Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Park District Police Department
Served: Length of Service Unknown
Unit of Assignment / Detail: South Section
District of Incident (Present Day): 001 - Central
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 37
Date of Birth: 31 Aug 1908
Date of Appointment:
Date of Incident: 03 Sep 1945
End of Watch: 03 Sep 1945
Date of Interment: 07 Sep 1945
Cemetery: Lincoln Cemetery - Chicago, Illinois
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # D-2
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 15
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 2, Line 44
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 54-E: 3
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Park Policeman Spencer Thornton, Jr., Star #327, aged 37 years, was a veteran of the Chicago Park District Police Department, assigned to the South Section.
On September 3, 1945, Officer Thornton, Jr. was on duty at the 2nd Ward Democratic Picnic being held at the 31st Street Beach. While patrolling the event, he intervened in a quarrel between two men, James Coppage, age 44 and Will Robinson, age 45. Coppage produced a handgun and opened fire, killing Officer Thornton and Robinson. Two other police officers, Patrolman Edward Hall of the 8th District - Chicago Lawn station and Park Policeman Joseph Ryan who had also been assigned to the picnic heard the gunfire and rushed to the scene. They returned fire and shot Coppage in the face, shoulder and side. Officer Thornton was rushed to Michael Reese Hospital where he died shortly after his arrival from his wounds. Coppage was arrested and taken to Michael Reese Hospital before being transferred to the Bridewell Hospital where he recovered.
James Coppage stood trial and one year later was found guilty on two counts of murder. He was sentenced to two life sentences to be served concurrently.
Officer Thornton was laid to rest on September 7, 1945 in Lincoln Cemetery, 12300 South Kedzie Avenue, Chicago, Illinois.
Park Policeman Spencer Thornton, Jr. was born on August 31, 1908.
Officer Thornton was survived by his wife, Wilda (nee Holmes), age 33 and daughter, Myrdese, age 13.
The Chicago Park District Police Department, in the City of Chicago, was disbanded on December 31, 1957. On January 1, 1958, the remaining officers were transferred to the Chicago Police Department through an intergovernmental agreement. Fallen officers of the Chicago Park District Police Department are currently honored on the memorial wall of the Chicago Police Department as Chicago Police Officers. Their stars are displayed in the Honored Star Case located in the lobby of the Chicago Police Department at 3510 South Michigan Avenue.