Death Classification: Line of Duty Death
Agency: Chicago Police Department
Served: 2 years, 10 months, 0 days
Unit of Assignment / Detail: 1st Precinct - Harrison Street Station
District of Incident (Present Day): 001 - Central
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Enemy
Age at Time of Death: 34
Date of Birth: 24 Jan 1905
Date of Appointment: 31 Jul 1882
Date of Incident: 31 May 1885
End of Watch: 31 May 1885
Date of Interment: 02 Jun 1885
Cemetery: Calvary Cemetery - Evanston, Illinois
Grave Location: Unknown
Interment Disposition: Burial
Superintendent’s Honored Star Case: Panel # A-1
Gold Star Families Memorial Wall: Panel # 3
Illinois Police Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 1, Line 14
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall: Panel # 18-W: 5
Officer Down Memorial Page: Listed
Military Service: No Military Record Found
Incident & Biographic Details
Patrolman Cornelius “Connie“ Barrett, Star #63, aged 34 years, was a 2 year, 10 month, 0 day veteran of the Chicago Police Department, assigned to the 1st Precinct – Harrison Street Station.
On May 31, 1885, A fateful course of events led to the death of Officer Barrett. Just before noon, the railway policeman on duty at the Polk Street station called upon Lieutenant Laughlin of the Chicago Police Department, stationed at the Harrison Street Station. The railway policeman showed the lieutenant a dispatch he had received, it read as follows:
”CHENOA, May 31, 1885. – Depot Policeman, Chicago: I have an insane man on my train who has possession of one car. Policemen at Kansas City, Jacksonville, and Peoria all afraid to take him. Please send ten or twelve policemen out on No. 1 to take him when we arrive in Chicago. They had better come in citizens’ clothes, and will have to look sharp or some will get hurt. PUTNAM, Conductor No. 6”
The suspect, Lewis Reaume, age 33, boarded the train in Kansas City, was drunk and went among passengers asking them to drink with him. When they refused he became a raving maniac, produced a .44 caliber Colt revolver, and ran everyone from the car he was in. Under the idea that he was being pursued by a lynch mob, he shot at everyone whom he saw, seriously wounding a passenger agent.
Lieutenant Laughlin remarked that he thought it was the duty of the railway policemen to arrest the man and asked the railway officer why he did not go to the station. He responded, “I can’t get away.” The lieutenant then asked, “Will you go down with us?” The railway policeman said, “I can’t, but I will send a janitor with you.” Seeing that there was no assistance to be had from the railway police, the lieutenant dismissed the officer. The Lieutenant then sent a dispatch to the Town of Lake Police Department, knowing the train to be coming through their town before it reached Chicago. The reply from them was of no help as well, they replied, “We haven’t any officers; they have gone to a picnic.”
The lieutenant now agitated with none too credible reflections about the courage of out of town policemen, took the case in hand. A squad of twelve officers was selected and left the station at 2:15 p.m. to meet the train. The train was scheduled to arrive at the Polk Street Station in the Union Depot at 2:30 p.m. The depot was situated between 3rd Avenue (present day Plymouth Court) and 4th Avenue (present day Federal Street). The squad consisted of Lieutenant Laughlin, Detectives Amstien, Ferry and O’Brien, and Patrolmen Barrett, Casey, Cox, Dohney, Keovan, Murphy, Rowan and Ryan. The patrolmen were in uniform while the other officers were in plainclothes. To attract less attention the detail separated into squads of two and three officers. Accompanying the officers was a reporter from the Chicago Daily Tribune.
Once at the train station the officers chatted and planned their course of attack passing the time. The depot policeman notified Lieutenant Laughlin that the train was running late and would not arrive until 3:35 p.m. The ticket agent then informed the lieutenant that the crazy man on the train was not armed, but that he had broken the shackles that had secured his hands and was using the shackles as a weapon. The lieutenant remarked, “O, well, if he has no other weapons we can overpower him easily enough. I feel relieved.” It wasn’t long before a telegram came from Western Indiana Junction which said that the crazy man was armed and that officers should be cautious as the man was desperate.
News that a maniac had taken over a train spread and crowds of people began to fill the train depot. At exactly 3:35 p.m. a long whistle and shouts of “Here she comes!” spread through the depot, the train was now rounding a curve. As the train pulled into the station, the engineer blew a series of short whistles. The door to baggage car opened and men started leaping out warning the people to get out of the way. Before the train came to a complete stop, men and women scarred for their lives leapt from the train. The officers, now stationed on both sides of the track moved towards the rear, staying close to the cars as they went. At 3:45 p.m. Officer Barrett and Keenan were on the east side the train and were just about to reach the train car when they heard a loud report. Almost immediately Officer Barrett grabbed Officer Keenan and clutched his breast. As he collapsed to the platform he gasped and said, “I’m shot.” These were the last words he ever spoke and died shortly thereafter. Reaume had fired through the train’s door, the bullet striking Officer Barrett in the left breast and then exiting between the shoulders. Immediately following the first shot, all the officers leveled their pistols at the train car and began firing on the crazy man.
Reaume, shot once by Lieutenant Laughlin, jumped from the train car and ran northbound on the platform brandishing his gun. Reaching the front of the train, he then fled Westbound crossing the tracks and headed for 4th Avenue (present day Federal Street). The police gave chase with Lieutenant Laughlin at Reaume’s heels. Once Reaume reached 4th Avenue he turned and rested his pistol on his left arm taking aim at Lieutenant Laughlin who was now twenty feet away. Reaume pulled the trigger, but the gun didn’t discharge. Reaume had spent all his ammunition. Seeing this the lieutenant didn’t fire his gun and rushed toward him. Realizing he was now surrounded, Reaume ran back towards the train depot. As he reached the west track in the depot, Lieutenant Laughlin tackled him. The two men struggled and Reaume struck the lieutenant in the head with his pistol several times. The lieutenant yelled, “take the gun away!” and Officer Rowen grabbed the gun from Reaume. It was at this time that John Klein, a citizen, ran up and yelled, “Kill the fuck!” Mistaking the lieutenant for Reaume he hit him over the head with a large brick. The lieutenant sustained a serious gash to his head from the brick in addition to the cuts from Reaume’s pistol strikes. Before Mr. Klein could inflict more damage, he was stopped by the other officers’ onscene. Reaume was taken into custody and loaded into the patrol wagon, which took him to the Armory. Officer Barrett was loaded into a second patrol wagon and taken to the station.
Almost 150 rounds were fired in the incident. Although critically wounded, Lieutenant Laughlin eventually recovered from his injuries. John Klein was arrested and convinced that his actions were sincere; Lieutenant Laughlin released him. Lewis Reaume sustained three gunshots in the back and was critically wounded eventually recovering from his wounds. On July 9, 1885, he was declared insane, and sent to the insane asylum in Elgin, Michigan.
Officer Barrett was waked at his residence located at No. 33 Wesson Street (present day Cambridge Avenue). His funeral mass was held at Holy Name Church. He was laid to rest on June 2, 1885 in Calvary Cemetery, 301 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, Illinois.
Patrolman Cornelius “Connie“ Barrett, born in 1851, received his Probationary Appointment to the Chicago Police Department on July 31, 1882.
Officer Barrett was survived by his sister.
Chicago Police Department homicide file not found for this incident.