Incident DetailsCause of Death:
Patrolman John Gerka was training two rookie officers when they investigated a suspicious car parked near Kenwood School.
As Patrolman Gerka walked to the side of the auto, a man leaned out and shot him at point-blank range, hitting him in the heart. Patrolman Donald Cook was also shot and died two days later. The second rookie disarmed the shooter by wrestling his pistol from him, but was struck on the head by a second man and knocked to the ground.
Patrolman Gerka was transported to St. Margaret Hospital where he died of a severed spinal cord.
A manhunt failed to locate the suspects, who were in a stolen vehicle when stopped, until Hammond detectives arrested them some time later.
The 36- and 48-year-old suspects were convicted of murder and sentenced to death in a change of venue to Jasper County. On February 23, 1949, both men were executed by electrocution.
Patrolman Gerka was single and survived by his parents and three brothers.
United States Army
• This incident was one of 23 which resulted in the line of duty deaths of two officers.