October 2017: Duty Weapon of First Special Agent Killed in the Line of Duty

Photo of a gun in a frame. The gun belonged to Special Agent Edwin C. Shanahan, who was killed in the line of duty in 1925.

The October 2017 Artifact of the Month is Special Agent Edwin Shanahan’s duty weapon. (Click image to view high-res.)

On October 11, 1925, Special Agent Edwin C. Shanahan was murdered by Martin J. Durkin, a car thief who had previously wounded four police officers to avoid capture in Chicago, Illinois. Shanahan was the first FBI special agent killed in the line of duty.

Upon receiving word from a source that Durkin was planning to hide a stolen automobile in a certain Chicago garage, Special Agent Shanahan and officers of the Chicago Police Department proceeded to that garage to wait for Durkin to appear. The police and the agent staked out the garage for the entire day, watching for any sign of Durkin.

As the end of the day neared, it looked like the tip was a false lead, so the police officers left the garage to seek the officers who were to relieve them. Once the police officers were gone, Durkin drove the stolen car into the garage. Special Agent Shanahan was alone in the garage and attempted to arrest him. However, Durkin swept a revolver from the front seat of the car and shot the agent in the chest. Special Agent Shanahan returned fire, but Durkin escaped as his victim collapsed.

Special Agent Shanahan’s murder led to a nationwide effort to arrest Durkin. Durkin successfully evaded capture until January 20, 1926, when he was arrested near St. Louis, Missouri. His capture was helped by information spread throughout the United States to car dealerships, car insurance companies, and local law enforcement to keep a lookout for Durkin and resulted in a car chase across the continent.

The October 2017 Artifact of the Month is Special Agent Shanahan’s duty weapon. Special agents are issued duty weapons upon successful completion of special agent training. Shanahan’s duty weapon is displayed at the Chicago Field Office in remembrance of his sacrifice. Special Agent Shanahan’s murder reminds us of the tremendous bravery required of every FBI special agent and the danger that they put themselves in every day to protect the American people.

The FBI honors its special agents who lose their lives in the line of duty. These agents are memorialized at FBI Headquarters and at all FBI field offices across the country so that their ultimate sacrifice will always be remembered. A total of 36 agents have been designated as service martyrs, Shanahan being the first. The FBI also honors those agents and professional staff employees who have lost their lives in the performance of their duty. This would include situations involving a pursuit of criminals and when death results from the agent taking immediate action to save one or more lives. These agents and professional staff employees are also memorialized at FBI Headquarters and at all field offices. A total of 30 agents and one professional staff employee have been so honored.

In addition, the Chicago Field Office has an Explorer Post that is named after Special Agent Shanahan. The Explorer Post is a community outreach program for youth and intends to instill basic tenets of civic responsibility, foster an interest in and respect for law enforcement, and develop responsible youth in Chicago’s community. The Explorer Post achieves this mission by educating students about the duties and mission of the FBI and by developing young leaders who strive to serve their communities. The program was started six years ago in conjunction with the Boys Scouts of America. The sixth class started in September 2017 and ends in April 2018.