Nearly all his brief life he wanted one thing. When it was his, Michael Caulfield had it taken away in an instant.
Shortly after midnight on Sept. 30, 1982, two Forest Park policemen were cruising south past Parky’s Hot Dogs on Harlem Avenue. They were Officer Michael Caulfield, 22, and his training officer, James McNally. Caulfield had been on the force only three weeks.
They spotted a loitering figure behind the eatery and stopped to investigate. During routine questioning they fed his description and other information by radio into the computer system. Back came data telling that the suspect was wanted by Chicago police on a couple of traffic warrants with bonds totaling $4,500.
The man, Orin Dominguez, was searched for weapons, handcuffed and taken to the Forest Park police station. Within 45 minutes two of the three men would be dead; the third alive only because of a fantastical piece of luck.
In the report room at the station, Dominguez was seated and his handcuffs removed. At this point another policeman, James Sebastian, entered the station with a 31-year-old Hillside man in tow, Charles Oliveri, who was to be interviewed about an ordinance violation.
As Sebastian passed between Dominguez and Caulfield, the suspect rose and asked for a cigarette. In doing so, Dominguez yanked Sebastian’s service revolver from its holster and with both hands began firing wildly.
Sebastian took a bullet to the foot while Caulfield fell with a bullet in his head, his revolver dropping to the floor. Dominguez immediately picked it up and was now firing with both weapons.
In the chaos of the moment, seeing the wounded Sebastian and Oliveri struggling to wrest the gun from the killer, McNally could not get off a safe shot. Finally, after a dozen rounds were fired, number 13-from McNally-found its mark and the crazed shooter died instantly.
Later someone pointed out that McNally’s badge had deflected one of the bullets, quite possibly saving his life and at the very least preventing serious injury. He suffered only a glancing wound to his forearm.
Sebastian would later return to active duty.
It was determined that the killer had been transported the previous day by Chicago police to the Madden Health Center at Hines but was denied involuntary admittance. According to reports shared with the Review, “his condition did not warrant it.”
Follow up investigation indicated that Dominguez had 26 arrests that included robbery, burglary and narcotics possession dating from the 1960s.
“We never got to know him, he was with us so short a time,” retired officer Charles Whelpley said. “He was eager and dedicated and had all the qualities to be an outstanding police officer. It was the toughest day of my career.”
New procedures went into effect as a result of this tragedy. They require any officer bringing in a suspect to place his own firearms in a security lockup upon arriving at the station and before entering the report room.
“Two or three officers got there minutes after the shootout,” retired officer Jim Byrnes said of that tragic day. “(McNally) was sitting on the floor, dazed. Michael was face down not far from Sebastian who was holding his foot, and Dominguez was dead or dying. I don’t know which came first-shock or a feeling of helplessness. The adrenaline was going, and at the time we didn’t know exactly what happened or who was hurt worse. But we remember the kid well. He was quiet at first but he had a good personality, and we were just getting to know him.”
Aftermath 25 years later
The following interview with Caulfield’s mother, Rosemary Caulfield, was conducted earlier this month. In 1990 she and her husband, John J. Caulfield, moved from Mt. Prospect to Oswego, Ill. Both are still active in their 70s. They had five children, girls outnumbering boys three to two, Michael in the middle, the eldest brother.
Q: Did your husband’s profession (attorney) have a lot to do with Michael’s career choice of law enforcement?
A: No. Several times his father let it be known that he had a dim view of it; that it was too dangerous. This never deterred Michael. He knew what he wanted to do and earned his degree in criminal justice at SIU. (posthumously awarded.)
Q: What’s a typical memory of him?
A: He was a happy kid who often brought us smiles. He was full of life and mischief, but he was also responsible.
Q: Aside from law enforcement what were his interests?
A: He liked playing baseball and football, but wasn’t particularly great. You know, he wasn’t around long enough to develop other interests.
Q: Any thoughts of marriage?
A: I don’t think so. He had a girlfriend though.
Q: Lately there seems to be a lot of accounts of victim’s survivors somehow finding it in themselves to forgive. What about you and Mr. Caulfield?
A: No. Speaking for myself, for a long while I found it wasn’t in me. Lately, I don’t know. My husband has tended toward this, yet at the beginning I think he had an overwhelming urge to get a gun and…. That was impulse or emotion. He had forgotten for a moment that Michael’s killer was dead.