Theodore Copling

Report on the killing of Theodore Copling overlaid over the entrance to Dearborn Apartments today. Text: Chicago Tribune, August 12, 1919.

Born: 1901
Occupation: Porter
Killed: July 30, 1919
Cause of death: Shooting

Theodore Copling was a Black man born in Pennsylvania in 1901. While in Chicago, Copling lived at 2933 S. State Street with his father and worked in a barber shop as a porter.

On July 30th, Copling was a bystander to a confrontation outside of a store at 2920 S. State Street. A crowd of Black boys, led by Hanson Baker, had challenged the white watchman of the store, Dan Torcello, and another Black man, Norman Partee. During the confrontation shots rang out, and Copling was struck and killed. After the shots had been fired, Baker, Torcello, Partee, and Louis Graise, Copling’s stepfather who was also in the crowd, were taken into custody on suspicion of Copling’s death. Anthony Chambers and Walter Freelow, two others in the crowd, were also taken into custody.

Suspicion was largely held against Graise who, according to the Chicago Tribune, “had made threats against the boy because of disagreements between the two, and was present at the time of the shooting and armed.” The coroner’s jury cleared Chamber and Freelow, but eventually forwarded the case to the grand jury to be tried. Ultimately, all were cleared of suspicion due to lack of evidence. At the time of his death, Copling was eighteen.

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