Detective James J. Caplis

Detective James J. Caplis

Chicago Police Department, Illinois

End of Watch Monday, December 21, 1931

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James J. Caplis

Detective James J. Caplis was off duty at the Beach View Garden Café at 804 W. Wilson Avenue. Shortly after 1:00 a.m., armed with revolvers and shotguns, five men ordered diners against the wall.

Detective Caplis was at a table with his date. He loitered behind the other patrons as they walked toward the designated wall. Suddenly he broke away from the group. He raced to the farthest wall drawing his revolver at the same instant, fighting single handed against the bandits.

By this act, Caplis made himself the sole target for expected gunfire and was free to battle the robbers. He fired as the nearest bandit turned to him. The robber fired back. At the same time he retreated, the robbers were still menacing the crowd, and one or two of them blazing away at Caplis.

Caplis moved forward as the robbers reached the stairway, firing as he went. By this time, he was between the gunmen and several of the guests. One of the robbers fired a charge from his shotgun. It was two slugs of this charge, which struck a patron. Unhit as yet, Detective Caplis raced to the head of the stairs to send a final shot at the fleeing bandits. A bullet met him before he had the opportunity to face the descending robbers.

More than a dozen men carried the fallen officer to the hospital where he died of his wounds a short time later.

Caplis was a winner of The Tribune Monthly Hero Award in June 1928.

On December 27, 1931, two 17 year old men were in custody and confessed that they participated in the slaying. Three other men were also arrested and charged with murder. Two women were also under arrest, one a 16 year old, and the other a 17 year old. One of the detainees provided information concerning the chain of events; stating that one of the women, armed with a revolver was sitting at a table with two men, when the robber band arrived, the trio joined them.

One of the offenders received 99 years. The two 17-year-olds received 14 years, one was sentenced to 50 years, and the 5th to 20 years . The women's sentence was stricken. The one sentenced to 99 years was paroled on March 25, 1965. The two 17-year-olds were paroled in 1939 and 1941. Both went on to become notorious gangsters. One was shot and killed in 1951 during an armed robbery attempt. The other, who became heavily involved in drugs, was shot and killed in 1954 by rival gang members as he was driving his car.

Detective Caplis is survived by his mother, father and sister.


  • Age 31
  • Tour Not available
  • Badge 1511

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Shotgun
  • Offender 1 killed, 5 sentenced, 2 stricken

Most Recent Reflection

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You died protecting others, a true hero. May you rest in peace as you are remembered 83 years after your death.

Lt. Milton E. Proctor
Deer Park Police Dept, Oh (Ret)

December 20, 2014

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