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Shrine honoring fallen officers will be unveiled Monday at Triton

Sunday, March 28, 2010
Pioneer Press

Eight Cook County Sheriff's Police officers killed in the line of duty will be remembered Monday when a shrine memorializing their sacrifice is unveiled after years of research and planning.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, along with families of the eight officers, will dedicate the shrine Monday at 11 a.m. in the auditorium at Triton College in River Grove, according to a release from Dart's office.

Several of the officers were killed during traffic stops, while one officer was shot by a man investigators later learned was headed to a “contract killing” while the officer was investigating criminal activity. Another was struck by a vehicle while conducting surveillance work, the release said.

The dates of their service spans from the 1930s -- when the department was known as the Cook County Highway Police, a name it kept until the 1950s -- to 2006, the release said.

The display is the culmination of years of research and outreach by several sheriff's officers who located surviving family members to ensure all eight officers were properly recognized for their sacrifice, the release said. Some relatives even located rare photos of the officers, which they shared with the shrine's planners.

“It is an honor to be able to pay these men the proper respect they so richly deserve,” Dart said in the release. “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 shrine, an 8x10-foot cherry wood display, includes placeholders for each of the officers and will permanently reside at the entrance to the Cook County Sheriff's Police headquarters in Maywood, the release said.

The shrine will feature a rendering of each officer and a description of the circumstances of his death inscribed on 8x10-inch magnesium plate. A sheriff's patch and star will accompany each officer's display, according to the release.

The display is funded entirely by asset forfeiture funds, money which has been seized from criminals arrested by sheriff's police officers, according to the release.

The officers who will be recognized and their dates of death are:

• Sam Kaiser, April 20, 1930: Killed while attempting to stop a speeding vehicle, Kaiser's motorcycle struck a utility pole near 79th and Archer. Though never married, he was one of 10 children and many of his family members remain in the area, while some relatives went on to hold careers in law enforcement, including with the Chicago Police Department. A great-nephew located the only known photo of Kaiser. Relatives from Glendale Heights and Elgin will attend the ceremony and represent the family.

• Fredrick Bryant, May 24, 1930: His motorcycle struck a ditch near Higgins and River roads while he was attempting to stop a speeding vehicle. The accident threw him off his motorcycle and he died. His wife and two daughters have since died. His granddaughter, of Springfield, and great niece, of Evanston, will attend the ceremony and represent the family.

• Meyer Joseph Jack LaPine, Sept. 5, 1932: He was killed in an automobile accident at the intersection of Rand and Wolf roads, as he was attempting to stop a speeding vehicle. Married, but with no children, a nephew in Flossmoor located the only known photo of LaPine. That nephew will attend the ceremony and represent the family.

• Robert (Ruby) Schanbaum, Aug. 11, 1934: Killed by a drunk driver as he and his partner were issuing a speeding ticket to another driver on Milwaukee Avenue. Married with two children, one of his children is still living and currently resides in Texas, where the family re-located after his death. Family members have yet to confirm attendance at this ceremony.

• Frank Christian, Oct. 14, 1941: Killed by a drunk driver as he was investigating a traffic accident at 79th and Harlem. Married with two sons, both of his sons will attend the ceremony to represent their family. Though young when their father was killed, both said they continue to cherish the few memories they still have of him and shared photos, as well as his star, in helping to plan the memorial. The sons live in Brookfield and Matteson.

• John Rusnak, Aug. 3, 1977: His unmarked vehicle was struck from behind by a truck while Rusnak was conducting surveillance. Married to Sheriff's Police Officer Roberta Rusnak, they had two children, including a son who is a correctional officer with the Cook County Sheriff's Office. Family members from Bolingbrook and Riverside will attend the ceremony.

• Michael Ridges, Oct. 17, 1985: While investigating criminal activity in Prospect Heights, Ridges stopped three suspicious men when he was shot and killed by one of those men – who investigators learned were headed to a contract killing. Married with no children, he came from a police family - his father and brother worked for the Chicago Police Department. A K-9 with the Sheriff's Department is named after him. His parents, widow, brother and sister will come from Northwest Indiana, Naperville and Palos Hills for the ceremony.

• James Knapp, Jan. 4, 2006: Killed in a motor vehicle accident during poor weather conditions at the intersection of 100th Place and 76th Avenue in Bridgeview. He was married to now-retired Cook County Sheriff's Deputy Lt. Grace Knapp. She and his two sons from a previous marriage, all coming from Lynwood and Northwest Indiana, will attend.



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