'Battle Bandits! Cop Shot'—1948
That was the Chicago Tribune’s headline on Sunday, June 27, 1948. But, what makes the story really interesting is that the policeman who was shot was from Western Springs.
It was 5 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon in 1948 when Sgt. Charles Petersen, 43, received a radio call alerting him to a robbery in progress at Rosie’s, located on the north side of Ogden Avenue near Harvey. Rosie’s was a roadhouse known to accept bets on horse races. While not within the village limits, Western Springs had the closest police station.
As Sgt. Petersen arrived at the scene and exited his Ford police car, three masked men emerged from Rosie’s with a machine gun. Petersen’s car was riddled with bullets, two of which wounded him in the abdomen. Although seriously injured, Petersen was able to crawl back to his car and radio for help. More police cars from Western Springs, LaGrange, LaGrange Park, and Brookfield responded. But, as soon as a LaGrange Park police car arrived 200 feet east of Rosie’s, it was hit by six bullets, one narrowly missing the officer.
The robbers then sped east on Ogden, pursued by the LaGrange Park police. At Bassford, the getaway car turned south, then east on Bell to Edgewood. It then turned south again to Hillgrove, where the police briefly lost sight of the car. Turning south onto LaGrange Road, the robbers crossed the Burlington tracks and immediately turned east onto Burlington Avenue. There, they were spotted by two LaGrange police cars, which followed them to East Avenue, where they turned south. By now, two police cars from Brookfield and one from LaGrange Park had joined in the chase, which continued south to 47th street.
All this while, the severely injured Sgt. Petersen was being rushed to MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn by the Western Springs Fire Department ambulance.
On East Avenue, bullets continued to fly, slightly wounding one of the LaGrange officers and knocking his car out of the chase. The hold-up men continued south at 80 miles per hour, passing through Hodgkins, where they mistakenly turned into a dead end street and wrecked their stolen car trying to cross a railroad spur. The robbers then entered the quarry property on foot, from which three of them swam across the Des Plaines River to escape police. The fourth, later identified as 27-year-old Jerry Malek, was able to flag down a bus and escape the area.
Meanwhile, the police thought the four were still trapped in the quarry area. As a result, they summoned help from a small airport in Hodgkins, as well as the Glenview Naval Air Station. Soon, three Hellcat fighter planes and three PBM’s joined several private aircraft in an aerial search for the bandits, but to no avail.
Within the next few days, a tip from a citizen in Lyons led to the arrest of Jerry Malek. And, after lengthy questioning, he confessed his role in the robbery and shooting. He also identified his three confederates, for whom a multi-state search was initiated. The case was then bound over to the Grand Jury.
Back at MacNeal Hospital, Sgt. Petersen went through three hours of surgery and numerous transfusions, but survived. In gratitude for his service, the residents of Western Springs collected more than $1,000 in donations, including a new television set. After recuperating for three months, Petersen was able to return to work and eventually became the village’s police chief.
As for Rosie’s, there was considerable public outrage over its continued presence. While the county sheriff pointed out that his men had raided Rosie’s seven times prior to the robbery and shooting, the county board decided to eliminate the problem once and for all. They directed the Forest Preserve District to acquire the homes and businesses along the north side of Ogden Avenue (including Rosie’s) and make them part of the Forest Preserve.
Although some of the homes were rented to Forest Preserve employees well into the 1980’s, today they are all gone. But, as you drive by on Ogden, you can still see the open areas where Rosie’s and a few homes once stood.