also sustained a gunshot graze wound to the head during the gun battle. She was transported to St. George Hospital where she was reported in fair condition. The gunmen all fled the scene.
Investigating officers recovered a wallet at the scene that was dropped during the hold up. The owner of the wallet, Joseph Prewitt, was identified by a photo ID as one of the gunmen. After fleeing the tavern, one of the gunmen, Harold McEwen, was arrested 40 minutes after the shooting when he went to the University of Illinois Hospital with a gunshot wound to the chest. Hospital staff alerted police, who responded and arrested him. McEwen told police that he was shot during a stickup at Madison Street and Oakley Avenue, but McEwen’s mother told officers that her son was acquainted with the owner of the wallet that was found. Police brought a witness to the hospital to identify McEwen and when he was identified he refused to make any further statements. on June 6, 1961, Thomas Jackson was arrested after giving himself up in a subway station at Madison and State Streets.
Joseph Prewitt, was arrested at his work where police laid in wait for him to arrive. He was arrested by Sergeants James L. Bryson and Earl Fornier. Recovered from his home was a pair of trousers and shoes with blood stains on them. Sergeant Bryson also said that they searched Prewitt’s 1955 Chevrolet and found two .38 caliber revolvers hidden under the hood between the radiator and the grill. During questioning, Prewitt admitted that he had been in the tavern but declared he did not fire the fatal shot and didn’t know who did. Prewitt then implicated two other men, Thomas Jackson and Donald Curry. On June 7, 1951, at 8:00 a.m., Donald Curry was arrested in Gary, Indiana by Detectives Clarence Burke, Luceke Mays, Robert Hughes and Joe Beirne after he attempted to buy a bus ticket to Philadelphia at the Greyhound bus terminal. Curry waived extradition and was returned immediately to Chicago. Curry’s location was learned of after Chicago Policemen found a car in which he was riding with companions. The officers were told that Curry was in Gary, Indiana. Police then search Curry’s in-laws home and found three revolvers in a cardboard box on a closet shelf, one of which was Officer White’s.
All four offenders were charged with the murder of Officer White. On June 22, 1961, they were indicted for murder by the Grand Jury. On November 30, 1961, the defendants waived a jury trial and during a bench trial, all four defendants pleaded guilty to the charge of murder. The four were sentenced to 99 years in the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet by Judge Alexander Napoli.
Officer LaVaughn was waked at McDonald Funeral Home located at 8138 South Cottage Grove Avenue. He was laid to rest on June 8, 1961 in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, 6001 West 111th Street, Alsip, Illinois.
Patrolman LaVaughn Vasser White, Sr., born April 5, 1926, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on October 10, 1953 and issued Star #7185. On June 17, 1955, he was issued Patrolman Star #7473 after reporting his previous shield lost. He earned 2 Credible Mentions during his career.
Officer LaVaughn served in the U.S. Army Reserve enlisting on July 12 1944, was a veteran of World War II and was Honorably Discharged at the rank of Private 1st Class. He was survived by his wife, Annette B; children: Bonnie, age 17, Chico, age 11 and LaVaughn Vasser, Jr., age 13 and siblings: Clyde LasSeine, Jr., Francis and Rachel. He was preceded in death by his parents: Clyde LasSeine, Sr. and Lavelle Cecilia (nee Harkins).
Incident Recorded Under Chicago Police Department RD #144977.
In July, 1961, Officer LaVaughn’s star was retired by Superintendent Orlando W. Wilson and enshrined in the Superintendent’s Honored Star Case, located in the 4th floor Office of the Superintendent at Chicago Police Headquarters, 1121 South State Street. The Honored Star Case was later relocated to the lobby of Chicago Police Headquarters, 1121 South State Street. In 2000, Chicago Police Headquarters moved to a new facility at 3510 South Michigan Avenue, Officer LaVaughn’s Star was re-encased in the new headquarters building lobby.