Originally published in The Rock River Times.
This is the story of the very first Rockford police officer slain in the line of duty. His name is listed as Lorenzo Gillogly in the modern papers, but people back in 1917 knew him as “Jack.”
Jack had been a very dedicated officer for four years. He was a patrolman for the South Main beat. He was described as “pleasant, courteous, and obliging at all times.” He always had a big smile on his face, and was very popular with the men and women who worked in the stores and shops on his “beat.” His superiors were so impressed with him that they offered him a promotion to the plain-clothes division.
Jack was divorced and had two daughters — Nelma, 16 years old, and Lucille, 12 years old. They lived with their mother, Edna, and their grandmother in Freeport, Ill.
Jack’s life was going very well in the fall of 1917. He had just celebrated his 39th birthday, and he had fallen in love again. He and his fiancée, the daughter of D.W. Rogers, the engineer of the steam boat Illinois, had set the date for their wedding; it was to be in the spring of 1918.
Saturday, Oct. 13, 1917, Gillogly had finished his shift and, still in uniform, was walking on South Main Street toward the cottage where he was staying. It was 6:15 p.m. Jack was completely oblivious to the scenario that was playing out just a few streets away.
Earlier on that Saturday, Charles E. Jackson had arrived in Beloit, Wis., on the train from Moline, Ill. He had high hopes that his wife, Florence, would be there to greet him at the train station. He had sent a telegram to her mother’s house in Beloit, telling her of his plans to arrive that afternoon. Jackson stepped down from the train and looked for his wife. As time passed, Jackson realized Florence was not coming and there would be no reconciliation. In that one terrible moment, Jackson made his fateful decision.
Having learned that his wife was working and staying with her sister, Marion, whom Jackson blamed for all of the problems between himself and Florence, he the made his way to Rockford.
He went to the Kraft five-and-dime store, where Florence was working about 3 p.m. Florence refused his pleas to reconcile. Jackson left, but returned around the time Florence left work. He watched as she and her sister left the back entrance of the five-and-dime and hurried up the street. Jackson caught up with them and told Marion to leave them alone. She left as they turned the corner onto South Main Street.
Florence must have been relieved to see South Main Street was so busy. She saw her chance to get away from Jackson when she noticed Patrolman Jack Gillogly coming toward her, and she stepped in front of the officer. She was just about to tell him that she was with her estranged husband and that he had just threatened to kill her.
Florence never had the chance to speak. As soon as she stepped toward the officer, her husband pulled a weapon from his overcoat and fired. The shot missed Florence, but was so close that it went through her hat. Jackson fired two more shots in quick succession, both of them striking Gillogly in the upper chest. He fell to the ground. Florence fell over him and cradled his head, turning her back toward her husband. Jackson must have thought he had struck both the officer and his wife. He raised the gun to his own temple, and pulled the trigger.
When Florence saw him fall, she got up and walked away. Gillogly was transported to Rockford Hospital, where he later died.
The police had no clue about what had happened on that busy street until around 10 p.m. that night when they finally found Florence in the rooming house where she lived.
Gillogly didn’t know the man who shot him, nor did he know the reason why. But those who knew him back in 1917 said it wouldn’t have mattered; Jack would have still tried to help Florence — he always did what needed to be done.
Copyright © 2014 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events