Served 33 years
1881 to February 27, 1916
John was born about 1855 in Ohio. At the age of 16, he worked as a chair maker and lived with who we believe was his father, Barney Schnucks, a laborer, at 8 E. 8th Street. By 19 he was a barkeeper at Barney’s saloon 8 E. 8th Street. At 26 he was making chairs again and they lived 16 Abigail.
During the latter part of 1881, John joined the Cincinnati Police Department, hired as a Detective by Police Chief Jacob Gessert. Chief Gessert lasted about a month as Chief, but Detective Schnucks lasted decades.
On March 31, 1886 the City of Cincinnati dismissed the entire 400-man Police Department. Beginning the next day, April 1, 1886, under the auspices of the Non-Partisan Board of Police Commissioners, a new 300-man Police Department was built. On January 18, 1887 John was rehired as a Patrolman. On March 22, 1887 he was nominated, then promoted back to Detective.
For 31 years, Detective Schnucks had been a Detective and, though it was once mentioned in an article that he did not brag about his arrests, his arrests were captured in newspapers dozens of times each year.
Then, on March 14, 1912, for the second time in long career, the City of Cincinnati made a sweeping change in law enforcement that cost Detective Schnucks his position. Safety Director Cash eliminated the Detective rank, essentially demoted all the Detectives to Patrolmen, leaving only Chief of Detectives Cal Crim in place. Patrolman Schnucks was transferred to the Tenth District, Cumminsville.
On February 27, 1916 a call was received at the Tenth District Substation in College Hill at 7 o’clock from Hamilton Avenue for a policeman to respond to an Ohio Military Institute student flourishing a pair of pistols. Patrolman Schnucks was detailed to handle it. He rushed to the nearest corner to board a streetcar as it pulled away and ran after it, but missed it. He was breathing heavily when he went back into Schneider’s Drug Store at Hamilton and Marlowe to wait for the next car. He died of a myocardial insufficiency within five minutes. Chief Copelan advised the Patrolman Schnucks was one of the best policemen on the force.
Coroner’s Constable Charles Stagnaro sent the body to the officer’s home at 830 Poplar Street.
Many friends attended his funeral on March 1, 1916 at the chapel of Vine Street Cemetery, presided over by Reverend Theodore Moellering of the German Lutheran Trinity church. Police Lieutenants John Krebs and Jacob Conway, Sergeants harry Bruggeman were pall bearers. Company G of the Police Department and the Color Guard in the charge of Inspector Michael Kane and Lieutenants James Slattery and Albert C. Venn, escorted the funeral cortege, let by Schmittie’s Band, from the residence to the Vine Street Hill Cemetery where he was buried without a headstone.
While researching another officer killed in the line of duty and buried in Vine Street Hill Cemetery, Greater Cincinnati Police Museum Historian, Cincinnati Homicide Detective Edward W. Zieverink III (Retired), rediscovered Patrolman Schnucks’s story and unmarked grave. On November 4, 2015, the 99th anniversary of his death, the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum organized the installation of headstones for the two officers and the rededication of their graves as well as a rededication of a Police and Fire line of duty death memorial established by the Vine Street Cemetery.
If anyone has information, artifacts, archives, or images of this officer or incident, please contact the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum at Director@police-museum.org.
This narrative was created and published on October 31, 2015 by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society President, with information provided by Cincinnati Homicide Detective Edward W. Zieverink III, Greater Cincinnati Police Museum Historian. All rights are reserved to them and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.