CHICAGO (CBS) — Don Herion, a legendary Chicago mob cop, whose law enforcement career spanned over half a century passed away Thursday at the age of 90.
Herion investigated organized crime for both the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County Sheriff’s office where he ran the Vice Detection Unit.
Born in Chicago in 1929, he started on the force in 1955. Herion also had a career in Hollywood where he played a police officer or worked as technical adviser in numerous films including Public Enemies with Johnny Depp, Next of Kin with Patrick Swayze, Raw Deal, U.S. Marshals and Backdraft.
Herion also wrote three books including “Pay, Quit or Die” which was based on his mob busting tactics that netted thousands of arrests and broke up countless illegal gambling operations.
In a review of the “Chicago Way” book, CBS 2’s John Drummond called Herion “the top expert in the Chicago Outfit’s gambling operations,” noting that Herion made more than 4,000 raids in his career and locked up hundreds of mobsters.
CBS 2 Investigative reporter Dave Savini covered numerous stories about Herion’s crime busting work.
“Herion was the real deal, his true grit and dogged pursuit of the bad guys took the kinds of twists and turns you only see in Hollywood movies which is probably why he had such successful second career as writer and actor,” said Savini. “He had plenty of real life material to draw from and I think the bad guys, especially the Chicago mob, would have preferred he was an actor from the start and never a cop.”
He is survived by his wife Genevieve, six children and 13 grandchildren. He was surrounded by 20 family members when he passed away.
An excerpt from his book reads:
Organized crime, the Mafia, or the Outfit as it is known in Chicago, is surrounded by a false glamour that elevates mobsters to the level of swashbuckling folk heroes whose ready violence and savage murders are too often excused in the public mind as acceptable because they only hurt each other. Similarly, illegal gambling, the bread-and-butter racket inevitably combined with loan-sharking and extortion, is widely tolerated because it is perceived to be a victimless crime. Donald H. Herion, a US Army veteran during the Korean War, who grew up in a neighborhood where there was a bookmaker on every corner, sometimes two or three, learned just how wrong all that was when he returned home from the Army and joined the Chicago Police Department. He wasn’t sure that he was doing the right thing at the time because he really never liked cops, but if he didn’t like it, he could always quit he thought. After six years learning the ropes in the patrol division collaring burglars and stick up men, chasing daredevil drivers, calming adversaries in domestic disputes, and riding herd on drunks and dope dealers, he was promoted to plainclothes as a vice cop investigating illegal gambling, narcotics, prostitution and gang bangers. He quickly learned that chasing bookmakers and busting up wire-rooms was a fight against organized crime.
Services for Herion will take place at St Cornelius Catholic Church, located at 5430 W. Foster Ave. There will be a 9:30 visitation followed by a 10:00 mass.