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Cook Co. sheriff to unveil memorial to fallen deputies

Sunday, March 28, 2010
Daily Herald
by Steve Zalusky

Even decades after their tragic deaths, eight Cook County sheriff's police officers killed in the line of duty are far from forgotten.

Today, the sheriff's office will honor the men with the dedication of a permanent display.

It is the result of years of planning, said a spokesman for the sheriff's office.

The memorial will be unveiled at 11 a.m. today at Triton College in River Grove by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. He will be joined by relatives of the eight officers, some of whom worked for the Cook County Highway Police, as the unit was known until the 1950s.

"It is an honor to be able to pay these men the proper respect they so richly deserve," Dart said. "Their families deserve to know how much we appreciate their sacrifice and the place each of the officers will forever hold within our department."

The officers honored died as recently as 2006 and as long ago as 1930. Their deaths were caused by everything from homicide to driving in poor weather conditions. Two were killed by drunken drivers and one, Investigator Michael W. Ridges, was shot to death while conducting surveillance in Prospect Heights.

The memorial will consist of an 8x10-foot cherry wood display including placeholders for each of the officers. It will be permanently displayed at the entrance to the Cook County Sheriff's Police headquarters in Maywood.

Each of the eight officers will have a 15 x 20-inch display in the cabinet, including a sketch of the officer, a description of how they died, and a sheriff's patch and star.

The memorial will be paid for entirely with money seized from criminals over the years by sheriff's police.

The officers and their dates of death are:

• Sam Kaiser, April 20, 1930. He was killed while trying to stop a speeding vehicle. His motorcycle hit a utility pole near 79th and Archer.

• Fredrick Bryant, May 24, 1930. Bryant's motorcycle struck a ditch near Higgins and River roads as he tried to stop a speeding vehicle.

• Meyer Joseph Jack LaPine, Sept. 5, 1932. LaPine was killed in a car crash at Rand and Wolf roads, as he tried to stop a speeding vehicle.

• Robert (Ruby) Schanbaum, Aug. 11, 1934. He was killed by a drunken driver as he and his partner were giving a speeding ticket to another driver on Milwaukee Avenue.

• Frank Christian, Oct. 14, 1941. He was killed by a drunken driver as he was investigating a traffic accident at 79th and Harlem.

• John Rusnak, Aug. 3, 1977. Rusnak's unmarked vehicle was hit by a truck while Rusnak was conducting surveillance.

• Michael Ridges, Oct. 17, 1985. He was investigating criminal activity in Prospect Heights when he stopped three men, one of whom shot and killed him.

At the time, Ridges was investigating a series of vandalism incidents when he noticed the car. He called in a description of the car before stopping it. While Ridges was checking their identities, one man drew a concealed gun and shot Ridges in the head. The suspects were caught a short time later based on Ridges' original radio description, according to Officer Down Memorial Page Inc. (www.odmp.org).

Police later determined the men were en route to commit a contract murder in Prospect Heights. One was sentenced to life in prison and a second was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Prospect Heights already has a memorial to Ridges, at Izaak Walton Park.

• James Knapp, Jan. 4, 2006. Knapp was killed in a car crash during bad weather at the intersection of 100th Place and 76th Avenue in Bridgeview.

The men are profiled at www.odmp.org/agency/5282-cook-county-sheriffs-police-department-illinois. The site contains reflections about each officer.

One particularly poignant reflection about Ridges was given by retired sheriff's Cmdr. La'Chom D. Madison. He wrote, "I remember the last time we met as you had just been assigned to the investigations section. You were extremely happy and proud to become an investigator."

He continued, "I also remember that day when driving into Maybrook, I received a call to respond to a shooting in the Heights, and upon arrival was told it was you. We lost a wonderful person that day who had many things to give to others. Mike should be a inspiration to all young officers starting the job. As he was a good cop and an even better man."



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